Music is a very important part of the fabric which weaves the Let Me In experience into a whole black cloak — but actually the vampires in this movie wear hoodies. That's just one of the ways the undead are made different, courtesy of the studio Dracula built. After a 30-odd year break, these Hammer Films villains have been updated from resembling the iconic Count to looking just like you and me (circa 1982).
As most every horror fan knows (minor spoilers follow) Let Me In is an adaptation of a well-selling Swedish novel about a 12-year-old outcast boy who finds friendship in the form of his new neighbor, an adolescent-looking bloodsucker who resembles a girl. The two forge a bond that lasts, at least for one of them, forever. A few years after the book, there came a Swedish language film version called Let The Right One In. That movie was pretty much universally embraced by vampire fans everywhere and was declared an instant classic. But it didn't cross over into the mainstream U.S. and U.K. audiences very well, because foreign-language films rarely do (hey, it's not easy to find just the right piece of popcorn and read the screen at the same time!). So Hammer Films, wanting to come out of hibernation with a statement horror film, bought the screen rights and just a couple of years after the Swedish version, is presenting an English one.
I could write a standalone review of Let Me In without even considering the specter, but I believe horror.com readers are probably looking for comparisons (major spoilers follow). So here you go.
One thing that struck me was how American director Matt Reeves chose to open the story, reshuffle, and skew the focus. In the first film's opening, we meet the boy and follow him in his discovery of the creatures living next door. Let Me In starts with the victim of a vampire attack and the focus shifts slightly to Abby (Chloe Moretz) — though she does remain impenetrable. The sympathetic character is still Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), but he doesn't come off as deeply troubled as he did in the first movie. I attribute a lot of that to atmosphere and mood. I believe there is an inherent heaviness and sorrow that comes from the Scandinavian locations and the Swedish people (not to dis, but let's face it: Stockholm isn't exactly a hotbed of standup comedians).
Richard Jenkins plays The Father to Abby, the mortal man who does the vampire's bidding. He is an amazing actor, and one whose work is very familiar to me, so maybe that's why I liked him (for lack of another word) "better." However, there were a few things I wasn't on board with in connection to the reinterpretation of this character. (Seriously now, BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) In the first film, The Father's weakness and increasing infirmity is poignantly and subtly illustrated through his final kill; in the new film, it's done in a very spectacular, showy way (however, I must say, it is an excellent scene). Also, for some reason I cannot guess, he wears a gray garbage bag over his face when he goes out to get Abby's breakfast… it looks silly. For one thing, if he really needs to wear a mask at all, wouldn't he, after 40-odd years of doing this, be able to find something a little more wearable than a plastic sack? (Same goes for Abby's lack of footwear in the snow — though she did the same thing in Let The Right One In — wouldn't the killers know how to blend in a little better than they do?)
Other less-effective scenes include the exclusion of Abby's scarred crotch, and a toned-down pool showdown. Also, both films share a few CGI-enhanced sequences which are far too obvious. (The CGI attack cat sequence in the first movie is still so bad! At least Reeves had the sense to cut that out when he streamlined the neighbor- and family- characters.)
As I said at the beginning of this review — The score is essential as it drops hints to Abby's distant past by inserting boys' choir singing, among other little aural clues. The soundtrack features songs that give some heads-up about what is to come in the next moments (listen for Blue Oyster Cult's "Burning for You" and Greg Kihn's "The Breakup Song" especially). The acting is tremendously good, and it's interesting to note that neither of the young stars saw their counterparts' performances prior to crafting their own. They play Abby and Owen straight from the script pages. The direction is excellent — Reeves story moves along, but it's brisk rather than breakneck (and that's a good thing; he's got command of the character development). The cinematography is lovely; a little warmer and more intimate this time around.
Overall, the story isn't altered. It's tweaked slightly and definitely Westernized, but the "reimagining" doesn't deserve the vitriol its gotten from fans of the first who haven't even seen it. The truth is, Let The Right One In is still there. It has not gone away. In fact, Let Me In might even be so well-liked by English-speaking audiences and Chloe Moretz fans that they will seek out the more arty version. Win/win. I think Let Me In (while it's true I still prefer the Swedish version), can only do good for our favorite genre. I can't wait to see what Hammer comes out with next!
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Horror.com's Stai Layne Wilson goes fang to fang with vampire Chloe Moretz in this exclusive mini-series of red carpet and sit down interviews with the young actress. Also in the video are costars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Richard Jenkins, plus director Matt Reeves. Insights from all on how the film compares to its Swedish counterpart, how the roles were approached, and what Hammer Films did to ensure this new version would be great.
WATCH IT HERE