Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
Release Date: October 1, 2010
PLOT: A young boy (Smit-McPhee) who suffers from aggressive bullying in school befriends a mysterious new neighbor (Moretz) with suspicious night habits.
WHO’S IT FOR? Those who have seen the original film, Let the Right One In, can easily pass on this remake. For those who haven’t seen that film prepare yourself for something that isn’t your typical horror gorefest. And even if this movie is about young teenagers, don’t bring your kids.
EXPECTATIONS: Remakes are tricky, especially when it comes to handling foreign material that when translated from Swedish it means “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.” Still, here it was, a remake of 2008’s Let The Right One In, doled out to vampire-crazed audiences like if it were a gender-flipping Omen sequel. Despite my uncertainties, there were also some questions. Would Cloverfield director Matt Reeves have any original ideas for the film? Would some of the violence be altered for American audiences? Would the end of the movie, which horrifically so takes place in a school, still be intact?
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen: His own puffy winter jacket dwarfs this innocent schoolboy, and his curiosity seems to be what drives him most through his adolescent years. While he takes in everything with a bit of silent wonder, he’s curious mostly about blood, girls, and violence especially. Smit-McPhee has the tender innocence that makes him agreeable as our guide through the strange events of Let Me In, and his delicate nature hardly becomes twee or cutesy.
Chloe Grace Moretz as Abby: Even if Moretz (formerly known as “Hit Girl”) wants to play “Killer” again, her violent nature is not the right fit for this part. Her eyes are too sincere, as opposed to concealing any mystery, and her American Girl Doll looks are always overriding any creepiness, even when she’s got blood on her shirt. Especially compared to the original Swedish young actress, who brought a naturally curious presence to the role, Moretz fails in giving play time another creep revisioning.
Richard Jenkins as The Father: One of the more underrated supporting actors of today, Jenkins is great to watch here as the Father who has become emotionally numb when trying to help his daughter survive with her conditions. Without becoming too much of a sad sack, he resembles an abused dog that continues to return to its owner in hopes of earning affection. The moments in which he does communicate with Abby are striking, if for the striking sorrow that Jenkins subtly puts into the scene.
TALKING: It’s difficult to verify whether the dialogue is directly borrowed from the original. Either way, the story makes a smooth transition from Swedish to English in the area of dialogue, as it is without a memorably corny or insincere line. Considering that this is the horror genre, this is probably an achievement in itself.
SIGHTS: Reeves injects a little dread into scenes that may already be familiar to some with a couple of long shots, sometimes from a character’s particular point of view. The “creature fear” of the movie is reduced whenever Abby herself attacks someone. She not only turns into a “lil’ hellion,” to put it lightly, but the movie morphs her into a blatantly animated character with near comical agility. Instead of fearing Abby, we begin to fear just how much special effects this movie is going to use in attempting to make her terrifying.
SOUNDS: Shrill strings raise tension slightly for scenes in a few instances, but Michael Giacchino’s score is best at the end when it can fully play out its themes during the black and white end credits. Diegetically, the film uses the music of groups like Culture Club to further the 1983 aesthetic.
BEST SCENE: The second instance of long shot usage, that involves mad man Jenkins driving in reverse (while we are delightfully trapped in the backseat). This moment provides the originality that isn’t followed through by the rest of the movie, and thus becomes a little surprise in a disappointingly unsurprising experience.
ENDING: Someone’s knockin’ on the box/somebody’s ringin’ the bell.
QUESTIONS: How many times did the makers of Let Me In re-watch the original before shooting this remake? Did they have a copy of the DVD constantly running on set? Gee gosh golly, can’t wait for that Cache remake!
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. I’ll do the same like I do with my Lay’s Chips – I’ll take the original.
The worst kind of remake is the one that is afraid to think on its own. Shamelessly, Let Me In borrows/steals from its main source, attempting to echo the same performances, themes, and even set design that made the original’s teeth sink so deep into the audience. In return, Let Me In’s existence really only offers the slightly pathetic idea that such a movie can exist because people would possibly rather pay ten dollars for a movie in English, as opposed to renting one in Swedish. That, or the movie points out what shocking material is kosher in Hollywood, and what still isn’t. Showing a boy being kidnapped by an older man in school? “Not gonna work.” Showing cold-blooded violence performed by teenagers, inside a school? “Excellent. How much blood do you need?”
At first it’s startling that this American film would keep in tact so many of the seemingly too-heavy elements that made the Swedish version so jarring. But when the script starts playing out like it was simply translated by writer/director Matt Reeves into English, the importing becomes much less surprising. This isn’t total supported plagiarism, however. In order to find his way around a couple of moments that must’ve been poo-poo’d by Hollywood producers who want something their 15-year-old can sneak into with a clear conscience, Reeves does uses snazzy long takes. But he returns to the safer, already laid out Swedish path soon after. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just take it.
For those who are curious about this new horror movie that stars the girl from Kick Ass, and looks like it’s going to be another vampire flick, I have two alternatives. First, you could go see the more original, more creative and provoking Social Network instead. Or, you could hit up Netflix/Instant Netflix, (R.I.P Blockbuster) and check out this really good horror movie of almost the same length that came out two years ago. It’s called … wait for it – “Lat Den Ratte Komma In,” which in English translates to Let the Right One In. It’s a wonderfully solid film across the board. The fact that its presence in the genre really gives previous infantile vampires movies something solid to suck/chew on is a blissful bonus (it would shatter Edward Cullen’s pretty teeth if he ever tried to bite into it). Trust me. It’s the right choice.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10