Back in the spring of 2009, I was firmly convinced that Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In was one of the best vampire movies ever made. As you are probably aware, Let Me In is an American remake of Let the Right One In. Its purpose is to allow American audiences to experience the chills of the original without bothering to read those annoying things called subtitles. Oh dear.
Remaking such a masterpiece so soon after the first adaptation of John Ajvide Lindovist’s novel graced our screens is a pointless endeavour. Subtitled films should not be brushed aside in favour of a US rehash. Although British audiences are still guilty of a certain degree of cinematic-xenophobia when it comes to foreign films, it doesn’t compare to the subtitle intolerance one can find in the US. This is where we reach a bit of a crossroad: Let Me In is a good enough film. It isn’t great, and lacks some of the original’s sense of wonder and visceral profundity. But it’s fine – just fine. But it could be argued that, it being an almost shot-for-shot, scene-for-scene remake, it owes its stripes to its predecessor.
Well, such a claim may be a bit harsh. True, Hollywood remakes can smash any subtlety out of a piece of world cinema – look what 2009’s The Uninvited did to Ji-Woon Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters (although that was a flawed work in itself). But Let Me In doesn’t commit such a crime, and still manages to hold onto some of the power we gasped at back in 2009.
Let Me In is about a young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is tormented by school bullies. But with the arrival of a new neighbour in the New Mexico flats in which he and his mother live he finds a much needed friendship. This friendship is with a girl (Chloe Moretz) who seems detached from the real world. She only comes out at night, and her mysterious ‘father’ keeps the windows of their flat boarded up. She is a vampire, and her ‘father’ is responsible for draining the blood from teenage boys in the neighbourhood so she can feed.
Although a near carbon-copy of Let the Right One In, it doesn’t always pack so much of a punch. This could be because I knew what was coming, but such was the case with the original movie to the novel, and still it managed to shock and mesmerise me in a way that this did not. The gore and violence has been cranked up a notch, with gruesome bloody detail added to the scenes of blood-sucking. I was astonished this received a 15 certificate, although this is a criticism of the BBFC and not the filmmakers.
Let Me In also drops some of the more controversial themes of the novel – themes that were also lessened somewhat in the Swedish film. These include paedophilia and illegal surgery. I won’t say much more; just read the novel if you wish to know the disturbing details.
This isn’t a disaster, and director Matt Reeves handles the bleakness of the story with more subtlety than his monster-rampage movie Cloverfield. It’s also great to see film company Hammer back making spine-chillers once more. But if you want to experience the real deal, rent or buy the original. It does what Let Me In does, only ten times better.
Good: Keeps some of the original’s subtlety and doesn’t mess around with the story too much.
Bad: It should not exist.