I had all of these ideas on how I would say things like: “Let Me In’, what’s missing? ‘the right one”, but I can’t say that and you’ll see why.
This week’s offering is the American remake of the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In. Matt Reeves, director of Cloverfield headed up this project. I can only venture to guess that they changed the title because they were convinced that Americans wouldn’t understand the concept of “the right one”. It is difficult to talk about this film without referring to the original, but I will do my best, leaving comparisons for the one or two key points where it is absolutely necessary.
Let Me In ushers in the return of the famous, amongst the horror community anyway, Hammer Studios. Hammer is best known for their boundary pushing films of the 50s, 60s and 70s such as Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.
Let Me In begins in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the winter of 1983. The film opens on a shot of a hospital where then President Regan can be seen on a television delivering a speech. The filmmaker does a good job of weaving the 80s feel through the film and I wonder if this is to dispense with issues of information overload or if they are picking up where Hammer Studios left off in the late 70s.
The story follows Owen, a young, often bullied boy, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who may look familiar from the film The Road. Owen is a bit of a late-bloomer and has an unhealthy obsession with Now and Later candies, often singing the jingle as he eats them.
We find out that Owen likes to watch his neighbors through his telescope, which one might be able to chalk up to curiosity until we see him wearing a mask and challenging his reflection in much the same way the bullies challenge Owen. Unfortunately, this causes us to question Owen’s stability. While peeping on his neighbors, Owen sees a mysterious, shoeless girl, played by Hit Girl- Chloë Grace Moretz, and a man, he assumes to be her father, played by Richard Jenkins from Stepbrothers. She and her caretaker are moving into the apartment next-door to Owen.
The evening of a particularly horrible bullying incident, Owen meets the new neighbor in the courtyard/playground of his apartment complex. She tells him that they cannot be friends and that is just the way it is. A few days after this conversation, Owen sees the girl again and asks her name. She tells him that her name is Abby and this is the beginning of the relationship which is the focus of the film. Abby tells Owen that he needs to learn to hit back and if he hits hard enough, they will stop bullying him. If that doesn’t work, she offers to help him, stating that she is stronger than she looks.
I don’t want to go into too much plot summary because I feel that this is worth seeing. Yes it has some gore, but it is necessary. Yes, it is technically a vampire film, but that is secondary to the sweet relationship between a twelve-year- old and someone forever locked inside the body of a twelve-year-old. The focus of the film is Owen and Abby. The highlights are Moretz as Abby, Smit-McPhee as Owen and the loathsome Kenny played by Dylan Minnette, who you may know as little David Shepherd from Lost.
I feel that this film doesn’t capture the same atmosphere as the original, which may be Hollywood vs. foreign filmmaker. My wife argued that there are no locations in the U.S. that would be a suitable substitute for Sweden in its hopelessness. I think she’s right. The other choice that I disagree with is the omission of the pivotal scene from the original where (skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen the original) Oskar spies on Eli while she is dressing. I don’t feel that the scene was necessary, but if the director is going to allow Abby to raise the question of her gender, that scene needs to be there.
All in all, I enjoyed this remake and hope that it breathes new life (no pun intended) into the original, which is just a bit better. If you have not seen the original, I recommend watching Let Me In first. If you have seen the original, I still recommend this one. It is a well done remake, but beware, there’s no scene involving cats.
How much would I pay to see this again? Out of $10, I would pay $7. I enjoyed it, but the original beats it on atmosphere, or maybe it is because I saw that one first.
Jay Fralick is the co-host of The Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast
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