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Saturday, November 20, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: LET ME IN (2010)

      It seems most American audiences are unwilling (or either uninterested) in the occasional foreign horror film. Take for example the recent Japanese horror franchises such as Ringu (1998) or Ju-On (2002) which were remade in the U.S. as The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004). The newest Hollywood attempt to remake a foreign horror film however doesn't come from Japan but from Sweden! Let Me In (2010), at first, seems no different from all those other foreign horror remakes however this doesn't seem to be the case as this film marks the return of legendary British based Hammer Films, with it's first theatrical feature of the millennium. Cloverfield (2008) director Matt Reeves returns with his remake of Swedish horror film Let The Right One In (2008) aka "Låt den rätte komma in", although the American remake gives credit to the original novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it fails to mention the original film directed by Tomas Alfredson.
     Let Me In is a disturbingly unique coming-of-age story of love, adolescent pain and of course VAMPIRES! In a time where the vampire genre has become over-saturated with the overly-hyped, teenage Twilight-like vampires, it is a relief that there are a few original vampire stories such as the recent movie Daybreakers. Let Me In stars two young rising stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee
(The Road) as Owen, a frail, 12-year old boy who comes from a broken home and is constantly bullied befriends Abby played by Chloe Moretz
(Kick-Ass) a mysterious young girl who turns out to be a vampire. Aided by her guardian/father (Richard Jenkins), who goes out at night to kill for her and bring her blood so she can live. Surprisingly, as Owen gradually realizes this it doesn't seem to bother him as the two children soon develop a strong (but somewhat awkward) connection.
     I will not go into the original as much or even try to compare or contrast the two films as this is more of a review of the remake but there are a few things I would like to point out. Although the remake brings some originality to the story there is very little difference from the original film except for the fact that it was filmed in English and not Swedish, but also the setting time frame is the same being the early 1980's although instead of being set near Stockholm, Sweden to Los Alamos, New Mexico (of all places?) which creates somewhat of culture-clash element to the story. There is also the inclusion of another main character, a policeman played by Elias Koteas. Although the names of the main characters are also changed: Owen/Oskar and Abby/Eli. The characters are very similar however Owen seems much less submissive and innocent to his Swedish counterpart Oskar, who has more of a boyish shyness. As with Abby to her Swedish doppelganger Eli who seems much more forward and self-confident. Again this may be partially because of cultural and/or acting difference but it is noticeable. Much of the same elements in both films are the same with the same dark and cold atmosphere (mostly due to to the Winter landscape which seemed an odd similarity as you expect Sweden to be in a very Scandinavian-Arctic climate whereas I had no idea it snowed like that in New Mexico? (I am from Texas after all!)
     The most interesting concept about this story actually comes from the title (or titles) in dealing with the old vampire myth of how vampires can't come into your home unless you actually invite them in! Most modern vampire movies rarely (if ever) deal with this age old (and very European) element vampire of vampire lore. The last time I can even remember a vampire movie even mentioning this is surprisingly from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) movie with Kristy Swanson!? The biggest complaint I have with Let Me In comes from the special effects. Although this movie relies more on the traditional horror of mood and atmosphere but also a lot of blood! In the few sequences where Abby attacks a victim they use noticeably CGI to turn Abby into a more vicious animal-like creature but this makes her appear very jerky and unnatural, which may have been the intent of the director. However, in the original Swedish version the same scenes with the vampire Eli is much more realistic, although mostly in shadow, the original film takes a more subtle approach to the special effects. For horror/vampire movie patrons who expect a little more action or gore, think again. This film is much more focused on characters and their interaction, most of this could be seen as merely a boy-meets-girl story, only with a vampire!
     Overall, I found Let Me In to be a fascinating and intense experience, just the notion of dealing with adolescent vampires creates a disturbing feeling, as we are used to the more older teenage vampires of the Twilight saga, with the character of Abby I am reminded of Claudia from Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire with her childlike mentality inside a vicious blood-sucking killer! The appeal of the film comes mostly from our reluctant juvenile protagonist Owen, for any child who was ever bullied or tormented is a very sympathetic character and the inclusion of his unlikely savior in Abby, who also becomes very likeable and sympathetic, brings new meaning to the phrase "a friend in need", although this "friend" needs blood! If you have not had the opportunity to see the original Let The Right One In, it is definitely worth it and most devoted fans prefer it to the remake, however Let Me In is a worthy homage to the original and both are definitely worth watching!
 
 (Sorry for the lateness of this review, but I wanted to be sure I saw the original foreign film before I saw the remake to better review it.)