Let Me In

a film by Matt Reeves

As with any remake (especially one taken from such a critical darling as this has been) there is going to be the inevitable, and more oft than not, unfavourable comparison to the original. It is no different with Matt Reeves' Let Me In, taken from the Swedish original, Let the Right One In. Of course, considering the original, directed by Tomas Alfredsen and released stateside in 2008, was arguably (though not that arguably) one of the best films of not only the year, but of the entire last decade, that inevitable comparison is bound to fall even harder and deeper down the proverbial well than most remakes would. There is no question that this is an inferior film to the original, but what comes, as somewhat of a (rather welcome) surprise, is the fact that it never becomes so hopelessly inferior that it ends up being a bad movie - inevitable comparison or not.

When one ignores (as much as one can) the existence of the original, and takes Let Me In on its own individual merits - letting the film stand on its own two shaky vampiric feet as it were - one inevitably comes to the conclusion that it is not a bad film at all. In fact it is quite good. Well it is quite good when you factor in that it is a Hollywood remake. Faint praise, but praise nonetheless. Praise that comes as quite the surprise to this critic, but once again, praise nonetheless. The leads in the film (Kodi Smitt-McPhee, the lost child from The Road and Chloe Moretz, Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, looking darling when covered in blood) both do great jobs in their respective roles and Reeves, who was last seen directing the post-millennial monster-movie experimentation Cloverfield (which worked as often as it did not) does a passable job covering Alfredsen's original, and I suppose that is all that can be asked of everyone concerned. Faint praise indeed, but praise nonetheless.

Granted, much of the Scandinavian subtlety of the original has been tossed out the window and there does seem to be that typically Hollywood insistence on over-explanation (the original's lack of explanation - allowing the film to speak in its own voice - made for a much moodier, and much scarier movie) but overall, Let Me In is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the original, and by no means should it be tossed together with other remakes of recent years that managed to do nothing more than desecrate their forefathers. Sure, the film is far from perfect (the original on the other hand, comes pretty darn close to that aforementioned P-word) and that inevitable comparative is never a happy mistress, but when all is said and done, on its own, without the remake moniker to weigh it down, it is quite an enjoyable picture (to dim the praise once again) for what it is.

Of course all this talk of remake v. original, and all of its inherent provocations, is probably a rather moot point considering the majority of American filmgoers have probably never even seen the original, let alone even realize this is a remake in the first place. For all its critical raves, we must face the fact that the Swedish original certainly never played in Peoria, and thus is a sadly unknown commodity amongst the multiplex crowd. This rather sad fact makes for the majority of newcomers to this film to live in a certain cinematic bliss - completely unaware that they are watching an inferior film. But as I said earlier, when one ignores the original, Let Me In suddenly becomes a rather well-made film. I do not want to say well-crafted since Reeves pretty makes leaves the basic structure of the film intact - adding only those things that Americanize a film (read: dumb it down for the common folk) - but for what it is, Let Me In is pretty good. For what it is (there I go again).

What Let Me In is, is a movie made solely for those either too stupid or too unwilling to sit through a subtitled movie. These people are missing a great film (and replacing it with a passable, but quite inferior copy - a Hollywood doppelganger if you will) but I suppose they must be appeased. Well, at least the powers-that-be believe that. Personally I think they should have to suffer in silence if they cannot "read" a film in its original state, but I digress. What Let Me In really does is to feed into America's current media obsession with that lamentable figure of legend and lore, the vampire. What they get, instead of the morose teen angst of the Twilight series (egged on by about a billion tweens and a bunch of pathetic middle-aged housewives who creepily don their Team Jacob and Team Edward sweatshirts and head out to midnight showings of this romance novel-with-fangs phenomenon) is something they probably do not expect.

When Let the Right One In came out back in 2008 (coinciding with the first Twilight) I jokingly said anyone who pays to see Twilight should be forced to watch Let the Right One In as an antidote against the saccharine of this teen romance. Even this watered-down US version is the proverbial heads-and-shoulders above Twilight, but again, I digress. This is meant to be a review of Let Me In and all I have done so far is unfavourably compare it to its predecessor. But then, what else is there to say? That Smitt-McPhee is a fragile brunette carbon copy of the boy from the original? That Chloe Moretz steals the show with her cutely crooked smile and obvious future greatest actress of her generation tattooed across that same said cutely crooked smile? That even being a lesser film than the original, it is still better than what Hollywood has recently deemed quality vampire storytelling? That like Gus Van Sant's well-done, but unnecessary remake of Psycho, Let Me In is essentially as unnecessary as it was? I suppose it does come down to that sad fact. The film may work on some levels, but really, do we even need it when Let the Right One In is out on DVD and Bluray? The answer is no, we do not. [10/04/10]