Let Me In is a 2010 American horror drama based on the highly acclaimed 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), and the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Let me get this out of the way first, THIS IS NOT ANOTHER ‘TWILIGHT’. A lot of people have been avoiding this film simply because they describe this as another me-too vampire/Twilight wannabe, when in fact this totally blows Twilight out of the water. In fact, Twi-hards out there find this film repulsive and sacrilegious (for lack of a better description). I might as well say this: Let Me In is the best vampire film Hollywood has ever produced in this decade. EVER. Twilight doesn’t even come close. Now with that out of the way, this review is going to switch back and forth between the original film and this remake. Needless to say, both films are exceptional and worthy of the acclaim it has received. Also take note there will be massive spoilers so if you want to avoid that skip the parts where I’m going to mention SPOILERS in all caps so you won’t blame this article for spoiling the best parts of the film.
Let the Right One In was released in 2008 to massive critical acclaim. It was a genre bending film that proved vampire romantic drama films can be anything BUT Twilight-ish. For the first time here was a romantic film starring kids but without the raging hormones the teen characters have in Twilight. Let the Right One In achieved maturity Twilight never even had in the first place. That fact alone made me appreciate the film when I first saw it. To my surprise Hollywood planned to remake it a mere 2 years after its release! It was damning news and the internet was awash with Hollywood hate on why such a beautiful film will be remade and ruined. It took me awhile to watch the remake as I didn’t want it to ruin my memories of the original film. But after it began receiving critical acclaim, I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer and just watched this film, preconceptions and all. To my surprise, this was an absolutely amazing remake. Rarely have I seen a Hollywood remake which stayed true to the original film. At the same time, because of the uncanny similarities this film had with the original, it was also a disappointment considering the whole thing now felt unoriginal despite the filmmakers claim that it was their own take on the novel. It seems the producers took more from the film than from the novel. Now, let’s see what made both these films so good.
Let Me In tells the story of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) a young man having domestic problems brought upon by a broken home. Things are no better in school where he is a victim of bullying. At the beginning of the film, a new neighbor Abby and her ‘father’ move into Owen’s apartment complex not realizing their actions would forever change their lives. Abby (Chloe Moretz) is a young child who is different from the rest of the kids as we can tell from the moment she is introduced. Abby warns Owen that there is no room for friendship between them without further explaining, however Owen persists and they eventually form a bond unlike any. At around the same time, several local townsfolk turn up dead in mysterious ways grabbing the attention of a local detective who goes on a search that will ultimately change his life as well. Secrets are revealed, relationships are tested, blood is spilled, and lives are lost.
Let Me In closely follows the original in almost every respect and perhaps this is its biggest flaw. It simply lacks originality. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in its brilliant execution. Let Me In got all the elements of a remake just right. But be forewarned, this is a deliberately paced film and no doubt most viewers who won’t see the beauty of this film will be bored to death right down to the closing credits. This isn’t a negative per se. The original film and the remake are slowly paced movies and the filmmakers took this to their advantage by creating a believable world, developing their characters, and pushing the plot forward to its grisly and violent conclusion. How this film breaks genres is in its magnificent storytelling. One of the movie’s focus is in the relationship between an otherworldly creature and an innocent human kid and how they managed to form a bond that is simply beyond teen romance and friendship. In fact the thematic elements in their relationship are unique that it’s appropriately praiseworthy considering the fact that these dark and disturbing elements are melded together to form a genuinely moving and poignant story the likes of which are usually seen only in dramas.
If you’re already getting the impression that this movie is solely focused on Owen and Abby’s romance, then you’d be wrong. There is a wonderful and disturbing subplot concerning Abby and his caregiver, Thomas or ‘the father’ brilliantly played by Richard Jenkins. Their relationship is of a different kind, one which is ultimately a test of loyalty and faith. Abby (SPOILER ALERT, though by now you already know it) is a vampire who relies on blood from other people. Thomas does the blood collection by driving to town and murdering people to get the blood. He serves as Abby’s guardian defending her identity, and feeding her both physically and emotionally. Why he would do that is something that no Twilight fan will ever get. It’s a love that knows no bounds- that Thomas is willing to risk his life and even lose it just to protect Abby despite realizing what she really is and what he himself has become. This unique dynamic is something so deep and metaphorical that this subplot alone makes this film 100 times smarter and deeper than Twilight.
This paragraph is going to contain a BIG SPOILER so you might want to skip to the next should you wish to watch this film without surprises. What’s more disturbing here is Abby’s backstory. There is a bit of a difference between the remake and the original here, something which the fans have been screaming as a disservice to the author. You see, Abby isn’t just your ordinary girl. In the original film, Abby is called Eli and is played and portrayed as a somewhat androgynous female. You can’t even tell if Eli is a male or female. In the remake, Abby looks more like a girl but in subsequent conversations, it is slowly revealed that Abby is in fact, a male. Shock and awe. I know, few films will dare to do this. A single scene in the original film made this fact more shocking, as we see Eli naked in the bathroom and Oskar (Owen in the remake) taking a peek, and what we see in the naked Eli is a scar where the genitals should have been. It isn’t revealed in both films but it is implied that Eli/Owen was castrated. In the remake, this scene was still shown but we don’t see the naked shot of Abby thus the audience is left to wonder why Owen was so shocked. It’s a minor nitpick but I wished the filmmakers followed that part too. Now, tell me if the other vampire films ever dared to do that. You won’t expect such a twist in a vampire movie let alone something this innocuous.
Let Me In is backed by stellar production values. This is a stunning production to say the least with cinematography, music, visuals and acting melded together in one cohesive whole. The acting is nothing short of breathtaking. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz managed to pull off a task that I believe was leaps and bounds more difficult than say, the hammy Twilight screenplay (Okay, so I keep bashing the Twilight series just to drive home my point that this ain’t nothing like Twilight!). It truly is a groundbreaking production. The same can be said for the original film and in some aspects the remake was even better. What’s remarkable here is how director Matt Reeves has created a moody atmosphere while developing his characters and pushing the plot forward in a surprisingly consistent fashion. Even a slight misstep in such a production will make everything go haywire but this film managed to avoid that. This film isn’t perfect as some scenes could have benefitted from better editing and the oftentimes shoddy special effects look a bit too cheesy and fake. But that doesn’t distract the viewing experience and overall, this is a true cinematic masterpiece that has so many good things I can’t seem to stop bragging about it.
Is Let Me In better than the original? It’s very hard to tell. Until now I still can’t say which is a superior movie. I’m tempted to say Let the Right One In is better simply because it felt original the first time I saw it, but the same can be said for Let Me In had I seen it first. Nevertheless these 2 films are the best vampire drama films I’ve seen in the past decade and it’s no surprise then that I can highly recommend these films!