MacGuffin Film Review – Let Me In

Film Review – Let Me In

Let Me In, from director Matt Reeves, famously of Cloverfield, is being released into theaters today. This film has gained notoriety for being a remake of the very popular Swedish film, Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), from director Tomas Alfredson.  I will be the first to admit that initially this film struck me as a bad idea; more often than not remakes don’t live up to the original. As more details were revealed I began to hope this would be the exception to the rule, as they put together a fantastic team for the production.

Two questions resonate going into the movie:
1. Is it a good movie?
2. Is it a good remake?

Also, let’s get a few things out of the way:
a. I’ve never read the book that either of them are based on, so don’t expect comparisons to the original source material.
b. There are a lot of scenes that appear in both versions, so don’t go in expecting a completely different movie.

The remake is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Owen (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a twelve year old who has no friends at school, a dysfunctional family life with an absent father and a drunk mother, and lives in a bleak building complex.  One night, a mysterious girl named Abby (played by Chloe Moretz) and her guardian (played by Richard Jenkins) move in next door.  Slowly, a friendship, and eventually a relationship, blooms between Owen and Abby.  Only one thing separates this from your traditional coming of age story: Abby is a vampire.  As you can expect, complications come along with that.

The premise of the film remains the same as the original, but several of the subplots have been streamlined or eliminated, resulting in more time spent giving Oscar and Abby character development.  For instance, the character played by Elias Koteas doesn’t exist in Let The Right One In. Here, he is a conflation of several character storylines and I feel like his story arc fits a little bit better into the overall flow.  Unfortunately, we never get to delve too deeply into his backstory.

Both sets of child actors—Kåre Hedebrant/Lina Leandersson (from Let The Right One In) and Kodi Smit-McPhee/Chloe Moretz (from Let Me In)—deserve an immense amount of credit for being able to handle very adult source material.  I found the acting in Let Me In to be slightly better, but that makes sense given that actors have more experience going into the project; the original actors in Let The Right One In were in their first film.

One of the aspects of Let Me In that has been getting the most praise is the cinematography from Greig Fraser, and it is well deserved.  Reeves and Fraser use much more dynamic camerawork that helps increase the tension, such as in a scene where Abby’s guardian is out trying to get blood for her and ends up trapped in the back of a moving car, trying not to be seen, watching the street lamps pass by overhead through the sun roof.

Let The Right One In is a great movie, but its biggest flaw was some underwhelming CGI work at times.  Let Me In corrects this by eliminating the most problematic scenes, but still suffers from some poor CGI scenes as well, though thankfully they are few and far between.

One area that Let Me In improves greatly over Let The Right One In is the sense of alienation Owen feels at school.  The bullies that pick on him are much more brutal in this version, and you definitely empathize with Owen more.  The scenes in which he is being picked on are hard to watch at times, but fit in better with the build up to the ending.

In terms of the remake aspect, I was surprised at how consistent with the original Let Me In remained. Generally, with American remakes it seems we like to up the action and violence quotients, but the level of violence and blood seen remains almost exactly the same. Similarly, the pacing of the movie remains a slow burn to the climax – I certainly appreciated this, as it allowed Oscar and Abby’s relationship to feel even more authentic.

Overall I found this film to be fantastic.  The performances, highlighted by Chole Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee, were solid.  Matt Reeves and Greig Fraser deserve a lot of credit for taking what originally was a fairly static film and making the camera work feel much more dynamic. Additionally, Reeves has done some solid work on the script in fleshing out the characters and giving them more depth.  If one was to bet, I could see Michael Giacchino could be a contender for a repeat in the Best Original Score category at the Oscars. There are many examples of why Let Me In is a good film, but there are no clear reasons why the original needed to be remade.  It is best to sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is a good one.  Ultimately, I will consider this remake successful if it ends up inspiring more people to check out Let The Right One In.

One final note: John is right, I still like the title Let The Right One In more.

Final Grade: A-

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