Let Me In is a film in a lose-lose situation. Nobody who saw the (BRILLIANT) Let the Right One In, myself included, believed for a second that a Hollywood remake could be anything but a disaster. A waste of time at best, an unforgivable pox on a modern classic at worst. What’s the point of re-making a recent and great film, anyway? If it’s exactly like the original it’s pointless, and if it deviates too much it alienates the fan base. Even though I enjoyed Cloverfield more than most, I was skeptical of Matt Reeves’s ability to live up to Tomas Alfredson’s film. I had hoped that this was one of those hare-brained ideas like making a feature film of Akira, something you read about on Ain’t it Cool News but never comes to fruition.
On October 1st, 2010, a mere two years after its inspiration, Let Me In was released to multiplexes all around the country… and by God, it’s actually very good. In setting his remake in Reagan-era New Mexico and using more warm colors, Reeves has crafted a film that has a distinctly different flavor from the original, while still retaining much of what made it so well loved. I was concerned that the filmmaker behind the loud, fast-paced freakout of Cloverfield would have trouble dialing it down for this project, but these trepidations were unfounded. Reeves wasn’t afraid to make Let Me In appropriately somber, quiet, and deliberate, making it feel particularly bold among other widely released US films.
The child actors who portray our leads Oskar and Eli… er… Owen and Abby do some very impressive work, and match the cinematography in evoking the original but not being married to it. Kodi Smit-Mcphee has a sort of alien look to him throughout the film that isn’t much like Let The Right One In‘s shaggy-haired, rail-thin Oskar, but the acting is just as powerful. Chloe Moretz is excellent as the perpetually young vampire Abby, bringing a bit more frailty to the character. In the original it is clear that she is protecting him and cares about him, but in this version one gets the sense that she needs him just as much.
This is an extremely faithful (though not shot-for-shot) remake, but there are a few noteworthy differences. The subplot involving the townspeople from Let The Right One In has mostly been excised, and to be honest I didn’t miss it very much. The film feels more focused without the storyline. In its place is a small thread featuring a cop investigating the goings-on, whose obsession with the devil is an amusing comment on the satanic panic of the era. Near the end of the film is a show-stopping re-imagining of a climactic scene from the original, a spectacular car accident sequence showing that Reeves can have real vision as a director in his own right. Here’s hoping he has an opportunity to push this farther in his next project.
A few of the changes don’t go over quite as well. The worst offense is the overdone CG when Abby goes into “vampire” form, morphing her face into that of a cartoonish ghoul. Her motions appear to be in fast motion, causing the disquieting violence of its predecessor to be deflated by nearly laughable awkwardness. The 80s references are usually very effective in evoking the film’s time and place, but it’s worth noting that they get laid on a bit thick. Finally, a shot crucial to explaining Abby/Eli’s identity that is unfortunately (though predictably) absent.
For all its successes, I’m not exactly sure how to recommend Let Me In. Alfredson’s original is still the superior film overall, and Reeves’s version doesn’t differentiate itself quite enough to be judged completely on its own merits. I suppose it’s for either folks who wouldn’t normally view a stark Swedish horror film, or those who are big enough fans of Let The Right One In to be curious. It’s a satisfying viewing experience for both camps. In a lose-lose situation, Let Me In wins.
7.40– Good. 7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.
Against all odds, Let Me In lives up to the impossibly high pedigree of its source material.
Overall Score: 71 – Let Me In is a little louder, sexier, and less complex than the original Let the Right One In, but remains respectful to the central themes of isolation and innocence. Worth the trip to the theatre, but the original still steals the show. Read her full review here!
Overall Score: 78 — Let Me In could have surpassed its template instead of merely duplicating what was already good about it. Read his full review here!