When news came out that Let the Right One In was going to be remade in America, many people scoffed and claimed that it was unnecessary. The original film stands on its own and is very, very good and the general consensus was there was no point in remaking it for Americans. There is a perpetual debate raging about the worth of remakes in general and this one drew ire for how soon this is coming out after the original as well as how good the original was. I have remained in the camp that a remake was not necessary but after seeing the movie I realize that just because something isn’t necessary doesn’t mean it can’t be good and Let Me In is very good.
While the names and location are changed, the story in Let Me In is exactly what it was in Let the Right One In. For those of you who haven’t seen the original, the story focuses on a 12 year old boy named Owen who is dealing with his parents going through a divorce and severe bullying at school. He has no friends and is acting out fantasies of stabbing little girls with a tree for a proxy. Owen isn’t doing great. Along comes Abby, a 12 year old girl who moves in next door to Owen with her dad and they become friends. As time goes on and a string of ritualistic murders starts up, Owen suspects that something is going on with Abby. And of course there is.
The makers of Let Me In, which are set up at a newly rejuvenated Hammer Films, claim that they were making a movie based on the book and not remaking the original film. These people are filthy liars. Let Me In is almost a shot for shot remake of the original film with only a bit of tweaking in dialogue and some shady CGI to separate them. You can say that drawing from the same source material will lead to similar films but this goes way beyond that. This is absolutely shot for shot. And that isn’t a bad thing because Let the Right One In was brilliantly shot. It maybe makes Let Me In look less impressive by comparison as it doesn’t offer much new creatively but the film still looks great and is shot well.
The pacing, thankfully has also been replicated from the original. This is a quiet movie that moves at its own deliberate pace and isn’t afraid to linger on quiet moments and really take its time. This is absolutely necessary to the success of the story but may turn off audiences who are looking for some kind of straight up horror or fast paced tale of romance. That is not this movie. This movie is contemplative and, impossibly, very sweet and tender.
That is what really sells this thing at the end of the day. The relationship that grows between Owen and Abby is very sweet and earnest and that feels kind of creepy and weird given that she is a vampire and he is on the right road to being a serial killer. The relationship grows and expands slowly, taking its time to really sell that it is genuine. The deliberate pace really sells that this friendship is organic and never feels calculated, which given where the story goes is a triumph in and of itself.
When this was first announced, the fear from fans was that the remake was a move to plug into the Twilight crowd and to change the characters ages to 16 or 17 and cast a Zack Efron or a Vanessa Hudgens. Thankfully this was not at all the case and the characters’ ages remain the same and the nature of their relationship is consistent with the first film. In doing this, the film offers up a relationship with so much more depth than anything the Twilight series has to offer and instead of vapid abused based affection you get a real sense of real feelings. You could argue that these feelings are still based on dysfunction but at a least in this case there is a symbiotic nature to it. I can’t stress enough how much of an accomplishment it is to take characters this fucked up and who are doing fucked up things and make them sweet and relatable. The original did it very well and this version does just as good of a job.
The performances have a lot to do with how real and genuine the relationships are and the two leads in particular are great. Kodi Smit-McPhee shines as Owen and he delivers the same quality performance as Kare Hedebrant turned in as Oskar in the original. I am not sure if he based his performance on Hedebrant’s but the two were very similar in terms of feeling and quality. This is very important as his performance is the anchor that holds the movie in place. A failure here would have been disastrous but they found the right actor and he acquits himself very well. Chole Moritz gives a different sort of performance than what we had in the original and I can’t really put my finger on how or why but Abby feels a bit different than Lina Leandersson’s Eli. This isn’t bad at all and she makes the part her own. She is at once vulnerable and strong, caring and vicious, frail and strong. This is another impressive performance from Mortiz and I am very excited to see what she does in the future.
Even with as good a job as director Matt Reeves has done, there are some problems. The CGI is goofy and unconvincing pretty much across the board. Where the original didn’t show a lot of the things Eli could do and rather implied it, this new version lingers on some tree climbing moments and the tunnel attack and unfortunately the CGI looks herky jerky like it is stop-motion animation. I would have preferred that these sorts of things were left to the imagination as opposed to tarnishing an otherwise well made film. There were some changes and omissions that softened the story a bit and made this version work less but that is more nitpicking than anything. If you’ve never seen the original you would never know the difference.
Conclusion [8.5 out of 10]
Let Me In is a great film and should silence the complaining fans of the original who have been convinced that the thing is going to be an embarrassing abortion. I still prefer the original and feel that is the superior film but if you haven’t seen it and just can’t stand subtitles this is a very worthy version to watch. Had I not seen the original, I would still be bothered by the CGI but I would probably move the score up a bit to 9.0 or 9.5. I would recommend this film as well as the original to anyone who likes good solid drama with a supernatural twist and a great character study with genuine emotion and friendship. If you are looking for something fast paced and trashy, however, this is no the film for you.