Review by Nathan Samdahl (B)
I believe the time when many years would lapse between the release of an original film and its remake have officially passed (if it didn't already several years ago). Just short of two years since the masterful Let the Right One In sneaked into theaters in limited release, Let Me In, the American remake will bite into audiences' wallets this weekend. And unless you saw the original at the film festivals or caught it in its brief theatrical run, many probably saw this film in the last year.
But without going too deeply into the debate of whether such a film should be remade and so soon, I will say that this was a smart movie to remake. Amidst the hoards of vampire movies released in the last couple years and to be released over the next several, Let the Right One In is one of the most original, fresh, relatable and engrossing vampire stories ever told. This is mostly because the focus of the story is not on the lead being a vampire, but on two people struggling to find their place in the world and their often lonely quest for companionship. The film is also rife with a unique, underlying sexual tension amongst the main characters, which keeps the audience feeling consistently unsettled.
A brilliant original, and thankfully a very good remake. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) delivers a visually beautiful film which nearly equals the original in the strength of its performances, which is no easy task given the two young leads. Let Me In follows the original closely, with little variance in the scene order and even the dialogue (at least according to my recollection of the original). The being said, the scenes are well crafted and leads Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) are excellent and really bring the movie to life. Their budding relationship brings back memories of childhood (minus the whole vampire-human dynamic) and the feelings of loneliness and alienation that many feel at that age. Strong supporting performances by Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas and bully Dylan Minnette (recently Jack's son in Lost) help round out the terrific cast.
One element where the remake falls a bit short of the original is its handling of the sexual tension between the characters. This is not too surprising since Let the Right One In sexualizes Eli, its young female lead, in very provocative ways, probably pushing the bounds of what an American audience, particularly a mass American audience may tolerate. In Let Me In, the leads' relationship is more focused on the beginnings of adolescent love, with some brief sexualized moments (such as Abby undressing and sleeping next to Owen). Also, the sexual tension between Abby and her caretaker/former love (Richard Jenkins) is greatly downplayed here.
The remake, which is filled with amazing shallow focus shots and striking compositions, also opts for a bit more color in parts than the original, which I remember having an oppressively gray color palette (which creates an atmospheric tension like few other recent films). Let Me In also chooses to show more of Abby's ability to scale trees/buildings, etc, using jerky visual effects that took me out of the film briefly (thankfully, though, Reeves follows Let the Right One In closely when executing the amazing final climax in the swimming pool).
Overall, if you have not seen the original, you will really enjoy this film. If you have seen the original, you may feel like you are watching the exact same movie again. I fall in the latter category, and was hoping for a more unique take on the story, but was still very satisfied by the film's strong execution. Bottom line: If you are only going to see one of the two, I would go with Let the Right One In, but if you have time for both, this one's well worth the watch.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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