Monday, October 11, 2010

Let Me In

In this remake of the popular Swedish horror film Let the Right One In, a creepy little social outcast, pent up because of the constant bullying he receives, begins a strange friendship with the girl who moves in next door. Only, the girl is not really a girl, you see, but a ferocious vampire much, much older than her childlike appearance would indicate. Soon, each learns that the other may be of value to them.

I liked Let the Right One In well enough back when I saw it, but I've felt that it's been greatly overrated by its fans. It has many admirable traits, including its stark, chilly atmosphere and strong performances. But I suspect its reputation is, in part, due to a common reading of the film that I don't share. I've noticed that many folks see the film as a tale of youthful romance with a dark undercurrent; all I see is the undercurrent. The boy and the vampire don't love each other, each is simply fulfilling a need of the other. The boy, obsessed with knives and crime photos, is essentially presented as a future serial killer, and the vampire is clearly manipulating the boy in order to make him her new "familiar" (the Renfield to her Dracula) now that her old one is used up, to hunt up food for her and protect her.

Well, fans of the romantic interpretation of that film are going to love Let Me In, which plays it more ambiguously but ultimately offers a heavier implication that the relationship is actually love and not just the pimp/whore manipulation I saw in the original. It's admirably dark and violent for a mainstream American movie, but I do feel like it tries to soften a few of the edges from the story and let the audience off the hook of having to think about the deeper implications.

Some of the reviews I've read made this sound like a near shot-by-shot remake of the original, but I don't think that's exactly fair to director Matt Reeves. Now, it's been a while since I saw the original and thus I don't have the clearest memory of it, but it is obvious that Reeves copies some of the major set pieces directly, closely follows the outlines of the plot, and takes major inspiration from the original film's tone. However, this isn't a carbon copy like Quarantine was to REC. There are plenty of noticeable, major changes, and in fact the best scene in the remake is a new one: an attempted murder gone horribly, hilariously wrong, leading to a spectacular car crash, all done in one show-offy shot. I wasn't enamored with Let Me In, but I left with a little more respect than I previously had for Reeves, whose last film, the very well-received Cloverfield, I did not particularly care for.

Grade: B-

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