CAPSULE: Being bullied in school is warping Owen's personality, but he makes a new friend in an apparently female vampire his own age. The two people--each troubled but for very different reasons--form a close bond. Matt Reeves, director of CLOVERFIELD, directs a remake of Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) for the newly resurrected Hammer Films. The film leaves the fans very ambivalent. On one hand it is probably the best vampire story ever to come from Hammer with the most interesting vampire plot. It is certainly better than the current run of sadistic horror films. And many are finding aspects of the remake preferable to those in the original. But is so similar a remake so soon really a film that is needed? Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Hammer Film Productions is once again making scary films. Hammer is the British company that specialized in horror and science fiction from the mid 1950s to the late 1970s. So Hammer is back or if you prefer a modern production company has acquired the right to use the Hammer name. Their second production is an English- language version of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. That novel was adapted in 2008 by Tomas Alfredson into a Swedish language film with the same title as the novel. It is unclear why a second adaptation was needed, particularly because the second film seems so strongly influenced by the first. But it makes sense that Hammer would do this since they won their stripes making English cinema versions of television shows and American horror franchises. Frequently their television adaptations came only a year or two after the originals were shown. Here they have taken something of a beating from at least some of the fans because most reviewers, including myself, were very pleased with LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
In Los Alamos, New Mexico, during the cold winter of 1983 Owen is badly bullied at school and his home life is less than satisfying. He is turning his anger toward his tormentors inward and warping his own personality. He has dreams of violence, but he is about to actually meet violence personified. In the courtyard of his apartment complex he meets Abby whom he thinks is a girl his own age, but a very strange one. She announces from the beginning that she cannot be his friend. And she does odd things like walking barefoot in the snow and never going to school. Against a background of mysterious murders the two troubled young people form a close friendship, the first Owen has known. The film follows the story of Owen's relationship with Abby, Abby's story, and Owen's relations with the school bullies.
Owen is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who previously played a pivotal role in THE ROAD. Here even before he has contact with vampires, his red lips and a pasty face are a little bit creepy. Chloe Moretz plays the taciturn Abby, a very different role from that of Hit-Girl in KICK-ASS. And the fine actor Richard Jenkins plays Abby's father.
Director Matt Reeves elects a slow and pensive pace for the film, much like that of the previous film. To create the pervasive chill that the original film had, it is set in a very cold New Mexico winter. Most of the shots are shot with a dark green filter to create a noirish and icy feel. Only in sequences of Owen and Abby together does the screen have some warmer earth tones. Even set in New Mexico, the film a feels much as its predecessor did that it was shot in Sweden. The action scenes are kept dark and cryptic with occasional flashes of CGI.
While the script is much like that of the predecessor, there is one touch that is more like old Hammer. In Hammer films there was frequently a policeman of one sort or another investigating the latest monster-made outrage. The newer film invents a policeman (Elias Koteas) to follow up on clues, to bind the story together, and to help the plot advance.
The first scene of LET ME IN has a sequence unlike anything in the first film. Perhaps Reeves was saying that this was going to be his own film, a promise not completely kept. Did we need a remake of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN this soon? Probably not. But in some ways it was not such a bad thing getting it anyway. The Swedish title never really made sense, though it might in the novel. At no point does there appear to be such a choice and it is not clear who the "right one" is and the "wrong one" is. Perhaps it is just seeing a second adaptation of the same story, or perhaps it was eliminating the struggle with subtitles, but it was somewhat easier to understand what was happening in more detail in LET ME IN. The new version played up the horror a little more, but it was still modest by current standards. The original film builds to a big climactic scene, and I was looking forward to how Reeves did it. In the new version it is less subtle and less memorable than in the previous version. Overall I prefer the Swedish adaptation. While I think that the remake is a good film all by itself, the original is a better one. But I have to admit that that is not an easy judgment to make. I rate LET ME IN a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1228987/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/let_me_in/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper