‘Let Me In,’ Now or Later, to See this Bloody Romance

In the fall of 2008, a romantic drama/horror film about two young adults forming a new relationship with one another was released.  Of course, the relationship between these two was different to say the least, as one was just a regular kid at school, while the other was a much older vampire.  This story was based on a novel that found much acclaim from those who read it.  The film was met with mass critical praise and is considered one of the best vampire films out there. The film I am of course referring to is not Twilight, but the Swedish film Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson, and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the original novel).  Now, the English-language remake has been made as Let Me In, by writer/director Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield fame.  As a result, this is a remake that manages to compare favorably with its Swedish counterpart.  While remaining quite faithful to the original, this film manages to distance itself enough by way of the personal stamp Reeves’ direction, among other aspects, gives to the film.  Consequently, this film manages to be a different sort of coming-of-age tale, with solid moments of tension sprinkled throughout.

Abby: Can you hear me through the wall?

Owen: Only sometimes.

Set in 1983 Los Alamos, New Mexico, the film follows Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old boy living with his newly divorced mom during a snowy winter.  At school, Owen appears to be bright but is constantly bullied by one particular brat.  At home, Owen seems to act out his frustration against inanimate objects and spy on those also living in his apartment complex.  One night, two new people move into Owen’s complex; a young girl, Abby, played by Chloe Moretz and an older gentlemen who cares for her, played by Richard Jenkins.  Owen of course watches, as the two move in, noticing that Abby walks barefoot through snow.

Soon, Abby and Owen begin to interact.  They become very close, and despite Abby’s strange behavior, Owen finds someone he can confide in.  Meanwhile, Abby’s guardian is up to no good, as he performs violent night activities that may be for something other than a sinister purpose.  As the film progresses, the truth about Abby becomes clear, but maybe it is not such a setback for Owen.

The “Father”: Please don’t see that boy again.

Despite my teaserific summation of the plot, I can safely say that this movie strikes a fine balance between being a coming-of-age romantic drama and a thrilling genre film.  Much like the original, this film does not sacrifice its steady pacing and handle on its characters for cheap thrills.  However, when the time comes to deliver on the tenser aspects required by elements of this film’s premise, it delivers the goods.

Addressing the thriller aspect first, Reeves’ does fine work with handling the several tense scenes in this film.  He applies a certain amount of logic to the way these scenes play out, and combined with some very creative visuals and a fantastic score by Michael Giacchino, the structure of suspense is greatly handled here.  While I had slight fears the thrills would be an overshadowing aspect of the remake (which they are not), they are very solid regardless.

This film is quite strong from a dramatic standpoint as well.  I can say that all the actors in this film are, as a whole, understated in their performances.  I never felt like anyone was trying to overplay their scenes (besides the bullies for obvious reasons).  Instead, all of the actors seemed to gel nicely into the sleepy but deadly world of this film.  Smit-McPhee, also great in The Road, did a wonderful job at (dare I say) playing a kid, discovering more about himself and dealing with his natural (and supernatural) environment.  Both Moretz, also great in Kick Ass, and Jenkins, also great in general, brought a quite intensity to their roles.  Jenkins, who is just a pro through and through, plays a character thinly defined by what we learn about him, but does so much through his basic behavior and with what little dialogue he has.  Moretz manages to be quite effective as an aged and deadly creature that is also warm to the concept of companionship.  Fine work from Elias “Casey Jones” Koteas as well, playing a policeman looking into the disappearances occurring around town.

Owen: Do you think there is such a thing as evil?

What I appreciated about the film in general was how it managed to maintain what is always a big factor for me, its tone.  While not necessarily super serious throughout, the film hits it’s various dramatic and genre beats well, and does so without betraying the spirit of what is being presented.  Nervous audience laughter aside, when dealing with young romance, this film really does manage to function as a darker twist on the coming-of-age tale, following a young boy’s journey to develop a relationship.  Add to that the thriller nature of the story, and the film then manages to play with expectations about what the exact outcome of certain situations may be.

Also helping the film as a whole was how great it looked in terms of its setting.  While I’ll get to the effects later, the choice to set the film in this New Mexico location paid off, as the film has a sense of isolation that goes far in maintaining that aforementioned tone.  The lighting seemed like an important aspect as well, because given the nature of Abby’s character, all of the outdoor night time scenes (which there are of course plenty of) had a warm sort of feel to them.  Basically, I applaud the work by cinematographer Greig Fraser.

I do have some gripes.  Starting with the effects; while I am aware that this is a lower budget film, the use of CG in some scenes tended to be a bit shaky, but I am willing to give it a pass thanks to one particular sequence set inside of a car.  I was also a bit torn due to the attempts to essentially make this film accessible to all American audiences, basically saying that some of the more mysterious aspects of the original film have been cleared up in an effort to cause less confusion for general audiences.  And as much as I don’t want to criticize the film negatively based on how it stacks up to the original, I think a defining sequence towards the end was not quite as well earned here.

All that being said, this is a very good film.  In terms of recommendations, I feel that both new audiences and fans of the original will find a solid film here.  The problem I have in saying that is the hope that the brilliant Let the Right One In won’t be lost in the shuffle.   The original film is a wonderful feature to enjoy, but thankfully, this remake is very much a good film as well, even improving on some of the original’s faults.  Wrapping a tense genre film around a well done coming-of-age story, there really is enough to sink your teeth into.

Owen: Are you a vampire?

Abby: I need blood to live.

Owen: But how old are you, really?

Abby: Twelve, but…I’ve been twelve for a very long time.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

22 Responses to “‘Let Me In,’ Now or Later, to See this Bloody Romance”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    I will rent this film. The original version is a masterpiece.

    I do like that poster, though. ^

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Ah c’mon, the movie doesn’t have a 90% because everyone forgot the original. Have I led you astray thus far?

    Reeve’s made it his own. He had a Q&A after the screening and talked plenty about how much he loves the original and the novel it’s based on and was very concerned with how close this film was coming after the original, but still went for it, because he loved the story and knew how to apply his own coming-of-age angle to the story.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    No, not in that sense, but this is one of those films that should not have even been considered for a remake.

    Studios need to start leaving shit alone.

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    I mean, that could become a whole other argument that I don’t want to get into, although would probably side more with you regarding the insistence to remake great movies (especially ones made so closely after the originals).

    All I can really say here is that despite the talent involved, while this movie was being made, it was the “movie geek world” (people like you and me) against this film, but everything managed to turn out well regarding its acceptance. Yes, the original is a masterpiece, but this is a damn fine film as well. And I get that general audiences would more likely embrace this film over the original (“der, I dunno about dem subtitled features”), which is unfortunate, but its still a great story and I’d rather at least see a confident film such as this (which does make the best out of a what is ostensibly a bad situation), over a half-assed attempt to draw some more blood from a stone (pun totally intended).

    All that being said “Let the Right One In” is one of the best vampire films ever made, and one would be foolish to not check that out, regardless of if they see this film or not.

  5. Brian White

    I for one, cannot wait to see this over the weekend. I was not able to make the press screening tonight, but this is one of my MUST-SEE films of the year because I know…Chloe will steal the show just like she always does!

  6. Brian White

    Gregg and I checked this one out after a brief stint at a very lackluster horror convention. I can’t express in words how much I loved this film. It was a very slow, but powerful two hours. I thought Gregg was not going to care for it, but I was pleasantly surprised by his positive reaction. Like Gerard I had my reservations about questioning why they were tampering with the Swedish masterpiece so soon, but my reservations were quickly diminished as Reeves pretty much made this film his own (despite a few parts he could not change) and what else can I say about Chloe’s performance except WOW! This is my #5 film of the year so far. Thank you Matt Reeves for not ruining this film!

  7. Gerard Iribe

    I don’t think this even cracked the top five for the weekend. I think people who saw the original and loved it decided to stay away, because this remake isn’t needed at all.

  8. Aaron Neuwirth

    The people who saw the original would hardly make up a good portion of box office for this movie. As much as I love Let The Right One In, it’s not like it took America by storm. And this film was really not put in a position to be a huge hit. Limited theaters, R-rated, to most Americans – “just another vampire movie”, and both this and the original are considered “slow.”

  9. Gerard Iribe

    @Aaron – maybe not by storm, but the fans of the original stayed away for the most part.

  10. Aaron Neuwirth

    that’s an assumption.

  11. Brian White

    I think the BIG problem is not too many people know about either of these films. Let’s face it, there was not much in the way of promotion for this film and as far as the original…I only found out about it by accident while surfing the forum boards of HDD one fine day. And there are a lot of people out there who refuse to even watch a foreign film not in English.

  12. Gerard Iribe

    Horror fans know about the original.

  13. Sandy

    I watched the Swedish version dubbed – I do hate reading subtitles; and I will see the remake only because my BF did not see the original and can’t wait to check it out. Talk about no promotion – have you seen even 1 trailer for this movie on TV? I haven’t, just at the theater. Same with that movie, Case 39, that opened this weekend also. Anyone see it?

  14. Gerard Iribe

    Case 39 was directed by the guy that directed Pandorum (which I loved), but has been sitting on the shelf since 2008.

  15. Brian White

    Personally …I think anyone that is a fan of the Swedish one owes it to themselves to check this one out and not be ignorant to this. Yes…it is a remake, but give it a chance. Things are more developed here than in the Swedish film and best of all…no stupid subtitles to read.

  16. Aaron Neuwirth

    Whoa, that’s sounds a little xenophobic. Things aren’t as much more developed as they are spelled out and leaving behind some of the subtlety of the original. I praise many aspects of this film, but development isn’t one of them compared to the original.

    Case 39 has been sitting on the shelf and had little advertising for a reason.

  17. Gregg

    I loved this film. The more I reflect on it, the more I want to see it again. I had absolutely no intention of even considering this film for a possible Blu-ray buy in the future. Now that I’ve seen it, I am onboard for my copy to own. After seeing this panel at Comic-Con this past July, I had no idea the film was going to be as good as it turned out. I knew Chole Moretz from Kick Ass, but wasn’t familiar with the rest of the cast, let alone the works of director Matt Reeves. Great film. Dark. Deliberate. Unexpected. I enjoyed this through and through.

  18. Brian White

    @Aaron…wow…I had to look up that word. I’m not that. I just don’t like to read subtitles when I am trying to take in everything on the screen. That’s all.

  19. Gerard Iribe

    Yeah, if you can’t handle subtitles, you’re missing out on tons of great films. Dubbing is for the birds.

    Let Me In will be viewed in a few months via Netflix. I’m also glad that it failed, because maybe this will convince (highly improbable) the studios not fuck with a good thing to begin with.

    As I’ve said, I’ll go directly to the source and read the novel.

    Remakes should only be considered when the original one sucked. The original Swedish film should not have been made to begin with. It didn’t suck, but people kept riding on this chick’s jock that she was great in Kick Ass, blah, blah, blah. It was a great miscalculation by a small studio (Overture Films).

  20. Aaron Neuwirth

    A low budget film like this from a smallish studio, that no one was really expecting to be a huge success, will hardly convince studios to stop buying property rights for other remakes.

    This may be a broad set of examples, but without remakes – no Scarface, no Magnificent Seven, no The Thing, no Heat, and no The Departed.

    And I’d rather see competent remakes over lame video game adaptations.

  21. Gerard Iribe

    @Aaron – Heat is a remake?

  22. Aaron Neuwirth

    I know, right?