5 November 2010

Sweded- LET ME IN Review

Took me a whole hour to come up with that pun! Awesome, isn't it? You see, on many levels, that's what Let Me In is. It's a Be Kind Rewind rendition of the much acclaimed Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In, on a bigger budget. As remakes go, it's playing it safer than any of them in recent memory, perhaps since Gus Van Sant's Psycho, to which the only notable addition was a scene with Vince Vaughn masturbating. But I digress.

The story is the same, but with the characters' names changed to protect the identity of the original film. In New Mexico in the 1980s, Owen is a 12 year old boy who's being tormented by his classmates. Stuck in a state of inaction and terror, he's galvanised slightly by the arrival of Abby, a girl who moves in next door. Abby helps Owen to stand up for himself while at the same time revealing part of her terrible secret- ABBY'S A VAMPIRE! EVERYBODY COME AND SEE THIS VAMPIRE FILM!
How far into Let The Right One In did we get before it became clear that Eli was an immortal bloodsucker? Let Me In's biggest change to the source is to trumpet Abby's true nature from very early on. The original defies classification even once you know it's a vampire film- it's not a horror film just because it contains vampires. In a weird way, it's a romance, but not in the way of Twilight or all the other vampire romances that have sprung up. The ambiguity of intent was bound to be lost in translation.

The thing is, Let Me In isn't a bad film. It's only bad insofar as that it's a carbon copy of a film whose only problem, to the mainstream audience, was the fact that it wasn't in English. When you copy a film as good as Let The Right One In as closely as Let Me In does, there's no way you can fail. It occasionally puts a foot wrong, as in the unnecessary throw-forward that opens the film, but it's largely very faithful. Even in the transfer to America, all the locations look uncannily similar to those of the Swedish film.

I like Matt Reeves as a director, and I like both of his films to date, but I want him to do something new. Cloverfield was a film very much led by its concept, and restricted by what you can do in a found-footage film, and now he's made a note-for-note remake. The only major change he makes is in the scene where the Håkan substitute, credited here as The Father and played excellently by Richard Jenkins, makes a potentially fatal mistake. It takes the pedestrian scene from the original and transforms it into an excellently shot sequence that's loaded with tension- it's one of the highlights of the remake.

After this small degree of improvement, Reeves returns to the script for the original film, which is replicated almost exactly. If the whole film had been as bold as that scene in the car, it might have been different. It might not have exceeded Let The Right One In, but then neither does the film we got. At least it would have been more distinctive.The effect is that an otherwise excellent film becomes an advert for the original Swedish language version, purely because it's so reverent to what came before.

The other distinguishing marks on Let Me In are made by the actors. Kodi Smit-McPhee is the weak link, as he was in The Road earlier this year. I've yet to be convinced of his talents, having winced "Papa" at Viggo Mortensen previously, and here being out-classed by everyone else with his wimpier-than-wimpy spin on Owen. In vast contrast, I'm actually weighing up whether or not I prefer Chloe Moretz's performance as Abby in this to Lina Leandersson's as Eli in the original film. Moretz has a hell of a career ahead of her.

I saw Let Me In in advance of its release, and if you've seen Let The Right One In, then so have you. It's almost exactly the same length as its predecessor, so safe is the adaptation. It's undoubtedly a good film, with an astonishing performance from Chloe Moretz and the added value of Reeves' directorial choices flourishing through the colour-graded fug of an otherwise unnecessary remake.

The price of admission in cinemas will be close to the price of the DVD of Let The Right One In- if you haven't seen the original, then you make your choice. As much as I like Let Me In, it's films like this that make me dread the prospect of an English-language remake every time I see a foreign film. It's a good film, but its baggage overpowered it for me.

Let Me In is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide.
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If you've seen Let Me In, why not share your comments below? If you're unsure of whether or not this is a recommendation, then believe me, so am I. See it if you don't like subtitles, I guess. Your being wrong about subtitles is something we'll debate later on...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Nick L. said...

I know I've already read this before, but I must say... Great review! I agree with you on so many points! Though this was a clever remake, nothing beats the original. And I liked how you explained that the original has a genre of its own. That's what I loved about it.