(2010) director Matt Reeves
Re-makes are such commonalities these days, though re-making a successful foreign film in Hollywood has been around for as long as the industry has. But in re-making the lovely and affecting Swedish film, Let the Right One In (2008), the resounding question of “why?” keeps echoing about. The assumption one must make is that while Let the Right One In is a wonderful film, there are a lot of people who will never see it because it’s in Swedish (with subtitles), stars no one the average American has ever heard of, and … I don’t know, you tell me.
What is remarkable about Let Me In, director Matt Reeves version, is that it’s nearly as good as the original. Reeves adapted his version of the film from the screenplay of the Swedish film and the book upon which the Swedish film was adapted. And if any one thing really stands out what makes Reeves’ version significant and perhaps quite great in its own right is the casting of Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Moretz as the boy and the vampire girl respectively.
Smit-McPhee who was quite compelling as “the boy” in The Road (2009) plays Owen, the child of a drunken, divorcing mother, from whom he is so alienated that her face is never clearly displayed in the film. He lives in an apartment complex in Los Alamos, NM (standing in for the snow-covered Swedish setting of the original) and is tormented by bullies from school. All is pretty depressing until Abby (Moretz) and her parent-like adult move into the complex in the middle of the night.
Abby appears to Owen in the snow and announces that they cannot be friends. Following the original film almost scene by scene, they do become friends and fall into a pre-pubescent, pre-sexual love, drawn by their isolation, loneliness, and hurt. And more than anything, the nature of that sad joy is the true character of the film.
Carrying over from the original as well as suggestions of child abuse, molestation, poverty, and loneliness, a lack of understanding or a lack of comprehension of what is really going on. And it’s these more emotional elements that make the film the kind of experience that one connects with. It’s a far cry from True Blood, from Twilight (2008), and a far cry from any straight horror vampire film. Abby is a victim primarily, utterly sympathetic, and even though the police are not portrayed as villains, the sympathy still belongs to her, not the innocent victims that become her prey.
Chloë Moretz is really something, it must be said. The child actors of Let the Right One In were excellent and well-cast as well, so to have managed to have cast this film effectively, I consider to be the film’s largest coup. Moretz, who made such a striking impression as Hit-Girl in this year’s Kick-Ass (2010), is both beautiful and evocative as Abby. Undoubtably, the new “It girl” in Hollywood, with good reason.
Let Me In has its weaknesses. The special effects, though rarely employed, really stand out as off-putting. When Abby attacks her first victim, the film’s naturlism is shot to hell the instant the scene cuts to digital animation. This only occurs a couple of times, but it’s jarring and largely ineffectual (this could be argued about the original too). And the soundtrack was really annoying to me as well for some reason.
Still, coming from Matt Reeves, whose only other feature film was the annoying, somewhat pointless Cloverfield (2007), Let Me In was quite a surprise. Little things, subtle things, have been changed such as erasing the notion that Abby is really a castrated boy or giving more indication that her adult caretaker was once a 12 year old child lover of hers like Owen. Adding to the holes that left open caused one wonder and hiding the more ambiguous issues over gender tend to make this edge a little towards the mainstream, but not significantly so. The film might still be too non-commercial for the US anyways.
So, again, why need to re-make it?
Well, in this rare case, it certainly is not a disaster, though the academic question of why will always be there. It’s a fine film, finer than most, though what it adds is the biggest question of all.