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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 1, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 40
Unsettling Let Me In a worthy remake
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Unsettling Let Me In a worthy remake

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Let Me In
Opening October 1


The 2008 Swedish import Let the Right One In took the booming vampire horror subgenre and gave it a much-needed infusion of both smarts and adrenaline. Director Tomas Alfredson adapted John Ajvide Lindqvist's (who also wrote the screenplay) acclaimed novel of a lonely and bullied adolescent boy's surreal friendship with a vampire trapped in the body of a 12-year-old and made it feel brand new. With unparalleled restraint and beauteous visual ingenuity, he achieved something close to sinisterly spooky perfection, crafting a tense and terrific character study audiences couldn't help but be drawn to.

It almost goes without saying that Cloverfield director Matt Reeves' remake, Let Me In, starring Chloƫ Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas, is completely unnecessary. The original film is barely two years old, so the chances a viewer who has seen both would be able to separate one from the other are just about nil.

As I've seen both, writing this review is far more difficult than I ever thought it would be. The simple truth is that Reeves has done something extraordinary with Let Me In. His film is an incredibly strong piece of work - all of the actors turned in expert performances that got under my skin and burrowed their way into my subconscious. It is a deeply visceral, highly unsettling drama, and had the memory of Alfredson's original not still been sitting so close to the forefront of my brainpan, I'd almost proclaim this character-driven exercise in delicate horror as one of 2010's best.

The problem is I'm having trouble disassociating one from the other. These films are in such close proximity I almost can't help but allow my strong feelings for the Swedish version to influence my opinion of the American one. A gut reaction is to proclaim that Reeves' film is nothing more than a shot-for-shot copy, that all he did was take what was great about Alfredson's version and reproduce it.

But this isn't true. Yes, some scenes have a certain similarity to them, and for viewers who thrilled to the original, a lot of the surprises are undeniably muted. Yet as a standalone motion picture, this one unquestionably rises above the fray. Reeves' script is smart, yet subtle, while his work behind the camera shows a sublime delicacy I'd never have expected from the guy who gave us the rambunctious and visually frenetic Cloverfield.

Additionally, as great as the two child actors were in Let the Right One In, former Kick-Ass Hit Girl Moretz and one-time The Road wanderer Smit-McPhee are extraordinary. Unlike the original film, I really felt for Owen, and as young put-upon protagonists go, I was drawn to him in ways that slit slivers from my heart one scene at a time. I could feel his pain, related to his uncertainty, and even though I knew it might lead to his downfall, I could easily understand why he'd allow himself to become entangled with the barefoot newcomer who had just moved into his New Mexico apartment complex.

As for Moretz, what she does with Abby is astonishing. She adds layers to this nighttime wanderer that weren't there in Alfredson's original and are only hinted at in Reeves' sometimes a bit too minimalist script. She paints a picture full of weary and exhausted perspective, and even though she warns Owen the two of them can't be friends, the longing in her eyes and her yearning for a type of companionship she can never have are as readily apparent as drops of blood in a white, snow-covered field.

I will say that Alfredson did a bit better job of developing Abby's stone-faced benefactor and caretaker than Reeves does, and while Jenkins does what he can with his portrayal, my emotions for the guy never ran past surface-level. There is also something to be said about the almost laughable use of CGI, and while that probably has more to do with budgetary constraints than it does with anything else, that doesn't make the few scenes utilizing the technology any less obvious. Finally, a key plot point in regards to one character's gender is pretty much (if not quite entirely) dropped, lessoning the impact of Owen's climactic decision - if only just a little.

But as remakes go, Reeves' take on Lindqvist's novel is remarkably close to being as good as Alfredson's was. As unnecessary as it is, Let Me In firmly stands on its own as an unsettling piece of intelligently literate horror, one genre fans willing to take it on its own merits will almost certainly enjoy.

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