Comments on watching and making films.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let Me In

Recreating something that's amazing is not easy, and, unfortunately, that is what Hollywood tries all too often to do with amazing foreign films. Some piece of cinema from across the pond will find its way into the hearts and minds of a world audience, and Hollywood barges in and say's "Let's take this idea, stylize the heck out of it, put some gore and tits in it (if it's horror, or a lot more graphic nudity if its drama), slap a new name on it and call it our own". The only problem is, all too often, they completely miss the mark of what made the original so good. Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield fame, however, managed to push the Hollywood machine to be as close to in line with the original film Let The Right One In, as this American version, Let Me In, could be.

Let Me In is the story of a young boy, Owen, who is tortured in school and comes home to a loving mother who is, often times, rendered impotent as a parental figure due to the toll her divorce is taking on her. One evening, while playing in the courtyard of the apartment complex where they live, Owen spies an older man with a young girl moving into the apartment next to his. Eventually, they meet up in the very same courtyard. Her name is Abby. She's about his age, stand offish, and doesn't seem to be bothered that her feet are bear in the sub-freezing winter temperatures of Los Alamos, New Mexico. As time goes on, Owen and Abby begin to become friends, but a string of murders in the area are about to change both of their lives.

Let Me In is an admirable re-make. It gets some of the tone right, but it still doesn't reflect the quiet desperation that is evident in the Swedish town that the original is set in, nor does Kodi Smit-McPhee quite reach the malevolence of Kare Hedebrant in the same role. In a "no surprise there" move, Let Me In never covers the question of gender that the source material does, but if it did, Lena Leandersson definitely makes a better young child of slightly questionable gender than Chloe Moretz does. That being said, Smit-McPhee, Moretz, and Richard Jenkins as Abby's care taker, all deliver great performances in the film. The stylization tactics that Reeves uses (streak filters, very shallow depth of field, CG or overcranking for Abby's attacks and retreats, Abby's makeup effects), come off as being overkill, as the original brought the same world to life without all of those extras.

Another big problem I had was with renaming the film. Changing it to Let Me In takes all of the steam and meaning out of its original title. Let Me In could be the name of any horror or drama. Let The Right One In is so perfect because of its ties to Vampire lore. A vampire can not enter the domain of a human being without that human saying they may come in. If they do, bad things will happen to the vampire (read: death). So, "Let The Right One In" is not only important on the level of a human being having power over whether or not he/she will allow the vampire to enter the home, but it has another meaning as well with these two little children - Let the right one in, guard yourself around those who may try to do harm to you.

I'm not trying to bash Reeves. He did a great job, and, like I said, Let Me In is a very admirable remake of Let The Right One In, but ultimately, this is another case of Hollywood remaking a foreign film that doesn't need to be remade. If you haven't seen the original, I would highly recommend it. I would, actually, recommend seeing both, but if you only have time for one, definitely make it the Swedish version.

No comments: