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Capone opens the door and invites Matt Reeves' LET ME IN to enter his horror-loving soul!!!

Published at: Oct. 1, 2010, 12:53 a.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Beauty is beauty. If something beautiful looks like some other beautiful thing that came before it, does that somehow negate the original? I guess that's what the debate revolving around (more like swallowing up) LET ME IN, the impressive and, yes, similar remake of the Swedish vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In. If I liked Lawrence Olivier's HENRY V, am I not allowed to like Kenneth Branagh's. If I like the visual take that Tim Burton gave to BATMAN, does that erase the powerful drama that makes up BATMAN BEGINS or DARK KNIGHT? Zack Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD is easy to love, and I would argue that the recent remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is better than Wes Craven's groundbreaking original. So, is the fact that LET ME IN comes so closely on the heels of Tomas Alfredson's original (both based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote the first adaptation) the part of this equation that bothers people so much? It kind of feels that way. I picked LET THE RIGHT ONE IN as one of my favorite films of 2008, and I listed it as one of the Top Five vampire movies of all time for a podcast I was on recently, so few people have put their money where their keyboard is on this movie like I have. So when it was announced that CLOVERFIELD director Matt Reeves had written and was directing a remake, I felt the breath leave my lungs. But having seen the new film recently, I had a reaction that was unexpected, to say the least. Reeves has given us an alternate--but not radically different--version of this story of a young boy and his relationship with a friendly vampire girl next door that is as good as the original for quite a few different reasons. Reeves has expanded certain elements, streamlined others, and given his actors room to show the true nature of their characters. The young boy Owen (played by the young Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee from THE ROAD) is portrayed as a bit more of a perv and potential homicidal. He spies on his neighbors with his telescope, and even manages to watch an especially beautiful woman in an apartment across the courtyard having sex. And while his counterpart Oskar in the original film shows such tendencies as well, Smit-McPhee is allowed to show his bloodlust a little more explicitly, with the help of his vampire friend Abby (Hit Girl from KICK-ASS, Chloe Grace Moretz), who encourages him to fight back against a small army of bullies to torments him daily. She's not concerned about his well-being; she's testing him to see if he's worthy of... something. Moretz is incredible as Abby, part subtle temptress, part protector, part nasty creature, and manipulative without appearing so. We get a bit more of Abby's ugly vampire side, a change I'm not sure I agree with, but it doesn't take away anything as much as it doesn't necessarily add either. The third major player in this unholy threesome is an unnamed older man (Richard Jenkins) who acts as Abby's caretaker but is clearly exhausted from the work. The two move into the unit next door from Owen and his recently single and hyper-religious mom (Cara Buono, whose face we never see clearly because neither does Owen). When he spots Abby talking to Owen, Jenkins' character is seized with jealousy; the way he looks at Abby is clearly with something more than a paternal affection. One of Reeves' biggest changes is adding a fourth player into the mix, a police officer played by Elias Koteas, who is put in charge of investigating what becomes a series of brutal murders and attacks. The fact that the cops were barely a factor in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN always bothered me. Koteas kind of takes the place of a few people in the original and in placed perfectly into the story to bring elements together more satisfactorily. Reeves also dispenses with the scenes featuring the rowdy drunks at the bar, instead making many of them people who live in Owen's complex. The brutal attack of one woman who actually survives and has an unfortunate incident at the hospital is assigned to the aforementioned pretty lady on which Owen likes to spy. Even the color palette Reeves chooses is dissimilar. The Swedish film was basically boiled down to black, white, and a ghostly blue. Reeves sees the color of 1980s New Mexico (when and where LET ME IN is set) as streetlight orange, and he projects that color directly into the courtyard where Owen and Abby regularly meet on a the saddest jungle gym I've ever seen. But the color is warmer and seems to assist in fueling the relationship between the pair. What seems to get lost in the discussion about either film is that, this occasionally bloody, often tense work is a coming-of-age movie about Owen's first (and probably only) love. And while Moretz is certainly a pretty young woman, Owen falls for her because he senses a kindred spirit, a fellow traveler, and, when pushed, a ferocious killer. Of the three main characters, Smit-McPhee and Moretz at least equal their Swedish counterparts, while Jenkins actually exceeds what Per Ragnar did with the same character in the original. Jenkins plays the role as a tortured, frustrated, angry man that has been at this never-aging creatures behest for most of his life. And when he sees what Abby is lining up for herself, he simply gives up, spectacularly. Above all else, the thing that LET ME IN remembers and preserves about the book and original movie is that it is so much more than a vampire movie. If Abby weren't a vampire, she'd be a goth girl with a troubled life, and the story would still be extraordinary, thanks in large part of the performances and smart, dialed-back direction from Reeves. I'm not sure Matt Reeves has won the "Why remake it?" argument, but if we lived in a world where this was every audience member's first exposure to this material beyond the novel, I think LET ME IN would be hailed as a minor masterpiece in genre filmmaking. The fact that it's a remake never really factored into my critique of the movie. It's not a shot-for-shot anything (if you think it is, you either don't remember LET THE RIGHT ONE IN or didn't watch the new movie very carefully), and the overall aura of the work is fairly unique. But sometimes getting there first is enough to upset people about what follows that is similar (that's one of the many themes of THE SOCIAL NETWORK). I don't think remakes are inherently crap. There are many remakes that feel like a sign of the Apocalypse, but LET ME IN isn't one of those movies. It's a haunting, powerful, still-strange work that I'll treasure alongside the Swedish film, and there's no crime in that.
-- Capone capone@aintitcool.com Follow Me On Twitter



Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1 a.m. CST

    LET VADER IN

    by STICKY WHITE

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:13 a.m. CST

    Ban the D.Vader sympathisers

    by Fleet

    ....You'd think they'd be tired of lamenting the loss of their online boyfriend by now...

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:20 a.m. CST

    Stop Using the words Classic and Masterpiece

    by D o o d

    the damn film is a copy of another film. I'm not saying it shouldn't have been made, I'm just saying that to be a classic it needs to be around for a very long time and to be a masterpiece it will need to inspire many other movies like it etc. Well this one was inspired by a masterpiece!

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:21 a.m. CST

    Ban the banning sympathisers

    by STICKY WHITE

    ...You'd think they'd be tired of lamenting the lamenters by now...

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:52 a.m. CST

    well said

    by detectivesoap

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 2:48 a.m. CST

    Nice review

    by MikeCSVU

    Nice to see such an eleoquent and well thought out review on here. I have no problem with remakes, I look at them like I look at comics, just ome artists take on a tale or characters. Looking forward to seeing this one. Loved the original, which I saw thanks to this site's praising of it.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 2:58 a.m. CST

    Capone reminds me of my 6 years old cousin

    by chien_sale

    Where everything is great!!!!! Let The Right one Is one of Top vampire films of all time! It's so not, people. It's overrated and loved because it's artsy. But it never really come together.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 3:20 a.m. CST

    chien_sale

    by ClayG

    If you're going to knock a movie, first of all learn to use the English language. Honest to God, anyone on this talkback board who can't use English grammar has nothing to say to me, ever. My four year old niece knows enough about subject-verb agreement to write 'never really *came* together'. not 'never really come together.' And don't use 'so' as an intensifier. 'It's certainly not' is fine. 'It's so not' makes you sound like an illiterate preteen. Thirdly, if you're knocking a film, give criteria. You know, actual *evidence* to support your claims. 'It's so not' is, pardon my saying so, 'so not' evidence ;) Better yet, stay the fuck off these talkbacks until you learn to speak the language of the country you live in, you overprivileged moron.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 5:14 a.m. CST

    Like, duh!

    by Lemure_v2

    Comparing Batman Begins to Batman (89). The two films couldn't be more different. I thought this site was run by film fans? And no, I'm still not watching this pointless remake.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 6:48 a.m. CST

    Im interested in seeing this

    by mojoman69

    in part because I did love the original and found it haunting and beautiful. I am also interested since this is Hammer's first attempt at horror films in a long time. I hope they do well as I want to see more.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 6:58 a.m. CST

    The Last House remake

    by clupula

    absolutely sucked, compared to the original.<BR><BR>Just wanted to get that in.<BR><BR>As for this, I am not sure if I'll be seeing it or not. Probably rent it one day. Loved the original, but am very iffy on this one.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 6:59 a.m. CST

    i wish it wasn't so similar

    by Monolith_Jones

    I'm sure it will be a very well made movie. But like the Sin City movie, I fear this remake will be too close to the original. I'm both excited to see it and sort of not excited at the same time.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 7:19 a.m. CST

    This review is an audition

    by TrueLies

    He is not writing this for the AICN audience. Saying Chloe Moretz was Hit-Girl? Really? How many people who drill this deep into the site don't already know that? <p> I'm conflicted about seeing this movie. If it's a pale imitation of the original, that would make it a good movie. On the other hand, I don't want to reward a blatant cash-grabbing copycat. Most likely this is a rental.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 9:34 a.m. CST

    Good write-up Capone.

    by butterbean

    I'm gonna see it this weekend. Just love Chloe Moretz. Not in a weird way tho. Then again, maybe I do. I need coffee.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Capone declares that MACGRUBER pounds some Cunth!

    by Graphix67

    I'll see LET ME IN based on OTHER critics and fans. Simply can NEVER trust Capone again after his assigned roll-over for the MACGRUBER travesty.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Reason for the Remake

    by mambrosio

    I think it is a good thing that the film was remade. It is a simple fact that casual movie fans (as opposed to the more passionate type that visits AICN) tend to avoid foreign language films. (Yes,there are exceptions.) So by remaking this film in English, the potential audience is expanded greatly. And from this group, many more people will end up seeking out the original version and the book as well. Everybody wins.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Ok

    by Shoegeezer

    It's an OK movie that, despite what the review says, does go shot-for-shot a few times. The streamlining of the story, such as the inclusion of the cop, makes it all a lot less interesting. All the victims live a lot closer together as everyone has to know everyone in Hollywood films these days. The music cues are far from subtle, again subtracting from what made the original so special. It was good to see the Hammer name back on the screen though (for whatever reasons) and their new logo, which is a bit of a copy of Marvel's) has some nice images of past glories.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 11:40 a.m. CST

    The difference is

    by JRcanReid

    that those remakes/reboots were years later. This was like...12 minutes later.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 12:29 p.m. CST

    I don't get the point of banning

    by Argentino

    Can't DVader just create a new account with sombre other name? Maybe DBader or DVaderReturns or some shit? What's the point really?

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 12:39 p.m. CST

    I loved the original but am afraid my wife

    by sweeneydave

    won't be able to handle it so I haven't shown it to her. Sure, she is fine with rape scenes a-la "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" but scary movies with any kind of gore completely repulse her. Is this one tamer or heavier than the original?

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 12:54 p.m. CST

    The original isn't even very gorey...

    by Fawst

    But if it's ANY kind of gore, then forget it, I guess...

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 12:59 p.m. CST

    I finally showed her Shaun of the Dead

    by sweeneydave

    And I had to tell her exactly when to cover her eyes. I think she just doesn't like scary movies. Right after the closing scene of Paranormal Activity (which I screamed like a girl at) she cried for like 10 minutes and then we had to pray.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:16 p.m. CST

    Dodgy FX

    by wrx

    Why is no one on this sight mentioning the horrible CGI? I saw this last night at the landmark theater in los angeles and i was really disappointed by that. (Spoiler alert) The scene where Abby sets a trap for the guy in the tunnel was shameful. All of a sudden Abby and her victim turn into obvious cartoons complete with herky-jerky, weightless movements. The original used CG with more subtlety, enhancing things but not trying to completely make scenes and people out of CG'd imagery. Then later Abby climbs a tree and it was worse than the cat Scene in the original. What's wrong with using a harness or something to make her jump, maybe? It was really jarring. One other problem i had with this version was the removal of the bar patrons. there was just enough time spent getting to know them so that when they became victims, it seemed to matter more. when Virginia dies in the original, you feel for her because she comes to terms with what's happened and without saying anything to anyone, she allows herself to die rather than live like that. Her counterpart in the new version doesn't seem to matter much. She's just an empty character. Even the Jocke character from the first movie has sympathy from the audience because of the way his friends grieve. Then the search for Abby became personal. The one thing i thought was better was the way Abby's companion was caught. Pretty good Scene. Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 1:25 p.m. CST

    D o o d

    by Raging Dogs Productions

    "the damn film is a copy of another film." Which was itself a copy of a novel.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 2:35 p.m. CST

    I'm interested in seeing it

    by Adelai Niska

    So many people I know haven't bothered to see the original, but I bet I can get them out to see this.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 3:04 p.m. CST

    I'm not up on current events.

    by butterbean

    Besides the obvious, why did D.Vader get banned? I missed it.

  • Oct. 1, 2010, 5:14 p.m. CST

    Actually really damn good.

    by SoylentMean

    If we have to have Americanized versions of foreign films this should certainly be a go to example of how to do it.

  • Oct. 2, 2010, 12:31 a.m. CST

    sweeneydave

    by Jared

    "Let Me In" is definitely heavier on the gore and violence.