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Forget Twilight—Vampires come alive in ‘Let Me In’

October 18th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Jakob Asplund

Vampire romance is certainly nothing new. In fact, millions of us have had to endure the relationship of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen these past few years. Even when we think we’ve had enough of the American vampire pop culture with Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, we now learn that the fascination—or lechers, if you will—has reached as far away as Scandinavia.

Sweden now helps reboot the vampire genre. Just as viewers stopped being afraid of the phenomenon, Hollywood thought it would be a great idea to make one of the most prominent products of horror and occultism into the next teen “choice award” craze. Have vampires become the new mosquitos? Blood-sucking, annoying parasites that lack both sense and purpose?

In 2008, Tomas Alfredson came out with his movie Let the Right One In, which hit Swedish theatres and later that year migrated to America. It is an adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, a critically acclaimed story that is nothing like Twilight or True Blood. It is a real story worth paying attention to—about vampires!

Just two years later a new American version has arrived in the form of with Matt Reeves’ Let Me In. Like the original, it focuses not on teenagers whining or exploring their sexualities, but on two lonely children who share a unique friendship as they suffer from society’s rejection in different ways.

Ever since the movie was announced, critics have questioned why another remake was needed, because it has been merely two years since the original, which stood so well on its own. The Swedish version of Let the Right One In was a fresh surprise with a fantastic story and actors that made the characters very relatable. This version, though honoring the original for the most part, suffers from some fundamental issues. Fans of the movie might enjoy a slightly different version of an already fantastic story, but new viewers should probably look into its more interesting Swedish cousin.

Let Me In is essentially a love story between 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a vampire girl, Abby (Chloe Moretz), who is the about same age. On the surface it does not seem like anything spectacular. Cheap effects and some blood is what most people will expect going into this vampire story, but the title summarizes what the movie really aims at doing, which is something unique. It humbly reaches out to the audience, almost like a last attempt at a tiresome topic, and asks for a place in the viewers’ hearts.

In general, remakes are poor cash cows, done without enough commitment to accomplish anything besides a quick buck. In general, vampire movies are either about tall, handsome and culturally educated, fashionable men and women in ponytails, or about blood and gore.

But Let Me In is not a general remake and definitely not a general vampire movie. One thing that makes this movie very effective is its easy, modest and fascinating mood. Reeves understand the importance of the slow buildup, something that made the original so effective. Just like the original, it is far from superficial and shallow.

Reeves also does not make the same mistake twice, as he doesn’t ruin this movie with shaky, gimmicky hand-held camera effects. Because who honestly thinks that Cloverfield wasn’t a huge waste of great potential? Instead, the director shows some impressive horror movie expertise as he uses subtle, dark settings and blurry and disoriented images for the action scenes. It is done similarly in the original, but improved upon here.

Just like the original, the movie takes place in the 1980s, but suffers from its Los Alamos, N.M., locale, which isn’t nearly as interesting as the suburbs of Stockholm. Even with small details like Ronald Reagan appearing on residents’ TV screens, the setting seems more underground than it needs to be. The biggest issue is the movie’s identity. Aimed somewhere in-between a conventional vampire story and a more subtle artsy, styled horror movie, Let Me In sometimes loses its focus. As a newcomer in the vampire genre, it is unique, but as a remake it falls a little short.

The acting carries Let Me In and even makes it quite good. Given the age of the two main charactrs and the fact that the theme of the movie is very adult, Smit-McPhee and Moretz do an excellent job of bringing these characters to life, even though one of them is, well, sort of dead.

Owen (Smit-McPhee) is a very interesting character as he is not exactly a textbook victim. Constantly being lectured at home by his alcoholic mother and finding himself in the middle of a rough divorce, along with being bullied at school, he develops sadistic tendencies. He spies on his neighbors and steals things from his mother’s purse.

Abby (Moretz) makes the weird Owen seem almost boringly normal when she shows up with her guardian, played by Richard Jenkins. She not only smells funny and walks around barefooted at night in the snow, but she makes the task of being a highly deadly and dangerous predator seem boring. The innocence of these two young individuals surprisingly sticks with the viewers through many shocking crimes committed by both Abby and her guardian.

Extra praise should be paid to Jenkins for his acting and also to Elias Koteas, who plays the police officer investigating the case. With only a few words, they manage to tell complete and interesting stories. And Dylan Minnette does a great job as one of the bullies, who at times, seem scarier than Abby.

The really good pace of the movie, great performances and still overall fresh feeling to an already solid foundation borrowed from Let the Right One In results in a respectable remake and a good movie. Enough is new in Let Me In to make it worth watching for people who loved the first one version, but there is enough of the old to honor the first film. It is a movie that can leave the viewer amazed about how two youngsters create a unique way of looking at the world as they face countless threats and obstacles. At the same time, viewers will feel confused about what type of movie they just watched.

Let Me In might not be a perfect movie, but at least it tries to bring back the cool scary and meaningful belongingness of vampires into cinema.


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