LET ME IN
Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008), which became an acclaimed festival favourite with its unique approach depicting the vampire as a young child and her friendship with a lonely human boy. As with a great many other foreign-language films everything from Nikita/La Femme Nikita (1990), Open Your Eyes (1997) and Ring (1998) to Funny Games (1997), Infernal Affairs (2002), [Rec] (2007) and a host of others it was snapped up for English-language remake. Behind the remake is Matt Reeves, a director who first appeared with one of the segments of Future Shock (1994), followed by the film The Pallbearer (1995) and various tv work, as well as writing the script for the Steven Seagal film Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995). More recently, Reeves had success on cinema screens at the helm of the high-profile J.J. Abrams-produced monster mockumentary Cloverfield (2008). The majority of US remakes of foreign-language films have failed to recapture the effectiveness of their originals. I was not expecting a huge amount from Let Me In due to this fact and my largely indifferent feelings about Reeves Cloverfield. Thus, I ended up being surprised by Let Me In at just what a decent film that Matt Reeves has turned out.
The first surprise is just how faithfully Let Me In follows Let the Right One In. Every scene is faithfully replicated often right down to the lighting schemes and camera set-ups. There are one or two minor changes in particular embellishing the role of the cop played by Elias Koteas and in some aspects of cross-cultural migration but Matt Reeves follows the Swedish original beat for beat in every major scene. All the pieces that worked in the original the body strung upside down in the woods and gutted, the attack in the culvert, the woman who bursts into flame in the hospital bed, the scene where the kid gets his comeuppance against the bullies is faithfully recreated. There are some minor changes the vampire here gets a set of feral-looking contact lenses when her thirst is aroused, whereas Lina Leandersson, Chloe Grace Moretzs counterpart in the original, came without any special effects. The scene where she starts to leak blood after coming into the apartment without being invited does not work as effectively here due to the fact that Chloe Grace Moretz plays the scene with her face bowed and hair covering it for much of the scene. The one scene missing is where she is seen scaling the outside wall of the hospital she does but it is only by implication although there is the later addition of a scene where she scuttles up a tree.
A film that slavishly seeks to replicate another can be a dull exercise look no further than Gus Van Sants shot-for-shot remake of Psycho (1998). The surprise here is that despite this Matt Reeves succeeds in carving his own style out at the same time as remaining extremely faithful to the original. In fact, he approaches things in ways that are often more subtle and soft focused than Tomas Alfredson did in the Swedish version. Alfredsons direction was plain and open whereas Reeves lets his version of the film take place in subtle, suggested asides.
The film prominently spearheads the presence of two young and rising stars. Fourteen year-old Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee has impressed before in films like Romulus, My Father (2007) and The Road (2009). Smit-McPhee has an oddly shaped face with wider than usual eyes but gives a strong and effective performance he is very convincing in the role, far more so than Kåre Hedebrant, who played the equivalent role in the Swedish version. Chloe Grace Moretz made a big impression as the foul-mouthed wannabe superhero in Kick-Ass (2010). Hers is a surprisingly quieter performance that is undeniably overshadowed by Lina Leandersson in the original, yet she manages to hold her own well.
For some reason, the remake has also now been cast against the backdrop of the 1980s. The Vapors Turning Japanese (1980), David Bowies Lets Dance (1983) and Culture Club play on the soundtrack. A major plot point involves the use of the 1980s pop culture icon the Rubiks Cube, while Pac Man plays in the videogame arcades. There are flag pledges in school, while Ronald Reagan is on tv proclaiming how America is a good country that is protected by God. I failed to discern the reason why Matt Reeves chose to set the story in such a time period. The only conclusion one has is the undeniably effective use of Reagans speech as ironic contrast to Kodi Smit-McPhees questions about whether the creature he befriends is evil.
(Winner for Best Actress (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 2010 Awards).