More about vampires than childhood in the Hollywood remake of Let The Right One In.
It is an inescapable fact that if you remake a film so soon after the original has been lauded and revered, you are going to be compared by those high standards. Sometimes this can work in your favour; John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is a vastly superior film to its 1951 counterpart. Crucially though there was a 30 year gap between the two films. In the case of Let Me In it arrived in cinemas less than 2 years after Tomas Alfredson’s stunning Let The Right One In. Comparisons were always going to be easy to make.
Like the original Let Me In is based on the book by Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist but relocated to the USA for a more American feel. Owen (Smit-McPhee) is a young boy constantly bullied at school. Alone and alienated in the world he harbours fairly vicious thoughts. However, when the mysterious Abby (Moretz) moves in next door the two children strike up a friendship and Owen learns that Abbey has abilities and knowledge way beyond that of her youthful appearance.
Let Me In is a difficult film to get on board with if you have seen Let The Right One In. It is not that it pales in comparison, it doesn’t by any means, nor that it in any way sullies the original’s spirit or overall tone, if anything it backs it to the hilt. Instead the difficulty lies in its almost mirror image reflection. It is as close to a shot for shot remake as you are likely to find.
Director Matt Reeves is a self-professed fan of Alfredson’s film and as such it feels like he is paying homage to it rather than trying to adapt the book. There are slight differences on display, one being that Reeves obviously had a larger budget to work with. A welcome addition in this sense is a car accident, pivotal to the plot, in which we are placed firmly inside the vehicle as it tumbles its way through a crash. Elsewhere Reeves is unable to utilise his locations to maximum effect. The bitter cold of the climbing frame set is never conveyed and is clearly on a sound stage rather than an actual location. While the children in the original had plumes of breath appearing in the freezing conditions, here there is none and the snow under-foot looks more artificial than Joan River’s face.
Crucially Let Me In aims for a shift to the darker side of the story. Rather than focusing on the children and their loss of innocence, the film looks at the nature of evil. Owen is a fairly unstable character from the outset, spying on his neighbours and donning masks to play out his psychotic fantasies in the mirror. Meanwhile Abby is shrouded in a more gothic look and her gender, always slightly ambiguous in the original, is made abundantly clear as female. As such the film does not project as much pathos as the Swedish version, which in many ways makes the end pay-off less satisfying.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, off the back of a staggering performance in The Road (2009), continues to be the young male actor to look out for. Here he instils a vulnerable menace in Owen that, while not necessarily affectionate, is always interesting. However, it is Chloe Moretz after her scene stealing turn in Kick Ass (2010) who proves to be an irrepressible acting talent. As Abbey there is an inherent temptation to over play the character but Moretz goes all De Niro on us and underplays it to brilliant effect. Her tone is soft but there is a cutting edge below the surface and a sinister mystery within her every nuance.
For those who have seen Let The Right One In this is nothing more than an English language remake. For those coming to the material fresh it is a well executed horror thriller which keeps you more than intrigued. More bite and less heart but Let Me In does more than just knock on the door.