Preface: I should warn you that I simply couldn’t review this film in isolation, so what follows is effectively a comparison with the original. This may seem unfair to the good folks that made this film, but it serves them right for remaking a movie not even two years old. 😛
It took me a very long time to work up the courage to see Let Me In, the remake of my top film of 2009. You see, this film DIDN’T. NEED. TO. BE. MADE. It’s been a year and a half since I saw the original, and even though we all know remakes like this are made solely for the mindless few who refuse to watch subtitled films on principle, it doesn’t make it all right.
But then I was invited to the media preview. OK, I thought, let’s give it a go. But, you see, on the night, I went to the wrong cinema. One might almost think that my subconscious was at work – was it an accident or not? I happened to mention missing the screening the next time I was in dialogue with the publicist, and she cheerfully suggested she would send me a double pass. Bugger. Hence, I had absolutely no excuse. So, I went along and saw Let Me In…
The funny thing is, I wasn’t so much worried that it wouldn’t be good. I was worried it would be good, and somehow detract from my experience of the Swedish original, Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in). Also, having seen the original such a short time ago, I was aware that I couldn’t possibly go into this film with an open mind, even if I hadn’t been averse to the idea in the first place. As it turns out, Matt Reeves’ remake is definitely not a disaster. It does, however, lack many of the things that made the original a true classic.
There is a serious collection of talent on show here. We all know how good both Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz are. In fact, it’s safe to say that at the moment, these are the best (discovered) child actors on the planet. Smit-McPhee stopped Romulus, My Father from becoming pedestrian and wowed us in The Road, whilst Moretz was funny as the precocious little sister in (500) Days of Summer and downright hilarious as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. Then there’s the fact that it’s directed by Matt Reeves, who made the wonderful Cloverfield which, let’s face it, should have been an awful film. Combine the talents of these three with some beautiful cinematography, and you’ve got a wonderfully made film. But even in the face of all this talent, it doesn’t come close to the original.
If the changing of the title didn’t give it away, let me tell you that Reeves’ remake loses a lot of the subtlety of the original. The pitch perfect rendition of the pains of adolescence feels simply horrid here. In fact, the entire film has a darker tone. The main reason for this (apart from the fact it isn’t as brightly lit as the original) is that Reeves feels the need to put in some banal subtext about the nature of good and evil, questioning whether Moretz’s Abbi (standing in for Eli of the original) is effectively the work of the devil.
Now, I realise that this film was targeted at Americans, and there are a whole lot of God-fearin’ folk over there, but it just comes out as crass. More significantly, it makes it a lot harder for us to accept that Owen (Smit McPhee) would want to hang with Abbi, especially considering that this film ups the gore by about 200 per cent.
Oh yes, this film is much gorier than the original, which of course takes away from the moments in the original that were truly shocking. In true US style however, it makes up for the increased onscreen bloodletting with no nudity and less moral ambiguity.
The changes to the plot are equal parts interesting and frustrating. One of the few complaints of the Swedish film was that the secondary characters weren’t fully fleshed out. Here, the secondary characters are given practically no attention at all, which admittedly does solve that problem. The film also cuts some subplots from an already sparse film. As I said, our two young performers are great, but I wasn’t so emotionally touched by their friendship as I was the first time around.
Let Me In isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s probably one of the best remakes of recent times, but it simply can’t compete with the original. The best bits come close to equalling the original (without ever surpassing it), whilst there are many things it simply doesn’t do as well. It probably comes as no surprise that I’m going to ask you to please, please, please see Let the Right One In instead.Rating: