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Let Me In
An American version of a brilliant European film.
Let Me In
A Remake of "Let the Right One In."
OPENING WEEKEND: $15,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $45,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

October 1st, 2009: The film centers around Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy who finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.

What to Expect: Boy, do I know a lot of people who are all worked up into a lather over THIS film. The optimists are excited about an American version of the acclaimed Swedish film "Let The Right One In," which gained cult status over here about as fast as any film I've ever seen, the cynics are afraid they're just trying to cash in on the Twilight-fueled vampire craze and as such will bastardize the source material (both the Swedish film and the book it's based on) to make it more tween-friendly for the Twihard crowd. I admit, it's hard to imagine an American director and studio, no matter how visionary or attached they are to the source material, making a film as dark and difficult as the original. We Yanks have a looooong tradition of dumbing down edgier international fare for our bland Midwestern palates yadda yadda yadda. I mean, we are the country in which publishers felt that the first Harry Potter book had to be renamed "The Sorcerer's Stone" because we dumbasses didn't know what a philosopher was. According to Simon Oakes, producer for Hammer Films, which made the film, it will hew very closely to the storyline of the original film but yet be "more accessible to a wider audience." Make of that what you will. It doesn't sound good to me. In Film Producerese, "more accessible" almost always means "dumber." And with a bombastic musical score, and possibly boobs.

Article continues below

First, before I get into the meatiness of the story, let's talk titles. Why the title change from the original? The producers risk losing name recognition; retitling a remake is always a risky proposition especially when the original title is pretty well-known. Several articles claim that "Let Me In" is the English translation of the title of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel. This is not exactly the case. Okay, it's actually not the case at all. "Let Me In" is indeed the title of the English translation, but only because the American publishers asked Lindqvist to change the original title because they thought it was too long. Too long? Say wha? Refer to my comment about philosophers vs. sorcerers above. I mean, really. The American book market is one in which a book entitled "The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time" was a runaway bestseller. Too long? Whatevs. Yes, I may collapse from mental fatigue at being forced to read five whole words in a row. Eyeroll.

Regardless, that's the title that has been chosen for the remake. Perhaps for book tie-in reasons. I won't speculate.

The question that this raises is, will this American remake be a remake of the Swedish film, or a second and possibly different adaptation of the book? In fact, while it is dark and moody and edgy, the original film is already a somewhat sanitized and truncated version of Lindqvist's novel.

The Swedish film centers around Oskar, a 12-year-old living in a frozen snowy tundra in Sweden, who discovers that Eli, the young androgynous girl living next door, is a vampire. Her middle-aged companion, Hakan, procures blood for her through murder. Oskar is perpetually beset by bullies, and his friendship with Eli enables him to stand up to them. Eventually Hakan is nearly caught in the act of murder and disfigures himself to prevent being recognized and followed back to Eli. He allows Eli to feed from him and then throws himself out a window. Oskar and Eli escape together at the end of the film after various other difficulties, some of which feature Eli murdering and dismembering Oskar's preteen tormentors. Now, you may be thinking, this sounds pretty dark and horrible already, with preteen characters exhibiting some sexuality and committing bloody, gruesome murders. But certain elements of the novel were excised for the film so as to make it focus more on Oskar and Eli's connection. Hakan is a pedophile in the book and his devotion to Eli is partially contingent upon the possibility that she may someday allow him to sleep with her. In addition, in the book Eli isn't a girl, precisely. She's been a vampire for several hundred years and was once a boy who was castrated by a ruthless vampire overlord. This is hinted at in the film but never directly stated, although Eli's androgyny is evident. The novel is also rich with supporting characters who were cut for clarity and probably time when the film was made. Lest you think that Tomas Alfredson's film somehow does a disservice to the novel, it was actually the novel's author, John Lindqvist, who wrote the film's screenplay and approved all the cuts. He hand-picked Alfredson to make the film (he was among almost fifty filmmakers interested in adapting the 2004 novel) and ultimately blessed the final result, acknowledging that changes had to be made to suit the film medium and to accommodate the input of a director with his own ideas.

Now, the buzz about this film was so pervasive that the rights to an American remake had been purchased by Hammer Films before "Let The Right One In" was even released in theaters. It's not the norm for an American remake to follow so closely on the heels of its progenitor, although it's happened with a few Japanese horror remakes, but those films don't typically have as high a profile as "Let The Right One In" did in the States. The filmmaker chosen to make the American version, Matt Reeves, is best known for directing "Cloverfield" (no, JJ Abrams didn't direct it). As such, he does have a history of taking an old, well-worn idea (like vampire romance) and giving it a fresh new twist. Count me among those who really liked "Cloverfield." Reeves has repeatedly trumpeted his deep personal connection both to Alfredson's film and to Lindqvist's novel. Which one he's drawing on more to make his own film isn't clear, odds are that it'll be a combination of both.

On to the casting. Casting for the Swedish film famously took a year before Alfredson was satisfied with his young actors, who had to carry the film, after all. Both actors were ultimately lauded for their performances, so casting the American version was equally crucial. The boy's role (renamed Owen) went to Kodi Smit-McPhee, the much-praised young star of "The Road," and the role of Eli (renamed Abby...which is certainly less gender-ambiguous, which may be a sign right there) to Chloe Moretz, who was so memorable in "(500) Days of Summer" as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's preternaturally mature younger sister. The Hakan role went to Oscar nominated veteran Richard Jenkins, who's probably most famous for his role as the ghost father in "Six Feet Under." Reeves has spoken of this trio as his "dream cast," and one would certainly hope so. Moretz is a bit too...girly. I mean, she looks like a girl. No question. I think they needed to find someone androgynous, even (gasp) a boy. That would have been more confidence-inspiring than this choice, no matter how good Moretz was in "Summer." Jenkins seems like an inspired choice; no one can play world-weary and weighed down like him. Do you think the film will include his pedophilia? You think so? Wait, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Now, there's the small matter of the film's setting. Early production reports indicated that the film would be set in Colorado to preserve the original's bleak, snowbound setting, and yet at some point the film's location was moved to New Mexico. Huh. Seems a bit sunny for a vampire. Nevertheless, the desert can have the same kind of bleak desolation as a snowscape, and depending on how the environs are utilized and shot it could be equally effective. I can't help but recall how crucial the cold and the snow were to establishing mood and tone in the original, I just don't know if that can be done with saguaro cacti. Reimagining the setting isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that fans of the original film are pretty attached to that snowy desolation. I can't find a reason mentioned anywhere as to why the production was moved from Colorado, but if it's the same reason as almost everything else about movies, the money had something to do with it.

But then, Reeves and Hammer might not much care what fans of the original film think. There are relatively few of them compared to the size of the audience they probably hope to attract. They're making this film for them, not for the people who saw and loved the original. Reeves acknowledges that this film, much beloved of critics (it has a 98% rating on the Tomatometer) and audiences alike, has a giant bulls-eye painted on it and that people are understandably dubious of Hollywood makeovers. The original film is jam packed with silences; in fact, it's through silences that much of the story is told. Silences are something that neither American audiences nor American filmmakers deal with very well. Then again, you know what other movie was chock full of silences? "Brokeback Mountain." Which wasn't made by an American director. Still, it was a success, so there may be hope.

Fears that Reeves would age up the characters to turn it into a Twilightish teen romance have proven unfounded, so I guess that's good, but I just can't muster up much optimism that the film that ends up being made will be anything approaching the quality of the original, or even necessary in its own right. Which is the question people repeatedly ask: why? Why remake a film when the original is so good? Why spoonfeed lazy subtitle-hating American audiences a remake made to suit their delicate sensibilities and disinclination to stretch their minds a little? Why bastardize something that is called a work of art in many quarters? That's a good question, and I don't have a good answer. Because it's there? Because there are no good ideas in Hollywood anymore? Because filmmakers love putting their own stamp on source material that they themselves love? To make money? All of the above?

In Conclusion: "Let The Right One In" is a uniquely European film with European sensibilities. Can it translate into an American version without just being a watered-down, stupider version of itself? There are a few glimmers of optimism here but mostly I don't hold out high hopes for it, either in its quality or in its box office success. It's all too easy to envision scads of disappointed Twihards mad that they didn't find a vampire film like the ones they love and disappointed fans of the original. And the fact is that if Reeves makes it too much like the original, American audiences may not respond to it.

Similar Titles: Let the Right One In, Cloverfield
October 1st, 2010 (wide)
February 1st, 2011 (DVD)

Overture Films

Matt Reeves

Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono, Sasha Barrese

Total: 26 vote(s).

Horror, Romance, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation.

115 min





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