Sunday, June 5, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Let Me In

So tonight was Let Me In, a remake of Let the Right One In, which in turn was an adaptation of the novel Let the Right One In, which is often marketed in America as Let Me In.

So full circle with the whole name thing.
An American remake of a foreign film? Will it be good? (Spoilers: No)
Some, including the director, have been known to claim that this isn't a remake of the Swedish adaptation. I wouldn't believe that after having seem this version, otherwise they just happened to cut the same material from the novel and just happened to cherry-pick cinematography from the original.

A common complaint of American versions of foreign films, voiced often by myself and others, is that many American directors will clearly value the source material, but will violently do away with any subtlety found in the original. This, and the loss of primary and peripheral character development, are both strong poisons beating in the heart of this film. Which is sad, because I love the novel by John Lindqvist and the Swedish version of the movie by Tomas Alfredson. Would have been nice to have a good American version as well.
Interestingly, they swapped the characters hair colors for the American version.
What do I mean by a lack of subtlety? Well, to avoid specifics and spoilers, there is a moment in the original film where Eli (Abby in the American version) makes a risky move to demonstrate vulnerability in herself and trust in Oscar (Owen in the American) which serves to cement the bonds between them. It's a beautiful moment in the film shadowed by the sinister undertones of what this means to a child compared to the audience. It is also largely unspoken, relying on the viewers to think about what they are seeing.

The American version plays out almost exactly the same way, except that the moment suddenly has a large influx of dialogue as Own explains to the audience just what this scene means. An amazing moment dies at the merciless hands of forced exposition. This of course happens throughout the film, and we can also thank the score for being in your face constantly as well.
"Oh god, I sense needless exposition coming."
As for character development, in the Swedish version of the film the victims of Eli's need to feed have lives we are privy to. We see them go about their days and nights, fight with lovers and drink with friends. We see lives fall apart because of the deaths that happen, and this drives characters into actions and situations that impact the rest of the film. It is a believable and most importantly, a relatable aspect of the film.

They are sadly faceless characters in the American version, we never see the effects of their deaths, and they have no direct repercussions on the rest of the film save for the addition of a soft spoken cop in the American version. Rather then have a grief stricken man, bereft of his friend and his lover to drive the plot, we get a cop who just exists to forward the plot. A man driven by a need to know what ruined his life can break into a home. A cop who lacks real investment who breaks into a home is just a bad cop who just violated the Fourth Amendment.
"Wait... why am I even here?"
Problems like those two weigh heavy on Matt Reeves' Let Me In, and they drag the film down into mediocrity. To be fair and give it some positive praise, Chloë Moretz does a decent job acting, as does Kodi Smit-McPhee. Although I must admit to being more partial towards Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson in the Swedish version. Dylan Minnette, who plays the bully that makes Owen miserable, does an amazing job of being a total douchebag. Seriously, I have never wanted to punch a kid in the face more then I have wanted to punch this kid. Just look at the kid! So, great casting on that one at least.
"Sometimes when I first wake up, I punch my mirror reflexively."
Let Me In tries, it really does, but it falters one to many times to be anything other the forgettable in the end. Another director could have done great things with the story, and had Lindqvist been involved with the screenplay, all of my complaints would have been addressed. Instead we had Matt Reeves directing and adapting the screenplay, and he isn't really well known for being a subtle director.

If your interested in a vampire movie that is truly good and does justice to the oldest stories in our collective culture, then do yourself a favor and skip Let Me In and find a good version of  Let the Right One In. HOWEVER, and this may sound strange, but skip the DVD rental and pirate a version that has the original theatrical subtitles. Why would I tell you to download this movie rather then rent? The DVD release was a botched rush with utterly terrible translations that destroy several scenes, while the theatrical subtitles do a wonderful job. So until the movie gets a proper DVD release, let the publisher know you won't stand for shoddy translations and avoid giving them your money.

If you really want to enjoy an amazing story, then find and read the book. It really is the best and most complete version of the story you can experience.
"Read me!"
Want to know about the other movies in the count down? Check out the list!


  1. Scary movie, i like the finale

  2. Hmmm... I have only seen the half the Swedish version. Interesting review. :)

  3. I only saw the movie adaption. It's advertised as touching dangerous themes like pedophiles, but I don't see anything like it in the movie.

  4. That is so true about the American version of movies.

  5. I have never read/seen this book/movie before. I will have to check it out!

  6. I watched the American version. I thought it was okay but it felt a bit awkward in places.

  7. @Haydn Pi Sunday - Most of those themes were hastily dropped from the American version, including the issues regarding gender. The Swedish version has them in a limited capacity, but the Novel is where you can really get in-depth with those themes and ideas.

  8. Very beautifully written review! I like it