let me inHollywood is notorious for taking great foreign films and remaking them into absolute garbage. Most recently, Steve Carrell held together a washed up script in a very unfunny Dinner for Schmucks. When it comes to horror flicks, Hollywood’s bastardizing of classic films just cant be beat. Take a movie we will be watching the last night of Sunday SHOCK Theater, The Vanishing. Hollywood took this suspenseful and terrifying classic and did the impossible: they made it boring. So when I first heard that an American version of Let the Right One In (A widely popular Robot Panic Summer Film Festival entry. Thanks Mitch!) was in production, I feared the worst. Even the summer trailers for this film portrayed it as a scary blood-and-guts vampire movie and not the deeply complex story that everyone loved. But then my wife called me over lunch on Friday and asked if we could see Let Me In.  She had never seen the original, so with the hope that I might get some scary movie cuddle action, I agreed. The end result of our date night was something I never expected. No, we didn’t make out like teenagers, although that would have been just as surprising, I found an American studio taking great care with an amazing story and producing a remake that is actually really well done.     

Let Me In tells the story of a lonely boy named Owen. His Mom and Dad are getting a divorce, and if that were not enough of a blow to his self esteem, he is constantly picked on by a bunch of bullies. So Owen spends his day eating candy and spying on his neighbors through a telescope in his room. Then one day, an old man and his daughter move in to the next door apartment. The little girl’s name is Abby and there is something quite strange about her. She walks around barefoot in the snow and she proclaims that her and Owen can’t be friends. We soon realize that Abby is a vampire and her father goes out at night killing people so she won’t have to. Strangely enough, Owen and Abby develop a deep friendship, one that is threatened as authorities begin to close in on her and her father. 

It’s rare that we get a smart horror film the likes of Let the Right One In. For what eventually happens to this unique young couple is the basis for what I believe to be one of the best vampire stories of our time. It is ironic, somewhat tragic, and very thought provoking. Normally, Hollywood producers would take a premise of such a this and add in their own ideas and change the story so the American audience would buy it. Apparently we are all too dumb to appreciate something smart like Let the Right One In. But in this case, the right studio got a hold of the rights to the story and treated it with a great deal of love. That studio would be Hammer Studios, well known for the classic vampire movies of the 1960s and 70s. Hammer has a lot of interest in a narrative such as this, and treating this vampire story right was a top priority. Happily, the story remains mostly untouched, and leaves you with the same feeling of thoughtful irony that the original had. I will admit, much of what we see on screen resembles the Swedish classic. The jungle gym where Owen and Abby chat is the same, the lighting of the apartment complex has that same eerie feel to it, and even the actor who plays Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) reminds you of his Swedish counterpart. 

One of the cool things about the original was its sparse dialogue and how Director Thomas Alfredson used facial expressions and body language to tell the story of the developing love story. While these conventions are not abandoned in this remake, Matt Reeves uses a lot more dialogue between Owen and Abby to help explain how each of them is feeling. I was afraid that something like that would happen, but pleasantly surprised at how awkward the dialogue was and how that help convey the awkwardness of the relationship. Trust that the script feels just as sparse, but adds just enough to make things a bit more interesting. 

Perhaps the best part of the entire film is Chloë Moretz’s (aka “Hit Girl”) portrayal of Abby. In the original, we get a clear sense that Abby cares for Owen, but has some ulterior motives. In this version, we see the same thing, but we get a greater sense that Abby has deep and genuine feelings for Owen. This added greater sense of the character for me and heightened the enjoyment factor for the film. Chloë uses her entire body to personify Abby and tell us how she is feeling. Her every movement is deliberate, and every smile both seductive and heartwarming. It is a performance I will not soon forget and I can’t wait to see more from her in the future. 

Now not everything in the film is perfect. The reveal of who Abby is and what she is ultimately trying to do comes way too early in the film. I, for one, appreciate that “ah ha” moment in the original where all the pieces came falling into place. That being said, this movie was incredibly well done and worth a look from both fans of the first film and newcomers to the story. As a fan of the original, I picked up on subtle nuances I had missed in my first viewing and greatly appreciated a unique approach to the story telling. As a Hammer fan, I could spot their use of tightly-framed shots that masterfully created suspense. Honestly, the remake solidified my appreciation for this wonderful narrative and how it ranks up there as one of the best vampire stories of all time. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the film and said it wasn’t what she was expecting. I had to agree; a good remake wasn’t quite what I was expecting either.

Rating = 4 Buckets-O-Popcorn

3 Responses to SHOCKtober! Let Me In

  1. Can we stop calling this movie a remake? It’s an adaptation of a novel, not a remake of the movie that was also an adaptation of the same novel.

    Or maybe we can call Let the Right One In a remake of the novel.

  2. And I’m not directing my first post towards Ryker. Just everyone in general.

  3. Ryker XL says:

    How about a Hollywood reinterpretation?

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