Friday, 27 April 2012

Superior Remakes #2: Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In is a 2010 remake of the 2008 Swedish romantic-horror film Let the Right One In, itself an adaptation of the 2004 novel of the same name. The film is directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo), Kodi Smit-Mcphee (The Road) and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, Stepbrothers). The film was one of the first production projects for the newly ressurected Hammer studios.

 The film follows the story of 12 year old Owen (Smit-Mcphee) and 12(ish) year old Abbey (Moretz). Owen is a lonely bullied child growing up in small town New Mexico, his life takes a turn for the better when Abby and her "father" (Jenkins) move into the local apartment complex. The pair soon become inseparable companions and Abby gives Owen the confidence to violently confront his bullies, however the budding romance soon takes a turn for the worst when it is revealed that Abby is actually a vampire who is hundreds of years old. Her guardian is not actually her father but rather the individual tasked with collecting blood so Abby doesn't have to get her hands dirty, but after he opts out of the relationship Owen and Abbey have nobody left but each other and their unconventional romance flourishes.

Let the Right One In is a tremendous film, original and groundbreaking in terms of the vampire sub-genre but as good as it is, Let Me In is simply better. The film's strengths are the same as the original in that it swings wildly between suspenseful, atmospheric horror and beautifully moving romance. The reason why Let Me In improves upon this dynamic is mainly due to the central performances by Moretz and Smit-Mcphee, this was Moretz's second major picture after her breakout in Kick-Ass and her performance in Let Me In solidifies her as a future star. In the original film I found the Oskar and Eli characters a lot less likeable and rather 2 dimensional at times which affected my investment into their relationship. However due to the performances in Let Me In the characters of Owen and Abbey are played with a lot more vulnerability and pathos creating a much more compelling romantic storyline.

Something which has divided audiences and fans of the original is the supposed exaggeration of the horror elements of the film when compared with the original. Although the Swedish version did underplay the horror brilliantly and used a more melancholic piano score it was not consistently subtle (CGI cats spring to mind) and I prefer the special effects of the remake, however much they steer the story into cliched territory. The muted palette of the original is also retained and is used very effectively to create the isolated setting of the film, as mentioned the score of Let Me In does employ a more melodramatic feel but I really enjoyed this and thought it evoked the gothic-romantic elements of a vintage hammer film.

It's not often that a tremendous foreign film is improved upon by an American remake but I truly feel that Let Me In is the superior film. Stronger acting, score and production values create an utterly immersive story that create the anomaly of a romantic horror film that doesn't wallow in sentiment or overplayed horror conventions, and that is a very tricky balance. I'm not a great fan of vampire films but I would place this amongst the absolute classics of the 21st Century, the original is definitely worth checking out as well but Let Me In is the version that will stay with me the longest.

5 stars *****

Which version do you prefer?


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