on October 20, 2010
Let Me In is one of the most beautiful films of the year, and probably the best remake that I have ever seen. It is based on the Swedish film, Let The Right One In, which was released two years ago to monumental acclaim from both critics and art-house audiences alike. This touching story, concerning a young man's crush on a 12 year old vampire named Eli, captured the hearts and minds of everyone who was lucky enough to see it. If Ingmar Bergman were to direct a vampire-themed film, it would look a lot like this. However, one should not think of the film as yet another entry into the recent "vampire" craze. It is much more than that. This is the film that Twilight only wishes that it could be.
The remake deviates structurally from the original, only in that the opening is a bit different, and a few minor characters have been altered or dropped altogether. The integrity of the storytelling remains intact, and as a result, much of the remake resembles the original in all of its snow-drenched glory.
Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Owen, a lonely young man who is constantly bullied at school in the most brutal fashion. He spends his evenings at home playing with knives, and spying on the attractive neighbor next door. In addition to these disturbing quirks, he has an almost addictive fondness for Now and Laters, and constantly eats the candy throughout the film. Chloe Moretz plays Abby, a young girl who moves in next door with a man that we initially assume is her father. The two meet on the playground one night, and bond over the intricacies of a Rubick's Cube. Soon, Owen develops a crush on his new friend, oblivious that Abby is really a vampire, and that her "dad" is in fact a serial killer, who creeps out into the night, stalking and killing random victims in order to bring buckets of blood back to Abby, in order that she will survive.
Meanwhile, an older cop tries to figure out who the mysterious killer is, as the bodies continue to surface. As far as Owen is concerned, the bullying still continues at school, but with a little advice from Abby, and a little bit of weight training, Owen realizes that he can stand up for himself in one of the film's most shocking - and darkly comic - sequences. It doesn't take long for Owen to realize who and what Abby really is. In all of his fright and confusion, he decides to stay by her side, and as a result, Abby vows to protect Owen in the only way that she knows how.
As I said, this is one of the best films of the year. Both of the leads deserve Oscar nominations for their layered performances. The cinematography is breathtaking. The score is beautiful, although there are moments in the film that could do without a background score. This is my only criticism of this otherwise perfect film. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) has crafted a worthy tribute with Let Me In.
It is worth mentioning that this film is rated R, and while the film centers on two adolescents, it is not a film for the 12 and under crowd. It is much too disturbing at times, and the language is pretty rough. I would also encourage Twilighters to see the film, so that they may have a clear example of a film (Let Me In) and a product (Twilight).
on January 24, 2011
Back in 1992, I believe it was, "The Last of the Mohicans" starring Daniel Day-Lewis was released to a blockbuster reception by the public. It was exciting, well acted and beautiful. However, it was not a trans-literation (word for word) of the source novel by James Fenimore Cooper - far from it. Like many films that have novels as their story origin, you must endeavor to take the film on its own merits and not bemoan that what you loved in the book was not on the screen as you hoped. You can love both, one, or neither, but don't hate the one for being unlike the other.
This is the problem many early critical reviewers of "Let Me In" seemed to fall into. They had loved the original Swedish book and film ("Let the Right One In"), but didn't like this American version because the tone and focus is slightly different. (An example would be Reeves' decision to make nearly all characters in the film outside the primaries into archetypes, not only simplifying the narrative, but also reenforcing Owen's isolation - a brilliant choice.) Many critics said things like it's "a needless remake" or "not as faithful as the original" or some such. The damaging thing is that Matt Reeves' beautiful film was not taken on its own terms and therefore was not given a chance by some of the very audience it was made for.
"Let Me In" is beautiful, haunting, disturbing, painfully human and engrossing. The pace is deliberate, but spot-on. This was not made for the slasher film crowd. This is a movie that dares you to think what would life be like for a vampire and those around them. It works as a morality tale about, effectively, a serial killer. It also is the story about adolescence and the horrible pain of that age and the joy of finding a kindred spirit.
What is disturbing is the questions that arise from the relationships in the film. Who needs who, for what reasons, and where does the line between 'love' and 'need' end and the other begin?
The two leads in this film are stunning. No other word will suffice for their performances. They are brilliant and carry the film with their facial expressions. Moretz and Smit-McPhee deserve high praise for their work. Utterly amazing. (Compliments to the secondary players, Jenkins and Koteas, for excellent work as well.)
One final thought, a great film is enhanced by a great musical score. Like "Mohicans", the music in "Let Me In" soars and makes this film an indispensible one.
See "Let Me In" for all the right reasons. If you are a lover of film, this is a can't miss.
on January 23, 2011
It was with some amount of trepidation that I first heard about the impending release of Let Me In. Like many others, I was quite taken by the original Swedish film, Let the Right One In, which easily secured a spot on my Top 10 of that year. I feared that a remake would only excise the poetic nature of the story in favor of a by-the-numbers vampire film. The attachment of Matt Reeves as writer and director didn't do much to assuage my fears. Cloverfield was entertaining enough for what it was, but its gimmicky shaky-cam aesthetic wasn't very indicative of his directorial abilities. Once the good reviews of the film started pouring in, I figured I'd see it just to say that I did and then forget about its existence shortly thereafter.
Could I possibly have been more wrong? I ultimately saw the film five times during its brief theatrical run. It's been three months since then, and I still can't stop thinking about it. Never before has my reaction to a film been so contrary to my preconceived notions. Not only do I prefer the remake, it has fast become one of my all-time favorite films, and Matt Reeves has shot to the top of my "directors to watch" list. While there is much that can be said for how Let Me In compares to its Swedish counterpart, I'm going to try and keep comparisons to a minimum, because Let Me In stands firmly on its own two feet as a film. The wonderful thing is that one film doesn't have to supplant the other; Let the Right One In is a beautiful film in its own right, and Let Me In is another faithful and unique cinematic take on the same story.
The story in question originally comes from the mind of Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote the original film as well as the novel that inspired it. The plot revolves around a lonely 12-year-old boy who is bullied mercilessly at school and finds solace in his budding relationship with the girl who lives next door. Unbeknownst to him, the girl also happens to be a blood-thirsty vampire who has been 12-years-old for a very long time. Reeves' adaptation of the material is respectful, thoughtful, and personal. In rendering his version of the story, he draws on the overall structure of the original film, various details from the original novel, as well as some of his own ideas and experiences growing up. Reeves clearly has a firm grasp on the complexities of the material, and he crafts Let Me In as a poignant coming-of-age story, tender love story, and chilling horror story all at once. By thoughtfully transplanting the proceedings to 1980s Regan America, Reeves uses the sociopolitical context of that era as a backdrop for Owen's tortured adolescence, resulting in a subtle exploration of moral ambiguity and duality. Despite its fantastical elements, at its core, Let Me In tackles fundamental human needs - the need to connect, the need to survive, and the need to make sense of a sometimes cold and frightening world. Whereas most modern horror films rely on excessive gore as a substitute for intelligence, Let Me In is one of the select few that brilliantly utilizes its horror premise as a multi-layered metaphor to explore a variety of thought-provoking ideas.
While Reeves' screenplay adaptation is impressive in its own right, his directorial style is just as powerful and artistic. Simply put, Let Me In is one of the most elegantly directed horror films I've had the pleasure of watching in a really long time. Reeves' controlled and careful direction is a revelation in today's frenetic cinematic world. Let Me In is one of those rare films where virtually every shot helps reveal character and drive the narrative forward. Reeves is clearly an ardent admirer of Alfred Hitchcock, and his point-of-view driven visual storytelling does an admirable job of cementing the audience in the perspective of the central characters. Furthermore, he injects his film with a sense of dread and tension that would have made the Master of Suspense proud. Between Reeves' crafted cinematic approach and his cinematographer's haunting gothic visual palette, Let Me In is a breathtaking and beautiful film to behold.
Finally, a discussion of Let Me In's strong suits isn't complete without addressing the power of its two lead performances. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz may have only been 12-years-old at the time of filming, but their performances exude a sense of depth and maturity far beyond their years. Let Me In may revolve around two children, but it is a dark and complex film for adults, and the fact that McPhee and Moretz are able to shoulder the weight of the film with such a sense of grace speaks volumes for their talent as actors. Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas turn in excellent supporting performances, but the central story of Let Me In lives or dies by the success of its two leads, and McPhee and Moretz play a huge part in making Let Me In the emotionally charged film that it is.
Although it didn't do nearly as well as it should have at the box office, Let Me In deserves to find a larger audience on DVD and Blu-ray. It's a rare and precious gem that got unfairly swept aside in the chaotic rush of awards season, despite its strong critical reception. In a cinematic climate where countless films are created solely to cash in and make money, it comes as a startling surprise that such a moving, layered, and crafted piece of cinema would come in the form of a remake. And yet, Let Me In is all of these things and more. Anyone who likes their films to have equal doses of artistry, emotion, and intelligence owes it to themselves to pick up a copy of Let Me In. Don't let the genre deter you; it's not just an amazing horror film, it's not just an amazing remake, it's an amazing film, period.
I adore the Swedish film Let the Right One In and I was highly skeptical about the idea of an Americanized remake. The original was such a poetic, touching film I wondered how anyone could hope to improve on it. When it was announced that the director of Cloverfield was behind it and the title had been dumbed-down for American audiences (I realize that translations being what they are, the title may be appropriate, but you can't deny it sounds like a dumbed-down version of the original), I lost all faith in it until director Matt Reeves cast two of the most talented child actors working today. Whenever a film is remade, I watch it and judge it on its own merit. When reviewing a remake I don't like to compare it with the original, but I found it impossible to not break my own rule several times here.
The setting is Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1983. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a 12-year-old boy, seemingly with no friends, frequently bullied at school, and with no supporting parent figure to come home to. One night, outside his apartment building, Owen meets a young girl named Abby (Chloë Moretz), who has just moved in next door with a mysterious man that Owen assumes is her father (Richard Jenkins). It's no spoiler to tell you that Abby is a vampire.
Character actor Elias Koteas plays a policeman, who is basically a composite character of several minor characters from the Swedish version. While it's not a shot-for-shot remake, Reeves sticks very close to the Swedish film. Since I've never read the book, I can't be sure that additional elements in this film are Reeves' own ideas or simply ideas taken from the book so I ask you to forgive me if I credit him with something that should be credited to the novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist.
So, what has changed? Obviously the setting has moved from Sweden to New Mexico. Some of have commented that since Reeves didn't differentiate from the look of the Swedish version this change was pointless. I'm not offended by it as it doesn't change the story at all. The characters names have changed from Oskar and Eli to Owen and Abby. Once again, I find no quarrel here as their names aren't intact but their character is. Owen and Abby don't differ very much in character from their foreign counterparts and I like that Reeves didn't attempt to tweak with the characterization. Structurally, it's been altered too; the opening scene is changed, which seems to just be a way to capture the attention of an American audience quicker. Let Me In begins with a bang, while Let the Right One In draws you in as it progresses. The bullies portrayed here are much more loathsome, as they appeared more childlike is the Swedish version. Rather than show Owen's father as an alcoholic (do we need another alcoholic father in American movies?), Reeves largely removes his involvement and in a brilliant creative flourish chooses to illustrate Owen's disconnected relationship with his mother by obscuring her face whenever she's onscreen. The look of this film is a bit more monotonous, while scenes with the father (called Håkan in the original, but anonymous here) are played out with more suspense. There's an impressively shot car crash that, in context, I thought worked much better than the "entering the bathroom in defeat" scene from the original. In one moment where Owen simply finds a picture, Reeves adds a much deeper level to the relationship between the father and Abby.
Reeves does use a bit more CGI, but he doesn't overuse it. I think Reeves knew he couldn't make the scene where Abby meets a victim under a bridge any more poetic, so he attempted to make it, at least more, creepier. I did not approve of the decision to give Abby such a vampiric look when she feeds. The look was much more subtle and effective previously. Also, the pool scene was executed (no pun intended) much better in the original as it was simultaneously horrifying and darkly humorous. Here, it's just a dark scene (but not in the sense that it's not well-lit). Despite these changes (and despite your feelings on these changes), Reeves doesn't keep the beauty and poetry of the original intact but brings his own poetic beauty to it, really proving his merit as a capable director.
Now let's talk about the acting, beginning with Richard Jenkins. This is a highly underrated character actor who has appeared in a lot of movies (including such cinematic fecal matter as Step Brothers, among other things), but he's rarely given a role that allows him to really shine. With hardly any additional screen-time than his foreign counterpart (actor Per Ragnar), Jenkins gives a much creepier, more effective, and ultimately more sympathetic performance. He brings new life to this character that simply wasn't present before. Beyond those two performances, I will not compare any others. McPhee does a convincing, identifiable interpretation of his character and gives a performance that is more emotionally mature than you'd expect from someone who is fourteen (at the time of this writing). Moretz is a revelation in what is arguably her most mature role yet. At thirteen (as of this writing), Moretz has racked up an impressive filmography and, as Abby, she demonstrates that she's an immensely talented actress, capable of conveying emotions way beyond her years. If acting is her passion and she sticks to it, I can see her making real waves in the film industry and being the recipient of many film awards as she gets older. I don't recall seeing a performance by a child actor that impressed me this much. While many will compare her performance with Lina Leandersson's, I encourage those people to look at Moretz at face-value. This is an actress of infinite talent.
Let Me In was released to theatres in October of 2010, only four months after the third film in the Twilight Saga became a box office phenomenon. Unlike that film, Let Me In underperformed at the box office. It's a tragedy that such emotionally retarded films like Twilight do phenomenal business at the box office but something this poignant makes no impact. I mention this because fans seem to flock to human-vampire romances, yet the lesser one makes 10x the money. Let Me In is a love story, but not in any traditional, straight-forward sort of way. This adolescent love story has no kissing, no physical intimacy, and no dreary, contrived romanticizing yet is more poignant, romantic, and sweeter than Twilight while simultaneously achieving more emotional resonance than that saga could ever hope for. The fact that Moretz and McPhee, at 13 and 14, bring more pathos to their "romance" than the entire adult cast of Twilight says a lot about the childish idiots that populate that movie.
It's a remake, yes but it's one of the best horror films and one of the best vampire films to come out of Hollywood in a while. Let Me In is an admirable film that would be much more respected if it wasn't a remake. Few remakes live up to the original film while almost rivaling it as successfully as Let Me In does. Those not familiar with the original Swedish film should seek it out, but whether you're a big fan of the original or were completely unaware of it's existence I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this film.
on January 16, 2011
I'm not a big fan of horror movies, but this one really had me. It's the most engrossing horror film I've seen in years.
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely kid, mercilessly bullied at school, whose parents are divorcing. One winter night, he meets Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), a girl who has just moved into the apartment complex and never wears shoes.
Abby is a vampire, trapped in a child's body, and her "father" (Richard Jenkins) is actually her protector. Not only does he go out and kill people so that Abby can have blood, but when she does the dastardly deed herself, he disposes of the body.
Both friendless, Owen and Abby bond and it is a relationship that endures even after the young man learns the truth about the strange girl.
Adapted by director Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD) from a Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, LET ME IN is both a horror film and a heart-wrenching tale about the pain of adolescence. Abby may kill people in order to survive, but she is also a victim. She didn't ask to become a vampire.
The picture is dark and violent, though much of the blood-letting (wisely) happens off-screen. It is also a love story that will haunt you long after the movie ends.
© Michael B. Druxman
on December 26, 2010
I'm a huge fan of the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, so I fully expected LET ME IN to be bloody awful. Fortunately, I can report that this film is one of the best remakes I've ever seen! The reason is that they kept the heart of the story in tact, while making slight changes here and there, resulting in a low-key reboot that simply brings the wonderful tale to a wider audience. The success of this movie rests solely on the shoulders of the principle characters (played by Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi-Smit McPhee). These two recapture the same magic / chemistry that made the original so special. I can now watch both versions with a sigh of great relief...
on April 21, 2011
I'll admit that I went into this film expecting just another stupid vampire film. Like zombies in video games, every big film these days just has to have vampires and it's all thanks to Twilight and Friends. It has become the comedy staple of many satires (including the horribly made Vampires Suck) and online parodies that makes any member of the general audience just roll their eyes when they hear about a film coming out about vampires. Because of this established norm, my friends and I scheduled a movie night hoping to heckle or "riff" the hell out of Let Me In just like we had done with Sharktopus the week prior.
When the credits rolled and we all looked at each other, we made the startling observation that we had not really done any riffing at all. We got a few jabs in early on during the opening scene in the hospital (they were Dirty Harry references BTW), but they quickly began to trail off as the film went on. We began to get drawn into the film and soon the entire audience, myself included, just watched the film intently. We enjoyed it, thoroughly and couldn't believe what had just transpired.
The film has a very basic premise, forbidden love between a bullied preteen kid and a girl vampire (this ISN'T a spoiler as it's written in the description and on the back of the box). It kinda reminds me of any Disney film pertaining to forbidden love but much, much, MUCH more graphic. Definitely not for kids (the falling body parts in the pool at the end of the film put this one over the top for an "R" rating). The love part isn't overdone like it is in Twilight and the characters are real people, not hairless musclebound teenagers that use any excuse to take their shirts off. It's a cute little love story.
Now, normally I am very black and white on villains, killers, moral vagrants, etc. in that I believe one must atone for their mistakes in one way or another. However, despite the vampire character randomly attacking and killing innocent people, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her since it's in her nature. She is no more guilty than an alligator taking a victim that got too close to the water in a swamp. It also adds to the character development of both the boy (I never could remember names) and the vampire as they struggle with this horrific truth and try to go on with their lives. It kept us reeled in.
Now, I did not see the original so I cannot comment on whether it is better, worse, or about the same. While I never pass up a good foreign film such as Das Boot, My Sassy Girl (the Korean version), or any good anime, this one slipped under my radar. Sorry.
All in all, I was very impressed with this one. I might actually show my girlfriend this one and that's a big deal since I've only shown her my favorites. Well worthy of viewing for anyone... except children.
Matt Reeves' "Let Me In," an American version of a Swedish film (English title, "Let the Right One In"), succeeds brilliantly where so many American reworkings of European films fail. Far from a pale retread or an empty star vehicle, "Let Me In" may be the most intelligent and thought-provoking vampire movie ever.
The film is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the early 1980s. Not only does the name "Los Alamos" set an ominous tone from the outset, but the time period is a good one for alienation and abandonment (as well as some pretty good tunes on the soundtrack). Divorce was growing more and more common, but it was still one of those issues that carried a fair weight of shame. Naturally, our hero is a kind, meek boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee of "The Road") whose parents are divorcing. Owen's mother appears to be the short straw in the broken marriage as she's a bit of a religious nut who drowns her agony in wine before she falls asleep on the couch. Owen's dad seems decent, but he never gets closer to Owen than a concerned phone call.
Owen is alone in a cold world. Friendless and an only child, he's bullied at school by three bigger boys. The bullying scenes are handled extremely well - they are just as uncomfortable and riveting as the more bloody action scenes the movie has in store.
Alone, that is, until the mysterious Abby arrives. Abby (Chloe Moretz) is either attractively mysterious or mysteriously attractive - she walks through the snow without shoes and doesn't get cold. Her melancholy dad (Richard Jenkins) is a melancholy, tortured soul, for reasons the movie makes painfully clear. Jenkins, one of our most under-rated actors, does a magnificent job with his few lines, including his weighty admonition to Abby, "Please stay away from that boy."
Owen eventually learns that Abby is a vampire, but he doesn't care - she is kind to him. In a weaker movie, Abby would become Owen's guardian angel, dispensing comeuppances and one-liners while allowing Owen to become his school's alpha dog. "Let Me In" has another message - there is a high price to be paid for being a vampire's friend. Indeed, Abby's dad really isn't her dad, but instead someone who knows all too well what's in store for Owen should he get too close to Abby.
Violent without being a bloodfest, scary without resorting to the "jump-out-from-behind-the-door" cliches that the "Scream" franchise mocked so well, "Let Me In" is a true horror movie. The movie's final scene, innocent enough on its face, sends chills down your spine as you realize the lifetime of horrors that await. It's not perfect, but after the years of "Buffy," "Twilight," and other campy vampire stuff "Let Me In" represents a triumphant return of horror to the vampire genre.
on January 15, 2011
The failure of Let Me In at the box office just goes to show how this generation will waste money on silly Twilight movies and not see true vampire classics. The story is one of romance, but a dark romance at that. Gone are all the pretty immortals and the annoying defenseless human of Twilight, (btw I read all the books and saw the movies). Back are the actual vampire rules (no daylight, no coming in uninvited, and only human blood). :-)
This movie doesn't have love at first sight either. The story follows a young boy, Owen, who has been picked on, ignored, and become an emotional hermit. He feels truly alone in the world. When he first meets Abby, the vampire girl, there is no moment of love, only cold emotions. But as the pair continues to slowly interact, Owen realizes that Abby is as lonesome as he is and the fact that the only friends they have is each other makes them each stronger. This friendship/childhood love makes the movie perfect. In the dark, gritty setting of the movie, there is not lust, but a pure childhood love.
All the while, Abby's "father" shows his affection for her by stalking and killing townspeople and draining their blood. These acts lead to one of the most suspenseful scenes I have ever seen in a movie. His character is one whom, even though you and I don't like murderer's, you sympathize with because of his love of Abby.
All in all, this movie took me by surprise. Once the characters were introduced and the bone chilling suspense started, my heart was pounding during the last hour of the movie. I'm an action/horror junkie by nature and this film has the best of both worlds. I loved this movie and so will anyone who is okay with a little gore in their movies (this movie isn't the next SAW) . If you want the best horror/drama/vampire film of 2010, this movie belongs on your shelf
on December 22, 2014
If you haven't seen the original and like vampire movies, it's well worth watching.
For those wondering how it compares to the Swedish version:
- All the shots look a lot sharper. Depending on your taste this could be good or bad, I personally preferred the hazier look
- The violence was amplified
- The vampire scenes were much more elaborate and clearly depicted
- Explains the background story in much more detail
It's a matter of taste. I feel like the "Americanized" version thinks audiences need to be shown things a lot clearer, with more details, better special effects, and top notch cameras. To me, that dumbs the movie down a little and dilutes the atmosphere. The original was slower, but it wasn't trying to make a Vampire thriller, it was about the relationship between the two main characters.
If you like slower paced, more thoughtful movies and don't mind subtitles, check out Let The Right One In. If you like faster paced, scary movies, you'll probably enjoy this one.