"Let Me In" Movie Review

10/03/2010 Posted by Admin

"Let Me In" Movie Review

Directed by Matt Reeves, Written by Reeves, 115 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves is one of the last people one may have expected to helm the American interpretation of the stellar Swedish horror-romance "Let the Right One In." The original is frightening, but works far more on an unsettling level than a truly horrific one. It's cerebral. "Cloverfield" was far from that--a solid effort, for sure, but definitely nothing that would indicate a sound understanding of subtle horror or personal drama.

But, behold, Reeves appears to have been the perfect match for this material. Not only is "Let Me In" one of the finest remakes ever made, it dares to match its foreign counterpart in both tone and subject matter--that is, it doesn't shy away from being quiet where the American audiences might expect it to be loud, nor is it afraid to be romantic and sensual in places that would make people uncomfortable. In other words, Reeves has done the impossible and made a foreign film for a mainstream American audience.

The film, like its predecessor, follows a young boy, here named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who lives in a shabby apartment in Los Alamos, New Mexico with his perpetually inebriated mother (in an inspired move unmatched in the original, her face is never shown) and is in constant fear of torment from his school nemesis, Kenny (Dylan Minnette). One day in the winter Owen gets some new neighbors. They are Abby (Chloe Moretz) and a man who appears to be her father (Richard Jenkins). Though shy and wary, Owen befriends the mysterious girl, but what he doesn't realize is that she's actually a vampire--much older than 12, as she appears--and her "father" is her caretaker, who takes it upon himself to go out in the awful cold in the middle of the night to find unfortunate people from which to drain blood for Abby.

In many ways, and this was said even back in 2008 upon the original's release, "Let Me In" vaguely resembles its tween counterpart, "Twilight." In both, an outcast is rescued from the pain of their mundane lives by affection for something dangerous, something they cannot understand, but something they know is somehow good for them. Of course, they're not very similar otherwise--the romance of these two characters, one just reaching adolescence and the other never having reached it, is much more mature than in any of the "Twilight" films. It's more urgent, more real, and it can be felt far more deeply. And it's far from shallow, which the relationship in "Twilight" certainly is.

But to even call this adolescent romance just an ordinary romance would be a mistake. Again, like the Swedish film, there are some very dark undertones to the whole affair, especially when the real implications of Abby's desires for Owen are considered. And, startlingly, this is one area where the remake definitely trumps the original. Though the ambiguity regarding the nature of Abby's sexuality goes completely unexplored here, the overall nature of her relationship with Jenkins' caretaker character is a bit more overtly explored.

But it would be unfair to continue comparing the remake to the original--Reeves' film definitely works on its own, both in its stylistic changes and in its thematic and narrative additions. The action centerpiece of the film that has garnered a good deal of critical attention is entirely deserving of focus--it's truly one of the finest thriller setpieces of the last few years, and it has possibly the best and most startling car crash scene I've seen put to film.

Really, it's fascinating to see Reeves go from his Blair Witch-cam style in "Cloverfield" to something so thoughtful and beautiful here. Sure, he takes many cues from Tomas Alfredson, director of the original, with some moments generally taken shot-for-shot from his film, but he very much makes the film his own and any additions and subtractions are well-earned. It's really quite an exciting display of directorial prowess from someone I really didn't expect to see so much excellence from.

"Let Me In" may very well be a redundancy, but like Michael Haneke's own American remake of his film "Funny Games" and Soderbergh's "Solaris," it's a remake very much with its own merit, something that takes note from its inspiration while being wholly unique. And, with some consideration, "Let Me In" may ultimately be the better adaptation of the material.

Grade: A

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  1. buck said...

    Did you actually read the book?

    On top of which, please answer this. What is the purpose of remakes?

  2. Rob said...

    Well, certainly more often than not the purpose of remakes is purely fiscal. Take a semi-popular product that may not be entirely accessible to a broad audience, make it accessible, market it again. It's likely that almost every single remake out there was produced with this goal in mind. But it's then the responsibility of the filmmakers to make the remake worth the audience's while, which, in most cases, it isn't. The fact that Reeves managed to make something this tonally dark accessible to the mass American audience while maintaining the whole spirit of the original is part of what makes Let Me In so spectacular.

    And I have not read the book, I was speaking pretty much entirely about the interpretation of the base plot elements when I said Reeves' film was a superior adaptation.

  3. buck said...

    Well, the way I see it(and ignore my opinion if you want, though most directors I've seen interviewed on it would agree), the purpose of a movie is to tell a story. The purpose of a remake, is to tell that story again. Now there SHOULD be two reasons why you should tell a story again. The first one being the original didn't live up to it's potential. Good story, but horrible execution. Which I think everyone can agree on, would never be the case for LTROI, and isn't this go around either.

    Which brings up the second reason. The second reason is, you recognize and understand what’s important and special about the original source, but believe you can bring significant and substantial changes to the table to make it a truly new movie with the same point. Keeping what’s important and essential, but finding different ways to get to there, or go from there.

    Which I think is how remakes should be judged. Did they do what a remake is supposed to do? If not, then explain how and give it a negative review. If yes, then explain how and give it a positive review.

    Incidentally enough, in Reeves case, he made the same movie with a different point(the change to Jenkins character is very awful, both logically and in failure to capture the point of the original book and film). Which is all the more odd considering he claims to have read the book. Which makes it all the more worse he didn’t make a new adaptation of the book, considering it is very much easy to do that.

    If you take it as a stand alone movie though(which you shouldn't), the change to Jenkin's character this go around...well there are a lot of problems with what they did with him in relation to Abbey. A lot. Because the change to him, ruins the spirit of the original. Film and book.

    "Two kids that have known nothing but bad in their lives finally finding some good."

    Do yourself a favor and check out the book though. The original film is a really good adaptation of it. The remake? Not so much.