It’s a great story. A tormented, outcast boy is drawn into a chillingly dark relationship with an equally afflicted young girl. And it’s even better if you haven’t already seen it. Matt Reeves’s Let Me In follows so closely to the original film (Let the Right One In) that it will feel like a repeat viewing for the most part, though much of the ambiguity in the characters has been cleared up as well as the addition of an expected dose of Americanization. Reeves’s adaptation also clearly leans more towards horror, and while several scenes of suspense do stand out, the CG and gruesome makeup effects seem entirely unnecessary. The tone is just as serious, the love story juxtaposed with an examination of vampirism as reality is as hauntingly poetic as the source material, and the more complicated elements of gender are all but removed. Perhaps it’s easier to accept, but it’s also not an improvement over the Swedish film.
12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an introverted youth, relentlessly bullied at school and troubled at home by his parents’ divorce. When he meets new neighbor Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), an odd young girl who appears to be his same age, Owen begins a tumultuous friendship with her. But as he learns more about his mysterious new companion, and her father (Richard Jenkins) becomes connected with a string of brutal murders, Abby’s dark past threatens to change his world forever.
Let the Right One In is very much a masterpiece of mood, design and unique themes of vampirism, removing almost every element of classical fantasy, horror and lore and replacing them with realistic, subtle, practical interpretations of survival. Romance is also a predominant aspect, focusing on the juvenile notions of love and friendship, with inexperience and innocence. The remake also handles these same ideas capably, but barely adds anything new. The cinematography often goes for aesthetic artistry over visual thrills, with the sound effects amplified with thundering bass and booming tympani sounds. Names have changed, the location is now in the States, and the spoken language is English. This will please moviegoers that dread reading subtitles, but the originality and major concepts existed elsewhere first. Like Funny Games or even The Vanishing, this Americanized version won’t offer anything fresh to foreign film enthusiasts or those who simply enjoyed Tomas Alfredson’s superior take.
The addition of CG is poorly used, attempting to capitalize on general preconceptions of vampire movement. Like Twilight, Let Me In’s bloodsuckers have to be inhumanly strong and quick, which looks incredibly fake. It’s a shame, considering how poignant the relationship is between Owen and Abby and “The Father,” along with the coming-of-age, outcast, bullying and revenge elements and the realism that accompanies them. Several artistic choices differ in this new adaptation, including the ambiguity about Abby’s gender, the more defined relationship of Jenkins’ character, the greater amount of sexual influences, and the Rear Window voyeurism. Assuming you haven’t seen the original, Let Me In is a dark, foreboding, thrilling mystery with a heartfelt romance, a highly creative take on vampires (in the film Abby refuses to be designated as such), calculating pacing, horrifying, severe imagery (certainly more graphic than before) and a riveting climax.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)