Let Me In is a hard film to judge on its own merits, as a remake of the acclaimed (and very recent) vampire film from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, Let The Right One In (2008), you’ll be running that film constantly in the back of your mind as you watch this bombastic but effective American re-tread. It’s the original film turned up to 11, its lesser budgetary constraints working both for and against it, there’s a fantastic fixed camera car crash sequence but also a greater reliance on CGI, and what it adds in bloody effects work it loses in subtlety, something highlighted by Michael Giacchino’s ever present score.
A greater focus on Richard Jenkins as ‘The Father’ is a welcome addition, and Kodi Smit-McPhee nails his portrayal of Owen, but Chloe Moretz is a poor substitute for the deathly pallor and androgynous features of Lina Leandersson as Abi/Eli, whilst the inclusion of Elias Koteas’ detective investigating the numerous killings edges the film towards the generic, seemingly happier chasing thrills than exploring the original’s more ambiguous take on love and loneliness, dependence and loss.
Going in fresh however, without having seen Alfredson’s picture or having read the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist on which both films are based, Let Me In is an above-average piece of mid-budget horror, well directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves (unafraid to pinch much of Alfredson’s framing) and with strong performances all round (as well as the leads, Dylan Minnette excels as vicious bully Kenny). It may shy away from the darker aspects of the novel (in the same way Alfredson’s film did), but it carries its icy location and period 80s setting well, particularly in the eerie use of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance (although Ronald Reagan talking about good and evil on a television set is a point pushed too far).
“I’m not a girl. I’m nothing.”
Making more explicit the preadolescent gender politics of its predecessor, but also playing down the more sinister questions of Abi and Owen’s relationship (a strip of photographs glimpsed at the end imply she’s essentially grooming Owen as her new ‘hunter’), it becomes more a film about friendship and loneliness rather than anything more ambiguous, Moretz’s Abi is ultimately presented as too sympathetic a character here, diluting what made Let The Right One In so unsettling.
There’s going to be a huge proportion of Let Me In’s audience with subtitlephobia who are new to Abi and Owen’s story so I suppose it serves a purpose in that respect, and Reeves is sensible enough not to steer too far away from a winning formula. It may not be an improvement on the original film, but it’s certainly not without merit and whilst a little over-enthusiastic, is executed with an (albeit borrowed) atmospheric sense of style.
Let Me In – 2010 – USA – 111 mins – Dir : Matt Reeves
Screening as part of the Film On The Square strand at the London Film Festival on Thursday 14th, Friday 15th & Saturday 16th October. Tickets available at www.bfi.org.uk/lff
It goes on general release on Friday 5th November