Friday, 5 November 2010

Let Me In - Review

One often wonders with creating countless brilliant horror films such as The Exorcist, The Omen, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street and even as recently as Paranormal Activity, a lot of American studios still insist on remaking all the other brilliant horror films from around the globe. The latest film to join this long list of remakes, including the likes of The Ring, The Grudge and A Tale of Two Sisters is Let Me In, based on the modern Swedish classic - and my one of my favourites of 2009, second only to Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon - Let The Right One In, from Cloverfield director, Matt Reeves.

Save for a few subtle differences in narrative, the plot of Let Me In stays relatively close to Tomas Alfredson's original. For those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing the Swedish version, Let Me In tells the beautiful yet unnerving story of a socially inept 12 year old boy (Kodi Smit-Ree) as he strikes up a lovingly innocent friendship with his mysterious new neighbour (Chloe Mortez) who holds a dark secret. You only need to watch the trailer, see the poster and whatnot to guess this mysterious new friend just happens to be a vampire.

Being such a huge fan of the original, I was terribly reluctant to say anything remotely nice about Let Me In, forever questioning the necessity of the entire production since it was announced. However, at the very least, Matt Reeves must be praised for getting the casting of his young leads completely spot on. Back in March I championed the natural comedic talent of Chloe Mortez when I reviewed Kick Ass, but her portrayal of young Abbey is where her true acting credentials were evident. She came across as quite a pure and gentle soul as well as being forever knowing and wry beyond her seemingly physical years, at times looking much more emotionally vulnerable than her Swedish counterpart.

Kodi Smit-Ree was similarly not quite as confident and outspoken as Kare Hendebrant's portrayal in the original, however it made for compelling viewing nevertheless. Also unlike Hendebrant, you got the impression Ree's character wanted, more than anything, to fit in and do all the cool things kids just coming into their teens want to do. Starting to become attracted to girls, wanting to hang out with friends and quite innocently play fun and senseless games. The sad truth however being he was singled out by three bullies forever determined to make his life miserable, something which is very real and very relatable to a lot of children of that age.

What Let Me In also did very well was bringing over the cultural differences from the Swedish original to this American remake. Not to imply the people of Sweden are godless sort, but continuously evident in Let Me In was this deep god-fearing backdrop of middle America, especially in the odd reinvention of the boy's mother. It was these subtle observations which started to give the film an identity of its own.

Where the film kind of missed the point for me was in the tone of the tale during the more horrific moments. Whereas the original had very atmospheric scenes involving the children while the grizzly violence was few and far between, with Let Me In, in typical American fashion, the gore and horror factor was turned up tenfold. What I found particularly bothersome was this demonic possession they insisted on giving Abbey anytime she donned her vampiric form, coming across more like the girl from The Exorcist with her contorted body movements and slightly overdubbed voice.

I'm rarely kind in my judgement of horror films, I find - save for a quality few - the majority are plotless dribble with less than competent actors scattered around a cinema screen while the audience waits patiently for them to die in completely inexplicable ways. With Let Me In however the actors truly excelled themselves and it was clear Reeves wanted to make a film with a good story first and foremost before making a blood-sucking extravaganza - yet that still didn't stop him also creating the latter.

Final Thoughts
Let Me In is a worthy and, even at times, enjoyable adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel and competent companion to Tomas Alfredson's original film. It even contains two brilliant performances from the young leads, Mortez and Ree. Shamefully though it is often guilty for over-stylising a film I consider to be practically perfect and quite beautifully balanced - often bowing to horror clich├ęs seen in countless films past. All cynicism aside though, if you haven't seen the original I would recommend this for being one of the few remakes to contain a degree of substance. For me however, it can come in, but unfortunately it's just not the right one...


See This If You Liked...
Let The Right One In, Twilight, Dracula

Let Me In is in cinemas everywhere now.


ruth said...

After reading your review, I think I'm going to watch the original instead. My friend Vince saw it a few weeks ago and raved about it... and he knew I don't like grisly violence and gore, so the fact that the Swedish version is more atmospheric and subtle appeals to me. I don't know why people think adding gore and bloody scenes make it scarier... I think you can still have impact and suspense without having to show everything on screen. I'd say people do it for pure shock value, which is just too bad. In any case, I find the story intriguing and makes this different than most vampire movies.

Andrew Moore said...

The original is certainly a masterpiece Ruth! Tis a beautifully constructed gothic adult fairy tale more than a blood thirsty horror movie like Let Me In.

That said as the review says, as far as remakes goes, Let Me In definitely isn't the worst I've came across...