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Film Reviews

Let Me In

Second Time Around: Just let the idea of a better remake in, purists.

By Scott Renshaw
Photo by Let Me In 
Posted // October 1,2010 - Purists—bah. Whether their bailiwick is baseball, painting or film, their arms-folded insistence that certain things just are not done is a bore. Take American remakes of non-English language films; the mere notion is scandalous, if not sacrilegious. So prepare for a case of the vapors, gang: Matt Reeves didn’t just re-do Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 vampire drama Let the Right One In with Let Me In. He did it better.

Frankly, not much of the improvement is a function of Reeves’ filmmaking skills. As screenwriter, he retains the story nearly beat for beat: Owen (The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old in 1983 Las Cruces, N.M., is isolated by his parents’ recent separation and bullied at school. His new next-door neighbor, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), is also 12—“more or less,” she qualifies. That’s because she’s an ageless vampire, her thirst for blood handled by her middle-age caretaker (Richard Jenkins), until circumstances force Abby more out into the open.

Reeves seems too enamored with his 1980s setting—look, they’re bonding over Ms. Pac Man, while Culture Club plays!—and an attempt at religious fervor/satanist fears subtext just doesn’t evolve naturally. But otherwise, he sticks close to the original’s individual scenes. Some he handles better, like the arrival of a police officer (Elias Koteas) at Abby’s apartment; some he handles worse, like Let the Right One In’s brilliant swimming-pool sequence. And some he wisely abandons altogether, like the famously risible killer CGI-cat attack.

But his real brilliance comes in casting Smit-McPhee and Moretz, who make for a heartbreak pairing of doomed—perhaps even damned—first love. It’s not easy matching the self-possession that makes Moretz convincing as an eternal adolescent, but Smit-McPhee is simply terrific in his confused quest for connection. Their pairing alone makes Let Me In a step up from the original. Just let the idea in, purists.

Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins
Rated R

Scott Renshaw:

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Posted // October 6,2010 at 17:48

I disagree, and feel the remake is inferior to the original in most ways. There's a haunting chilliness to the original that the remake is never able to tap into. Lina Leandersson's portrayal of Eli was Oscar-worthy, while Chloe Moretz's performance lacks the hardness required of such a character. I believed Eli was a centuries-old vampire trapped in a 12 year old body; Abby seemed like a 12 year old who happens to be a vampire.

The remake is also harmed by pacing, the lackluster musical score (the original's musical score is one of its greatest elements), bad CGI effects, and disappointing cinematography.

Where it does improve is the inclusion of the cop investigating the murders, which is more realistic than the original. And Kodi Smit-McPhee is excellent as Owen, hinting at a twisted psychopathic mentality that will come in handy as Abby's future caretaker (Hedebrant's Oskar is a similarly great take on the same character, but he's definitely more of a lonely child compared to Owen's serial-killer-in-the-making).

So while I enjoyed the remake, I thought it pales in comparison to the original.