Let Me In (2010)
By: Julian on October 20, 2010  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
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Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Carla Buono, Elias Koteas
Screenplay: Matt Reeves
Country: USA
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Last year I saw, and loved, Tomas Alfredson's brilliant adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Let the Right One In, a tale rightly lauded as an elegant and intelligent resistance of the vampire cliché. The same year I also saw Matt Reeves' Cloverfield, a generic and utterly bland monster flick with nauseating visuals and grating characters. So I could be forgiven, then, for not thinking very highly of Reeves' follow-up project: a remake of Let the Right One In, complete with an ugly truncated title, a mere two years after the original was first released in its native Sweden.

I'm pleased to report that I was wrong. Let Me In, a fitting hit for the recently revived Hammer brand, is a nuanced take on Lindqvist's book and less of a remake of Alfredson's film. In the words of Lindqvist (and who better an authority?), Let Me In is "a beautiful piece of cinema and a respectful rendering of my novel for which I am grateful".

Those who have read the novel or seen the original film already know the premise. The film is set in 1983 in the sleepy New Mexico town of Los Alamos. After a brief and disturbing flash-forward we meet Owen (up-and-coming Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee), a quiet 12-year-old frequently tormented at school by a platoon of bullies and damaged by a broken home besieged by divorce proceedings. On a series of nights at the snowed-under playground beneath his apartment complex, Owen meets up with Abby (the excellent Chloë Moretz, a household name after Kick Ass). Abby is Owen's age and, in spite of their mutual reluctant demeanours, they get along well. Abby lives with her father (Richard Jenkins), who we're introduced to in earnest in a gripping scene where he stalks, kills and exsanguinates a woman in order to feed his vampiric ward.

That synopsis doesn't give too much away and, for those who haven't seen the original, you're in for a ride. But for those who have, it would be a mistake to assume that Let Me In is a pointless redux in the Psycho mould. I think what may be stressed again is that Let Me In is Reeves' own highly personal take on Lindqvist's novel. There are certainly some visual similarities to the 2008 film, but not to the extent that I'm comfortable with calling Let Me In a remake of Let the Right One In. This is oddly inconsistent with interviews given by the Hammer chief Simon Oakes, who has stated the opposite. The inference in many of Reeves' interviews, though, is that the source material was largely the Lindqvist novel. This is supported by Lindqvist himself, who recalls conversations he had with Reeves.

Both movies' plots are, obviously, quite similar – Alfredson and Reeves were both working from the same source – but Reeves puts his own unique take on it, particularly the relationship between Owen and Abby and Abby and her father. In this respect Reeves has done a particularly good job as screenwriter. He takes quite a subtle approach although it is clear that he has attempted to make the material a little bit more accessible for his target audience. That is not to say he has taken a sanitised approach – the contrary is probably true, and while he has omitted one talking-point of the 2008 original, some of the darker themes were actually foregrounded.

Let Me In is a beautifully shot film and Aussie DP Greig Fraser is responsible. Fraser's work is fluid and stylish, perfectly capturing the New Mexico setting (principal photography was largely in Albuquerque and Los Alamos). The rest of the film is similarly technically proficient but some of the vampire effects are a bit problematic: they're jarring and inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the film.

What is most striking is this: if Reeves' many interviews on the subject are to be believed, Let Me In is a highly personal project for its writer/director, more so than what Let the Right One In was. And those who aren't quite as willing to take Reeves at his word need only watch his film and his treatment of Owen in particular. Those who ignore Let Me In and Reeves' emerging directorial talent are doing themselves a disservice. This is a very good film and Reeves has brought a commendable attitude to it. His response to his critics only shows what a good sport he is: "it was never meant to replace or step on the toes of Alfredson's film – which I love... [it] may also even lead back in a reverse engineering kind of way to the original film." A terrific movie that comes highly recommended.
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