The only thing that gives American cinemaphiles a greater sense of satisfaction than latching on to an acclaimed foreign film is scoffing at the idea of that movie being remade in America. So naturally, many a self-righteous brow became furrowed upon the release of Let Me In, the Americanized version of the excellent 2008 Swedish movie Let The Right One In.
While it would be false of me to deny ever engaging in acts of film snobbery, I can honestly say I went into Let Me In with a completely neutral attitude and am happy to report it’s not a travesty, but rather a good, sometimes excellent, re-telling of one of the great sad stories of recent memory.
Like the original movie and the novel it’s based upon, Let Me In tells the story of a lonely and bullied kid, in this version, named Owen. While fantasizing revenge against his tormentors, Owen meets Abby, an outsider whose moved in next door to him.
The two strike up a friendship, with Abby providing Owen with a much-needed friend as well as helping him stand up to his bullies. Things become complicated, however, upon Owen’s realization that his new friend is a vampire.
I had hoped to re-watch Right One before viewing the remake but never got around to doing so. But as it turns out, not only is it not essential to have the original fresh in your memory, I found it to be advantageous. Having not seen the Swedish original in 2 years, I was able to enjoy this movie on its own merritts without constantly going back and forth comparing the two.
The look, while not 100% distinctive, is effective, and the dark, snowy atmpshpere which is prominent throughout gives it a creepy feel. I was a bit surprised to see this was the work of Matt Reeves, whose last movie was the entertaining but mostly disposable Cloverfield. This movie I think is a big step for him as a filmmaker and I hope he continues to evolve his skills in the future.
Also boosting the movie are the performances of its child leads. Kodi Smit-Mcphee and Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl from Kick Ass) are both quite superb in their ability to capture the sad vulnerability of their characters. You really feel for both of these kids and enjoy watching them help each other through their respective doomed existences.
The best thing about Let Me In is that it didn’t make the mistake of “going all Hollywood.” The primary reason the original struck such a chord with people wasn’t the scares or the violence, but the feeling of loneliness that it captured so perfectly That spirit is every bit as prevalent this time around and I commend Reeves for his ability to emphasize the almost timeless quality of this story, thus creating a movie that is able to stand on its own.
If there is one distinct advantage the original holds, it’s in its climactic scenes, both of which conclude with a bloody and shockingly violent confrontation at a public pool.
Though disturbing, the Swedish version handled the scene in a quietly unnerving way, where as the American version is more bombastic and sort of calls more attention to itself (it “goes Hollywood” if you will). I give Reeves credit for trying to put his own stamp on the finale, but this may be the one instance where he had nowhere to go but down.
Arguing on behalf of this movie almost feels pointless. Many of the art house patrons it’s aimed at didn’t need to see it to declare it an abomination, while more mainstream audiences will likely feel uncomfortable watching an atmospheric story of a a 12-year-old killing machine who claims many innocent victims. The fact it was a box office bomb wasn’t surprising in the least.
Well I say nuts to that. This is one of my favorite movies from last year as well as one of the best remakes I have ever seen. And while I wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone seek this out over the original, it’s good enough to where you don’t necessarily need to see both films to find this engrossing.
Final Score: 8.5/10