Moretz Shines in Inferior Remake

In 2008, Tomas Alfredson directed a film adaptation of the Swedish novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the script). Its subtlety and simple story about two loner adolescents befriending each other was an instant hit among critics and cinephiles. The fact that story slowly reveals the lead female character to happen to be a vampire was icing on the cake. The film played at film festivals around the world, garnering several awards, building huge buzz and ranking among dozens of top ten lists, earning titles such as “the best modern vampire movie”.

I screened Let the Right One In during last August’s premier Gibson Revue movie marathon. Of the movies on the event’s program, this was the film my audience knew the least about but was most impressed with. It is truly hard to resist the film due to its ability to balance an intimate, deliberately paced and beautifully shot drama with the hallmarks of the vampire mythology.

Recently, Hammer Studios, the distinguished movie makers famed for such classics as the Christopher Lee Dracula films, released an Americanized adaptation of the source novel directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) called Let Me In. It was voted by readers of The Gibson Review as the second most anticipated movie of the fall season (next to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Pt. 1). Despite skepticism by fans upon the project’s inception there have been reports that Let Me In is better than one would expect from an American remake.

Is Let Me In more than a carbon copy of the Swedish original? Can it stand proudly as a respectable treatment of the story?

Well, not really.

Producer Simon Oakes was quoted as saying this version of the novel holds the same ambiguities and unwillingness to spoon-feed the audience. Oakes must’ve seen a completely different movie, because it can be said with certainty that Let Me In is distinctly American for the very reasons fans initially feared.

Everything is spelled out for the audience in this film. There are lines of dialogue that either blatantly points out what is plain to see (“Is that box yours?”) or could’ve been communicated through a lingering shot of a character’s face. Even the score is annoyingly obvious in its attempts to tell you exactly what you should be thinking or feeling about each character. A comparison between the two weapons the male character Owen (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) uses in a moment of bravery in both films perfectly exemplifies the difference between them; in the former it’s a long, slender stick while in Let Me In, it is a thick blunt object capable of bludgeoning someone to death. At times, Let Me In is like a blunt object bludgeoning its audiences.

However, the newest adaptation strives for creative distinction by means of several changes. Changes are made to all of the characters. None of them are an improvement. A Reagan-era conservatism is also applied for thematic substance, but is done so superficially and comes off as unnecessary. I was disappointed when a picture was also added to the story that seemed to suggest something that undermined their entire relationship between the leads. Finally, rather than gradually drawing the audience into the story, Let Me In starts off with a scene of sudden urgency and horror. Usually this kind of device - a scene that the movie eventually catches up to - holds some great significance that serves as a gut-punch or “A-ha!” moment to the audience. Not so here; only cheap theatrics to grab your attention, as if the story can’t be trusted to be enough.

All is not lost, however. There are some interesting things in Let Me In that prevent it from being a complete waste of time, mostly through its camera work. Reeves occasionally uses selective focus shots that will leave Owen in focus in the foreground while keeping someone out of focus in the background. This trick is particular to Owen’s mom, along with leaving her head just out of frame. Also, there’s a getaway scene that is shot from within a vehicle in such a way that you don’t know what’s exactly going on outside or why the vehicle is moving the way it is, which is quite impressively executed.

The real draw, however, should be Chloe Moretz. She is truly a star in the making. In Let Me In, Moretz plays the female lead named Abbie, a peculiar 12 year-old who moves in next door to Owen. Moretz successfully conveys security, innocence, curiosity, and confidence, as well as the feeling that a monstrous evil lurks under the surface capable of terrible violence in the blink of an eye. I believed Abbie’s fondness for Owen because of what Moretz is capable of expressing with a smile or a look in her eyes.

If you haven’t realized it yet this 13 year-old is a talent on the way to greatness. The lead female character of this story requires someone of considerable talent and there is no one her age more talented than Moretz. File her alongside Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin as reliable actresses of the decade to come. If she continues her streak of diverse and uniquely mature roles (like Hit Girl in Kick-Ass), she may even surpass her peers. She may not be jumping to awards-bait material, but Chloe Moretz is certainly building up the chops. Keep your eyes open for whatever may be up her sleeves in coming years.

Fans of Let the Right One In will find it difficult to divorce themselves from that film while watching Let Me In. It’s an inferior and on-the-nose adaptation that fails to trust its audience’s intelligence. That said, as a film independent of its source it’s a decent tale that features impressive and mature performances by its young cast, particularly by Chloe Moretz. The intent of this version of the story is to capture audiences who refuse to see foreign films. If this includes you then, by all means, experience this story with Let Me In, but do so with the knowledge that it is an inferior version.

Otherwise, please see Let the Right One In if you haven’t already!


5/10

Should you see it? Skip in favor of the original.


Let Me In is now in theaters.

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