About six months ago, I watched the Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to watching its American remake, Let Me In.
It’s an astonishingly good remake.
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a strange, lonely little boy. Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a strange, lonely little vampire. She moves in next door to Owen. Bonding and bloodsucking ensues.
1. If you haven’t seen Let the Right One In or Let Me In before, know that the summary above is just a glib little thing that doesn’t even attempt to capture the brilliance of both films. These are beautiful movies.
They’re also difficult to talk about separately. Let Me In makes some changes—and we’ll talk about those in a bit—but it is, otherwise, an exceptionally close remake of the original film. I won’t post spoilers for either film in this review, but just know, I’m going to be talking about the original movie a lot.
2. For instance, in the battle of Let the Right In versus Let Me In, there seems to be a general consensus that while Let Me In is a surprisingly decent American remake, it simply doesn’t hold a candle to the Swedish film. I am going to disagree with that here and tentatively (very, very tentatively) suggest that Let Me In might actually be the slightly better film.
I am being so very tentative about this particular blasphemy because I think it might still be too close to call. I’ve only seen each film once, and Let the Right One In is not nearly as clear in my mind as its American counterpart. What I need to do is watch them both again (if not back-to-back, then within the same week) and see if my mind has changed. But that’s not happening anytime soon. I have a Netflix queue that’s already longer than the fucking Nile.
3. The thing is, there are scenes in Let Me In that are pulled directly from the original film. The pool scene, for example, or the scene where Owen and Abby meet, or the scene where we find out what happens when a vampire walks in uninvited. And every time these scenes go head-to-head in my brain?
Let the Right One In wins every time.
It’s not that Let Me In makes a mess of these scenes. They don’t. They’re really quite good. Take the pool scene, for instance. Well, I can’t really tell you anything about it without spoilers, unfortunately, but on its own, it’s a very creepy scene. I like it a lot. It’s just, when matched up with the pool scene from Let the Right One In . . . it kind of feels like a pale imitation because the scene in the original film is just so brilliant.
4. So, that begs the question: if I think Let the Right One In has the creepier scenes, why am I saying Let Me In is the better film?
Mostly, it has to do with narrative changes that Let Me In makes.
The best movies to remake are bad movies. It’s an easy enough concept. You find a decent idea in a shitty movie, and you make a new movie that better fits said idea. If you’re going to remake a good movie . . . well, ideally, you’re radically changing the tone or the genre, otherwise . . . why bother remaking it at all?
Well, what Matt Reeves has done here is this: he’s created a faithful adaptation of a good movie, while managing to eliminate the original film’s largest problems in one fell swoop. Let The Right One In is creepy and beautiful, but it also focuses too much attention on annoying side characters and distracting subplots. Lacke’s storyline, in particular, feels awkward and heavy and frankly weighs down the entire film. While Let Me In doesn’t always compare on a scene-to-scene basis, Matt Reeves successfully takes out everything I didn’t like about the original movie—Lacke, Oskar’s Dad, the terrible, CGI cats—and has a more balanced film for it. He hones in on what’s really important here, what the movie’s all about: Abby and Owen’s friendship.
The more time we have with these two, the better.
5. I also like The Father (Richard Jenkins) in this movie better than in the original film.
Part of that’s Richard Jenkins’s casting, I’d imagine. I’ve been fond of him since Six Feet Under—well, possibly The Mod Squad, if I’m being honest. (Yeah, BOB!)
The Father is Abby’s caretaker, and in the original, he seems rather incompetent. In Let Me In, he just seems tired . . . and suffering from a string of really, really bad luck. I like how his backstory, while never explicitly stated, is heavily implied in this film with just one picture. The audience learns what they need to know without having to sit through endless exposition.
6. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz are absolutely fantastic in this movie.
Seriously, these kids are incredibly talented. Owen and Abby are not easy roles to play, and Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson left them with very big shoes to fill. Moritz and Smit-McPhee filled those shoes. Their scenes together are haunting and sweet and violent and nostalgic, all at the same time. The whole story is lovely and dark, moody in the best of ways, but if the actors here weren’t amazing, the film would never work. This one does.
7. Elias Koteas plays The Policeman in Let Me In, and he’s perfectly serviceable in the role.
He also plays the voice of Owen’s father on the phone, and ha! I was right! That WAS him!
Sorry. I just enjoy a good moment of vindication, now and again.
8. Let Me In is set Los Alamos, New Mexico. This means nothing to me. It’s also set in the 1980’s. This . . . doesn’t really mean much to me, either (my childhood nostalgia’s mostly reserved for the 90’s), but it does make for an awesome soundtrack: David Bowie, The Vapors, Blue Oyster Cult, and of course, Culture Club. Heh. It’s been ages since I’ve heard “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”
9. In one scene, there is a car accident. I can’t talk too much about it without spoilers, but I’m bringing it up because I really like how it’s shot. It’s chaotic and messy, and it does a decent job of bringing the audience into the car with the character(s) involved. It’s the kind of shot that could end up being gimmicky and obnoxious, but I really think it works here. (Also: I saw this scene at Comic Con before I even saw the movie. It was this scene, and Matt Reeves’s obviously sincere respect for the original film, that really made me want to see Let Me In.)
10. I’m not going to create a Spoiler Section today, partly because I’m tired, and partly because I feel like I’ve already done one . . . well, crap. I just checked out my own review for Let the Right One In, and it turns out I was feeling lazy that day, too.
Well. I’m still not writing a spoiler section because I don’t wanna, but I will say that I like the ending of Let Me In a lot. It caps the film perfectly.
And I can’t commit to it yet, of course, but . . . this might be my favorite vampire of all time.
Kodi Smit-McPhee. Both kids are good, but I think his is the slightly harder role, and he does such a good job with it.
Same as last time: no one likes a bully. Seriously. DO NOT BE A BULLY.