Despite getting very familiar with the workings of the movie business over the past few years and how it operates with respect to horror, it still shocked me when I heard that there was an American remake of Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire movie that has such a cult following regardless of its shortcomings. Upon reflection though it only made sense as the original does have such a following that any remake was going to attract an audience of existing fans and possible a few more as well, financially a remake was going to be a nice little earner and not that costly to make either. All that remained to be seen was how much of a beating the original material was going to take in the process.
Set in a surprisingly chilly New Mexico in 1983, Let Me In (2010) starts with an ambulance transporting a badly injured man to hospital. The man is in big trouble medically as he has been doused in a strong acid and is covered in severe chemical burns as a result. At the hospital a detective attempts to question him but is called away by a nurse, giving the injured man just enough time to disconnect the medical gear he’s hooked up to and to then peg himself out of the window to his death on the ground far below.
The action then switches to a young boy named Owen, two weeks before the incident of the bloke off his face on acid (literally) and the hospital window. Own is a strange young lad, distant in the extreme and sadly the victim of a broken home and a group of bullies at school. Owen lives with his mother, who has a very strong religious faith but is pretty much neglecting her son.Left to fend for himself Owen is picked on routinely and is friendless until he meets his new neighbour Abby who has just moved in to the apartment next door with her Dad.
Abby is a strange fish, happily roaming the apartment complex in her bare feet despite the fact that there’s snow on the ground, but she’s not as odd as her old man who goes out at night and murders people willy-nilly, draining their blood and keeping it for something. The murders continue until one night when Abby’s father makes a balls of it and ends up trapped in a crashed car with his chosen victim. Reluctant to get caught for his killings, the murderer decides to throw acid over himself which disfigures him badly and gets the action up to the point where the film started.
In the hospital, the reason for his header out the window is explained as Abby is revealed to be a vampire and her Dad is going out every night getting blood to keep her fed. Now he’s out of the picture, Abby has to fend for herself and at the same time her friendship with young Owen is developing into something more than the average twelve year old experiences.
I found the original Let The Right One In to be a confusing movie largely due to the cultural barriers naturally imposed with foreign films (that’s foreign from my perspective – if you’re from Sweden then Star Wars is a foreign film and Let The Right One In is a triumph of the domestic film industry).
Let Me In is an alarmingly slavish remake, with the majority of scenes an almost direct lift from the original movie simply reenacted in English. This leads to the film suffering from the same pacing issues that plagued the first film in that it’s more than a little slow going. While I was kind of expecting that to be the case what surprised me during the viewing of Let Me In was, despite obvious efforts to streamline this version of the story, it was still painfully slow going with bugger all actually happening.
There are some big improvements that deserved to be acknowledged. The sexual element between the two pre-teen lead characters has been removed which makes watching the film a far more comfortable experience. The fact that the film is in a language I understand was a big help too as it made it much easier to follow what was happening.
The special effects in Let Me In are both a highlight and a low point as they’re a bit patchy to say the least. The CGI of the little girl vampire attacking someone is a fucking joke and should never have made it into the finished movie. However, is direct contrast, the effects used for the scene in the swimming pool are fucking awesome!
The acting was also hit and miss. Kodi Smit-McPhee (I shit you not, that’s his name) as Owen was OK but I just didn’t like him, though this was through absolutely no fault of his, it’s just that Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby utterly outshone him. Moretz’s star turn as the wee vampire should come as no surprise to anyone who saw her amazing performance as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, though in Let Me In she doesn’t have the same foul mouth (which is a shame).
As Let Me In is so faithful to its predecessor it was doomed to suffer from the same problems and destined to always be compared to it. Let Me In is not as “beautiful” as Let The Right One In but it’s slightly pacier and definitely easier to follow. The one thing that really struck me was that after seeing the remake, I finally understood the point of the film, now the story makes sense, so that’s worth something.
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