Like a lot of you, we’re simultaneously excited and worried to see Cloverfield director Matt Reeves' Americanized remake of the fantastic 2008 Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In. Reeves’ version, titled Let Me In stars Kick-Ass’s Chloe Moretz as the vampire girl, now renamed Abby and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the boy she befriends, now renamed Owen. The movie won’t be released until October of this year, but tonight I got a surprise when just before calling it a night an email showed up in my inbox from a longtime, utterly reliable CB scooper, Keith Canon, with what is as far as I can tell is first ever review of Let Me In.
Keith caught Let Me In last night at a secret test screening. From what he tells me, the film appeared to be almost entirely finished, lacking only a title sequence and missing a few minor FX sequences in places. October is still a long way off though, so it’s entirely possible that director Matt Reeves may still make drastic changes. That said, here’s Keith’s review of what was on screen to represent Let Me In last night. Warning, it may contains some very, very minor spoilers for anyone who hasn’t already seen Let the Right One In, but for the most part, this is a spoiler safe read! Here's Keith:
A remake of the 2008 Swedish movie Let the Right One In, Let Me In is still a movie about two kids and in particular about a twelve-year-old girl who is not a girl. She’s lead a sheltered life, but with reason, since she’s a vampire.
The remake opens with an ambulance ride to a Los Alamos, New Mexico hospital with a victim of severe acid burns to his face and throat. It’s shot in a great perspective that doesn’t show the person’s face, just one horribly burned hand. From there you're drawn into the story as it seems the guy, whoever he is, would rather die then tell the police what happened. As he lays there in the hospital, Reagan’s voice blares from the television, talking about evil outside America. But Let Me In is more interested in the evil inside it. Fortunately instead of spelling out what happened and why at the beginning of the story and then dragging us through the particulars of something we already know, in the fashion of most typical Hollywood movies, Let Me In is content to leave you wanting more.
The story jumps away from the acid burned man and back to where it all started, in the middle of winter in 1983. Set in the high desert, it’s still the snow-filled world we saw in the Swedish version. This time the era it’s set in is a bigger player as we meet Owen, a loner latch key kid targeted by bullies and mostly ignored by his alcoholic mother. The movie makes the interesting choice to never actually show us his mother. She’s only seen blurred out in the background, as if she doesn’t ever exist at all.
As in the first movie, our bullied boy lives in a low end apartment complex where he has nothing to do but hang out by himself in the courtyard or spy on his neighbors with his telescope. Owen is happy to see a new neighbor moving in, Abby and her father. And it’s then that the film comes alive, unless of course you like being spoonfed all the details of a story. This is a movie for people who like to think, a movie which much like the film it’s remaking, is full of subtle details.
For example we soon learn that Abby is a vampire but the movie never really comes out and tells us the details of her past. She appears to be twelve-years-old, but she’s anything but. The movie never comes out and says how old she is, but the clues are there. The scene with the Rubik’s Cube from the first film remains intact, offering clues into Abby’s nature. There are more subtle things too, ancient puzzles scattered around her apartment for instance. But Let Me In expects you to be invested enough to piece who she is together on your own.
Let Me In also remains remarkably true to classic vampire lore. All the touchstones from Let the Right One In are here: Abby can’t come in unless she’s invited, vampires still burst (stunningly) into flames in the sun instead of glittering in it like a figure skater.
But it works, really well, because this is the story of Abby, it’s all about understanding why she never turns her father figure or her new friend, Owen, and that worked really well for me. It all fits together on such a logical level, and the story doesn’t jump around in random directions, but rather plays out in a way that it would if this were real. Abby and Owen’s relationship feels real.
Visually the film sometimes strikes a different tone from Let the Right One In. Let Me In uses creative camera angles which put the audience’s focus entirely on the main character most of the time. You won’t find yourself wandering in the background or caring about characters that are only there because they have to be, like Owen’s mother.
What’s best is that nothing has been lost in the remake process. Most movies redone to suit American cinema end up losing their souls in the translation, however, this movie’s conversion has brilliantly done by director Matt Reeves. Much of the film remains exactly the same, in some cases scenes are shot by shot identical, and in the places where Reeves has changed it, the changes are only to help it strike a deeper chord with Americans, not to pander to them. It’s only minor details which have changed. Minor character relationships have been modified, there have been changes in the way Abby’s father/caretaker gets his victims, and there’s a cop where there wasn’t one before. Most changes are for the better though. The 80s, as a decade and a cultural influence are a much bigger player, in a way that’ll connect with anyone who lived through it.
Because of that and more, you’ll find yourself drawn into the story more than ever, feeling sorry for the kid when he gets beat up, or having to deal with his torn apart life. You can understand why Abby doesn’t want to make friends with anybody, but find yourself smiling when it happens. It’s a taut, thrill ride that will have you going from jumping with fright to heart tugging compassion. It’s visually arresting too, even run of the mill scenes being more interesting by putting the camera in the action rather then watching it from the sidelines. In particular there’s a car accident which is absolutely unforgettable, the camera used to bring you along for the ride, not left outside watching it.
There are no missteps in this remake. Every part is essential. Let Me In is a suspense movie of the type we rarely see here in America. It grabs your attention and keeps your interest right up to the end, while doing a great job of telling an unusual vampire story.