Saturday, October 2, 2010

Love: Let Me In

Any proper discussion of Let Me In must begin with Let the Right One In.  The Swedish original is now a mere two years old.  Two years, for a foreign horror film with a massive underground following but a barely there presence in the mainstream, is not very old.  Let the Right One In is practically shiny new.  Past that, it's also solidly constructed, well rated, and held in high regard by those who have seen it.  Its only flaw, apparently, is that in America, it is a foreign art house film.  In America, we can't abide too many subtitles.  In America, we would really prefer a director with good taste to remake foreign blockbusters before we opt to consume them.  Speak English; please and thank you.  This is why we've received a strikingly similar remake of Let the Right One In, this is why David Fincher will soon remodel the already very good Swedish version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It's frustrating, and after seeing Let Me In in a crowd that seemed more prepared for horror and gore than meditative, starkly severe child drama, I can tell you that I think there's a reason why some foreign films are safer in the art house, even when the end product is, well, excellent.
Let Me In is, just as the original was, a very good film.  This is in part because it's also a very similar film.  While director Matt Reeves claims to have based his adaptation more on the novel, it's hard to escape the deja vu that permeates everything from the film's pitch, to entire scenes.  While I'll admit it's been awhile since I've watched Let the Right One In, even I can recall a heavy dose of the shot for shot here.  For those not familiar with the plot, Let Me In is a coming of age born in blood.  It's a desolate, cold picture of isolated youth in a snowy, depressing landscape.  12-year old Owen (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee, who still needs to grow a little more spine) is relentlessly bullied at school, has no friends, and at home suffers silently through the divorce of his parents.  At night, he fantasizes about revenge with a switchblade knife and spies on his adult neighbors from his bedroom window.  When a barefoot girl moves in to the apartment next door, he strikes up a strange relationship with her.  Though Abby (Chloe Moretz, Hit-Girl) repeatedly tells him that she is "not a girl" and that they can't really be friends, their mutual loneliness sees them meeting night after night on the snowy jungle gym in the apartment's courtyard.  Of course, Abby is not a girl but instead a sort of vampire.  She feeds on blood procured by her aging male guardian, a man known only as The Father (Richard Jenkins), who has worked out a method to kill and drain to keep Abby from recklessly murdering the nearest passerby.  The film is a tightly wound, high tension drama.  It is, essentially, a preteen Twilight, if Twilight shirked its pissing, moaning, tepid romanticism and acknowledged the brutality of both its monsters and its children.
The story is fascinating to watch unfold, and executed with a great degree of skill in both versions.  The biggest differences, the ones that make it worth your while to see both versions in their entirety, are minute tweakings with their equal share of advantages and disadvantages.  Let Me In's greatest success is that it does not trifle with the adults as much as Let the Right One In did.  Owen's father is out of the picture, his mother is filmed in complete obscurity (her face is never shown), his neighbors are not given dialogue so much as simple archetype.  The weightlifter, for example, is always listening to David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and this is our only cue that we're seeing something relating to him.  The story is limited to the experience of the children.  We are given Owen's perspective on the situations, thus cutting out the blathering middle men while allowing room only for a sort of innocence to color our perspective without truly tainting the crimes committed out of necessity by Abby.  The other big difference is that Reeves has broken the progression of the narrative.  Let the Right One In was linear.  It moved in a straight line and allowed all to be slowly uncovered.  Reeves adds a subplot with a police officer and throws a hefty bit of intrigue at the audience right in the opening scene.  We know something dangerous is going on in Los Alamos.  What it is, we're not sure.  With LtROI, all we really knew was that there was a strange child wrapped up with a seemingly very dangerous man.  Both versions have their advantages.  The 2010 opens up the core story right away, the 2008 works like a ticking time bomb built off tight bonds.
I have to admit, I wound up really falling in love with the Americanized edition quite a bit more than I was anticipating.  In spite of the intense similarities (it should be mentioned, the cinematography is fantastic, though really only adds to the sense of the same), the film did justice to the original while offering up just enough of its own personality to make it a different animal altogether.  They're rather like identical twins brought up in two different households.  There's a difference in attitude, character, and exposure, though on the surface, they seem quite the same.  What I liked best about Let Me In was the addition of 1983 American pop culture.  The candy, the Bowie, the rock music, arcades, and toys.  I wouldn't ever have imagined that what this particular story was missing would be all these little nostalgic details, but the familiar temporal ties feel suddenly vital.  Owen's childhood is defined, via these pieces, as essentially normal.  They're scattered, light touches that reinforce the human qualities and add to the richness of such a darkly cast film.
Of course, the audience for larger budget American horror is not the same as the one that excitedly received Let the Right one In.  Those prepared for a splatter-fest don't want adolescent love affairs or morally complicated deaths.  At the conclusion of the film, the man behind me (who wore an Ed Hardy hoodie and embodied the sentiments of those sorts of people) stood up and announced that the movie had been "f*ckin' stupid".   Which, I mean, kind of makes you wonder.  Let Me In is decidedly not a stupid film, especially when backed against the horror genre it spawns from.  It's instead a complicated, rather sad, beautifully rendered film.  Of course, it was before, too.  So, if the American remake was shot for an audience like this, an audience who isn't even ready for it, what was the point of remaking it?  Maybe there isn't one, but that doesn't change the fact that Let Me In is still, without a doubt, a well made movie.  Oddly, the folks who will most appreciate it are those who already appreciated Let the Right One In.  Yes, even in vampire-crazed America.  And that, folks, is redundancy.   

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    Nice movie trailer let me in
    Every year millions of people visit Los Angeles in Hollywood in hopes of experiencing a taste of the film and television experience.



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