It’s a wildly believed notion that American remakes of foreign films often end in disaster. Either they directly adapt them to the point that you may as well have just watched an English dubbing of the original or they butcher it so thoroughly that it may as well have been an original script from the start. There’s rarely a middle ground and when there is it usually results in something like Sony’s Quarantine–a film that put you on the edge of your seat but still didn’t manage to scare you as much as the original (Rec). So when the Swedish film Let the Right One In was so successful it seemed inevitable that we (the US) would attempt to remake it into something we could market here as well. Although the film didn’t fare so well in theaters (it barely recouped it’s $20 million dollar budget…and that’s with overseas tickets taken into account), critics loved it and it seemed to upset the “American interpretations suck” notion that plagued remakes for…well, decades, really.
From Matt Reeves – the director of Cloverfield – comes the new vampire classic that critics are calling “chillingly real” (Scott Bowles, USA Today), “one of the best horror films of the year” (Cinematical) and “a haunting, touching and unforgettable thriller” (Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine). In bleak New Mexico, a lonely, bullied boy, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee of The Road), forms a unique bond with his mysterious new neighbor, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz of Kick-Ass), who moves from town to town with the man who appears to be her father (Oscar® Nominee Richard Jenkins of The Visitor). Trapped in the mind and body of a child, however, Abby is forced to hide a horrific secret of bloodthirsty survival. But in a world of both tenderness and terror, how can you invite in the one friend who may unleash the ultimate nightmare? Based on the Swedish novel, Let the Right One In, “Let Me In is a dark and violent love story, a beautiful piece of cinema and a respectful rendering of my novel for which I am grateful.” (John Ajvide Lindqvist, author).
It should really be mentioned that while this film does focus on a vampire (although that word is mentioned a total of once in the film, which was really kind of a refreshing real world grounding to have with a horror film), it really isn’t all that scary. There are quite a few grotesque moments to be had here and there, but it’s really nothing that is any worse than what you’d see on Supernatural or one of the handful of other vampire based shows currently running on TV or in theaters. The film does earn its R rating with the gore presented though, although the majority of the “adult” situations actually occur between two twelve-year-olds…which makes for some odd un-comfortableness at times, but also further drives home the “realness” of the film.
The film takes a few diversions from the original, notably with Abby. In the original she was a castrated boy, but fearing that wouldn’t mix well with American audiences it was downplayed here; there are still hints of it throughout the story, but by and large they’re just allusions to something else. Really the brunt of the story lies within the characters of Abby and Owen and the various troubles they face in their youthful lives. With Owen he deals with bullies, lives with his mother who in turn is dealing with his father through an ugly divorce; with Abby…well, we never really get her full backstory. But we’re led to believe that she’s with her father until he is involved in an accident while attempting to secure food for Abby. It’s never really unveiled who he really was, but based on future encounters Owen has with Abby we’re led to believe that he may have been her boyfriend in years (many years) past…but, again, it’s never explicitly explained who he is.
Abby herself is a confusing character because despite her being a vampire for an undisclosed number of years (at the very least she was as old as her “father” in the film, though she could be hundreds of years older than that—it’s never explained in the movie, nor did it have to be…it would’ve just felt like too much exposition for expositions sake), she seems to be not only be stuck in the body of a twelve year old but also in the mind of one. I was on the fence after I watched the film as I wasn’t sure if she was a very cunning and controlling vampire youngling that always gets what she wants and just uses people to do so…or if she was genuinely just innocent all along. Granted the way she tears apart and kills things tells me that she’s not so innocent, but in the end I guess this film is really kind of a love story between two kids who aren’t really all that surrounded by love. Kind of like My Girl but with…vampires? I don’t know. It’s hard to compare it to anything out there; as with Reeves’s Cloverfield the film gives us just enough of the story to form our own opinions or thoughts on the matter. This style of storytelling is both entertaining as frustrating as it seems as if they’re purposely leaving out information that would help the audience understand the film better. At the same time it’s great because we can enjoy it at face value and not be bogged down with the history of our characters.
Overall Let Me In is a Recommended flick, although it will likely be unsettling to some just because of the awkwardness of the story at times. It definitely feels like a foreign film at times with how abstract it comes off as and the best comparison I can make is The American; it may have featured George Clooney but definitely felt European in its execution and the same can be said for Let Me In.
Anchor Bay tosses Let Me In into a two-disc Blu-ray set (one Blu, one disc with the digital copy). The cover art is of Moretz with her hand on a window pane, but the cool thing is the translucent plastic slipcover that goes over it, creating a frosted glass look with streaky finger marks. Definitely a cool addition to the packaging; speaking of which inside we get a comic book “prequel” from Dark Horse, so that’s another bonus to add to it.
Video is an AVC encoded 2.39:1 effort and looks fantastic—as fantastic as such a dark and muddy film can, at least. Reeves directing style is very unsettling at first, with out of focus and slightly off-frame setups that make you believe that there’s going to be some kind of image that will come in frame to fill the remainder…only it never does. In that way it’s a very “arty” style film, but that also adds to its charm and character—I loved just about every frame we got out of this film. It set up so many neat and interesting shots that it made me forget that his previous film was directed entirely different with the handheld camera in Cloverfield. There are few daytime sequences in the film, but even when there are the snow ridden planes and murky skyline never really cheer up the image any. Blacks are nice and deep and there’s a fine amount of grain that crops up when it needs to.
Audio is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and normally I’d lament the lack of DTS-HD MA, but it really doesn’t need to be here. The TrueHD mix delivers all the surround sound and LFE goodies with gusto and due to the films relatively subdued nature, we rarely get surrounds or subwoofer output that amounts to much. It’s limited to Abby’s berserker moments of dismemberment and jugular sucking and those are fairly well spaced out during the film. Locker room or crowd sequences have a nice ambience, but the quiet moments between Owen and Abby are well done and come through the front channels clearly.
Audio commentary with director Matt Reeves
From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In
Dissecting Let Me In (BD-exclusive)
The Art of Special Effects
Unrated deleted scenes
Car crash sequence step-by-step
There are plenty of extras in here, but the focus is going to the commentary with Reeves who really goes into detail about his process of working on a film that he really didn’t feel needed to be made in the first place. His twisting of certain story elements and additions of others are covered in the commentary as well as the remaining extras and it’s a really well done package overall. Definitely a Recommended set for fans of the film.
Let Me In is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.