Let Me In Review
The announcement that there would be a remake of Let The Right One In was greeted with the expected response from fans of the stunning Swedish original; tempered though it may have been by the fact that it heralded the return of iconic horror studio Hammer, the response was generally that it was a pointless venture. Hopes were raised when Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was attached to the project that it would not turn out to be a bastardisation of the original like so many current horror remakes, and both of these expectations have proven to be well-founded. Let Me In is the strongest horror film of the year and is as haunting as the original but, at the same time, doesn’t add enough to allay the pointless tag for fans of the original.
Transporting the action to the town of Los Alamos in New Mexico, Let Me In stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen, a loner who is constantly bullied at school. He begins to form a close friendship with Abby (Chloe Moretz), the strange girl who moves next door to him, who Owen begins to suspect is not all she appears to be. At the same time as Abby arrives, a string of gruesome murders occur in the town, carried out by Abby’s ‘Father’ (Richard Jenkins), prompting a local policeman (Elias Koteas) to investigate and his investigation will lead Owen to decide how far he is willing to go for love.
Although it is apparently based more on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, pretty much all of the film will be instantly familiar to anyone who has watched Let The Right One In. Even the dialogue remains similar if not exactly the same, most notably in Owen and Abby’s early exchanges where you will develop a practically psychic déjà-vu ability to predict upcoming lines. It’s not a Psycho style scene-for-scene remake though as not all elements are replicated, including a welcome cutting of the original's dodgiest moment involving CGI cats, and others have been adapted, such as the character of the neighbour looking for vengeance being replaced by a policeman. The result remains the same overall, but one particularly effective change is in the Father’s methods of choosing victims which results in a visually stunning car crash filmed from a back seat prospective.
What’s important however is that the way in which Reeves has approached Let Me In is markedly different. Whereas Tomas Alfredson’s original was often subtle, shying away from brutality and implying it instead, Reeves’ take is a lot bolder and, at times, feels almost brash even if the stylish cinematography prevents it from being so. Whether that’s a bad thing or not is down to each viewer’s opinion but it certainly makes Let Me In more accessible to a mainstream horror audience compared to the art house original. This bolder take is is a theme that runs through the film: for example, the sequencing of the original is re-jigged slightly to give the film a bigger start, landing the audience straight in the mystery rather than building up the ambiguity. It is something that applies to Michael Giacchino’s score as well which although masterful, especially a piece near the end which perfectly replicates the slow build of the scene to crashing finale, is at times bombastic, perhaps paying homage to Hammer scores of old, compared to Johan Söderqvist’s quietly affecting score.
Crucial to the film’s success are the central pairing of Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee as, quite simply, the film wouldn’t work if they didn’t convince. They both tackle the difficult and emotionally challenging love story that is the lifeblood of the film with aplomb and turn in performances that showcase maturity way beyond their years. Moretz is astounding in the way she deals with all the nuances that the role of Abby requires, equally impressive as the feral vampire as she is as the confused younger girl she still clings to being; while Smit-McPhee is as convincing as the geeky child with a darker side, and perfectly portrays the struggle to be accepted that everyone faces at some point in their youth making the film resonate with audiences.
There are times in the film where less would be more, especially so in the final scene which lacks the delicate balance of calm and chaos that Alfredson used to chilling effect, but these will probably only resonate for fans of the original. Reeves has succeeded in putting enough of his own spin on the original story to warrant a viewing of Let Me In for fans of the Swedish version, even if ultimately they will probably still find proceedings a bit pointless given their similarity; for everyone else approaching the film fresh, you can probably add an extra star to the overall rating as this sense of familiarity won’t be there. However you approach it though, there’s no denying that Let Me In is a refreshingly smart, mature and emotionally affecting horror film that should be seen, if just for the incredible lead performances.