Last weekend I drove an hour to the nearest theatre to see Let Me In. I've been waiting to see this film for several months now, at least since I heard about it from Comic-Con and realized that Chloë Moretz would be starring. This film is actually an English remake of the Swedish original, Let The Right One In, which is based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I have not read the book, and knowing what little I know about it, I never intend to, but I have seen the Swedish film which I enjoyed.
I wish I had written down my thoughts of the first film when I originally saw it, because I think after seeing Let Me In last week, my memory has been a bit tainted. Regardless, I tried to reclaim my first impressions by revisiting Let The Right One in last night. This is my amateur review.
Let The Right One In
The original story and this remake vary slightly, but the differences are key and completely reshape my perception of the story. The young boy, Oskar, in the Swedish film has a much more tangible relationship with his father who seems to be in the process of divorcing his mother. He visits him every other weekend whereas, Owen, in the American remake is living exclusively with his mother and only has the occasional hidden phone call to contact his father with.
These differences seem relatively insignificant, but they have an impact on the way the boy perceives his world and interacts with the vampire.
Another notable difference for me is the use of special effects. The vampire, Eli, in the Swedish film does not have the face of a vampire that we ever see. Meaning no fangs or horrifyingly disfigured face when she kicks into vampire mode. However, Abby, in the remake does have some CG scenes and we do see facial work done in some of the scarier scenes. This does make things a bit more disturbing and visceral at times, but the tradeoff is the character becomes less human and relatable and untethered from our reality. This was probably done intentionally by the director, Matt Reeves, to emphasize the inhuman, vampire nature, but I saw it as largely unnecessary.
The most frightening aspect of the original film was how human the vampire seemed. And while Chloë Moretz is undeniably sweet in her portrayal, her vampiric scenes seem so distant from her character because it isn't really her. I found this just a little distracting and feel it robbed Chloë of some of her potential to really sell the character.
There are a few more differences in the film that may matter more to certain fans, but in the interest of a spoiler-free review I'll leave the rest unsaid.
I have to say, that overall I really loved the characters and the actor's portrayal of those characters that much more this time around in the remake as opposed to the original. And I think it's much less an issue of language, and probably more an issue of cultural differences. How the Swedish actors relate to bullying as opposed to the American actors makes subtle, but important changes to the way I perceived the film and ultimately made the character more believable to me.
Another thing that I adored about the remake is the casting of Chloë Moretz. Did I mention she's awesome? Yeah, she really can't do a bad film. Chloë makes the vampire adorable and sweet and kind of sympathetic which makes Owen's attraction to Abby much simpler to understand. Lina Leandersson, playing the vampire in the original always seemed just a little creepy to me and I never fully bought into the attraction between Oskar and Eli.
The American remake makes more sense to me because the characters make the story more believable. There is an interesting video online that shows the casting process for Let Me In and you can see why they chose Chloë Moretz over the other auditions. It's an interesting watch.
I'm Not a Girl
Ok, sorry. I can't get into this review without mentioning this one major plot detail that both films play on very differently. So skip this section if you intend to see these films and don't know what I'm about to reveal.
In both films the vampire tells us that she is not really a girl. Initially this can be interpreted as "no. You're a freaking vampire!" But the book is a lot more clear including details of a castration where the vampire appears feminine. The original film includes a particularly disturbing image hinting at this history of the character and embraces that aspect of the story. Conversely, the remake glosses over this and leaves the audience to draw the conclusion that she is merely a vampire girl and just not a normal girl.
Perhaps the book has some greater reason to have this particular aspect of the story, but personally I always felt that tidbit was more disturbing than scary or creepy and had no place in the film where there isn't time enough to explain why/how that happened. I far prefer the American film for their exclusion of this fact that completely alters the vampire character.
Both films are worth a watch. The book may be worth a read, but I'm not up for that yet. I think there is something of interest in both, but ultimately, I'm going to go against the fan base and say that I far prefer the American remake to the Swedish original. If you're going to see just one, see Let Me In.