Fantastic Fest 2010: Matt Reeves' Let Me In - A Beautiful Tribute
by Jeremy Kirk
September 26, 2010
Let Me In, the Matt Reeves-written/directed retelling of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel originally known as Let the Right One In, is beautiful, gripping, and terrifying. It is a powerful story of one boy's isolation from the world and the creature that comes into his life to accept him. From the way Reeves adapts the story to the way it's executed, there is so much to appreciate in this film, yet there is a difficult feeling to shake.
Let Me In is not only another retelling of Lindqvist's novel, it is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film, which was adapted to the screen by Lindqvist himself and directed by Tomas Alfredson. While Let Me In cannot be considered a shot-for-shot remake to Let the Right One In, considered by many to be the best vampire film in the history of the medium, it certainly comes off as a scene-for-scene remake. While some may be able to shake that feeling, that we've been down this snowy road before, there is no denying the power and accuracy Reeves displays here.
Set in 1983 the film centers on 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a quiet boy who lives with his mother in Los Alamos apartment complex. His devoutly Christian mother neglects him. The boys at school taunt him, ever increasingly hatefully and hurtfully. Alone in his room at night, he watches the other people in his complex through a telescope. That is when he first sees Abby (Chloe Moretz), a young (or young-appearing, anyway) girl who moves into the apartment next to Owen and his mother. The boy instantly becomes infatuated with the girl, listening in through paper-thin wall of his bedroom on the conversations Abby has with the elderly gentleman she lives with.
If you have seen Let the Right One In or know Lindqvist's story, you know the secret Abby holds. What Reeves does well here is in never hiding her dark side. Abby is a vampire, forever trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl and who must feed on human blood for survival. The man she lives with, not her father, travels out at night and kills for the blood Abby needs. As Owen and Abby investigate their own connection with one another, the outside world begins closing in on both of them.
Aided by cinematography from Greig Fraser, the look Reeves builds into Let Me In is undeniably dark, confident, and sets the pristine tone of foreboding the story requires. Never, not even in the direction Tomas Alfredson brought to the original film, has this sense of danger been so beautiful to watch. Even in the daylight, the world Owen inhabits seems closed in by some dome, and the isolation instilled in both story and execution weighs on you like a ton of bricks.
The weight found in the connections here is flawless, as well, with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz taking over the roles of Owen and Abby with absolute certainty. When the idea of a Let the Right One In remake came about, one element many were worried about was in the casting, but there were very few who believed Reeves would be able to find two children whose performance would actually surpass those found in the original. That is absolutely done here. Smit-McPhee plays secluded and hurt from the world around him so well, you so desperately want to give to him the caring embrace Abby gives to Owen in the film. Moretz is flawless, almost physically pulling back from the camera for fear of letting her secret be known.
But Reeves isn't satisfied with letting Let Me In be a one-connection film. Everyone involved here gives an outstanding performance, particularly Richard Jenkins as Abby's caregiver. The Father figure here is a broken man, one who has seen and experienced so much more than can be described, and Jenkins lets that breaking drill through in his expressions. You know what he and Abby are doing is wrong, necessity for Abby's life or not, and their victims are not always the "bad people" of the world. Yet you see the way Abby and The Father interact. You hear it in the words between Moretz and Jenkins when he is imploring her not to reveal herself to the boy. It's heartbreaking long before the weight of the world tumbles their house of cards down around them.
Moving these characters and the incredible embodiment the actors provide through this world is Reeves' stellar direction. There are moments and shots of absolute quiet in Let Me In that say so much more than anything that can be presented audibly. Hidden within the bricks of this astonishing castle of assured film making are individual shots that take your breath away. Obviously, the less said about these shots the better, but stringing these unbelievably awe-inspiring shots together into spectacular sequences of suspense is something Let Me In does perfectly.
There are elements of Let Me In that don't work flawlessly. Michael Giacchino, nearly always solid in his music-making, provides a rather literal score here. It thumps in all the right moments for a horror film, but there is very little nuance. The computer effects that aid in Abby's more vampirific moments is sub-par, as well, a negative aspect Let Me In shares with the original film, unfortunately. Elias Koteas' detective character is intriguing, and the actor does well in it, but there is very little payoff. It should be noted his character is new to Let Me In. It was not a character found in the 2008 original, and its presence here feels almost shoe-horned, as if we need an outside force to personify the danger that awaits Owen and Abby.
There is also the issue of identity, that reason for being that Let Me In unfortunately does not provide. Beat-for-beat, Let Me In feels much like a film made by someone who wanted to remake Let the Right One In for English-speaking audiences. While that statement may sound strange to some, while it might seem obvious that's what Reeves was doing here, that didn't have to be the case.
The same sense of beauty, loneliness, and the cold world that awaits all creatures, good and evil, could have been provided to something that wasn't so much a literal translation. It is something that is all too evident, even if the emotion behind Let Me In is able to shine past it. Abby may be a danger creature in the world she inhabits, but she is also one who seeks an identity, who wants to be seen as so much more than a cold copy of something more human. Let Me In does the same, and it, too, copy or not, is a thing of beauty.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 8 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 19 Comments
8 out of 10 spoiler XD
L1A on Sep 26, 2010
These are sad times we live in where so much praise is heaped on a film that came out not that long ago. Last year or year before? Not even that far. Hollywood, get some originality and take some risks. HH
Have Hope on Sep 26, 2010
@HH Yeah, how dare critics think a remake is actually good, and how dare a director actually put time an effort on said remake. THAT'S JUST TERRIBLE!!! Jesus Christ, are you people really that threatened by this movie that you'll hate it for the sole purpose of preserving the original film? As if claiming that this film might be "decent" some how ruins how much of a "masterpiece" the original was? Who cares? A good movie is a good movie, remake or not. I can't wait to see this so I can enjoy both versions.
SkaOreo on Sep 26, 2010
@3 Couldn't have put it better myself.
FancyMonocle on Sep 26, 2010
Da Man on Sep 26, 2010
I hate the original and therefore by extension hate the remake. It just amazes me how many retards like this regurgitated shit! So many people get on here and put people down for not liking Bayformers because that means they are not a true movie fan, meaning that to be a good little fan boy you have to like everything being force fed to us at the current time, its just to bad that its all useless crap. Well I know I'm not forced into the same box as everyone else, so I can sit back and say both of these movies are a complete waste of silicone, as well as most "films" nowadays.
Jimmy Love on Sep 26, 2010
This movie never should have happened. I heard they're remaking catfish for 2011
Clarke Majer on Sep 26, 2010
@SkOreo, I'm not looking forward to this film only because I loved the original so much, because I feel like being excited for a remake that could totally let me down just doesn't sit right with me. I'll have zero expectations for it until it impresses me. I feel like that is reasonable. This is an American remake of the original film. I don't think it EVER would have been made if the book had never been adapted...sure of course it's a readaptation of the source material, but it's so similar to the original film, you really can't call it anything but an American remake. It's mincing words for sure, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I draw the line at the fact that it cribs shots and locations from the original, that makes it a remake... That being said, can anyone think of a real readaptation of a book that was also a film that doesn't rely on the existence of the other film to exist itself? Honest query, I'm sure there are some.
LINKFX on Sep 26, 2010
Hope this movie is as good as the original
Julie on Sep 26, 2010
Wow, Jimmy...not feeling much "love," there Bro. As my Grand-pappy used to say; "Opinions are like assholes...everyone's got one, and some of them stink worse than others." I'd tell you to go fuck yourself, but you'd probably enjoy it too much.
The Credenza Kid on Sep 26, 2010
With regards to Abby and the relationship with her care giver, in the book it is not altruistic in any way. It was for entirely selfish reasons that he did not want 'her' to reveal herself.
ACB on Sep 26, 2010
I haven't seen the remake (I missed the opportunity at TIFF), but I've seen the original and I've read the translation of the book. One thing that bugs me about the original, and from what you've said, this version as well, is the way that both shy away from the most interesting aspects of the characters in both film versions. Eli/Abby's backstory gives real insight into both how she has been victimized and how she can use that victimization to her advantage - the one brief shot in the original alluding to that backstory was merely a confusing and unexplained glimpse. Her father figure is the other character that I really wish Reeves had drawn more of from the book. Their relationship was a lot less heartbreaking, but more compelling and original, in the book version. The way that Eli took advantage of his weakness, and the brutality (received and inflicted), while a little bit too B-movieish, definitely pushed the envelope a lot further than the movie ever did. I had kind of hoped that Reeves would take more from the book and less from the original film, since that had already been done, so to speak. But that said, I'm definitely going to watch this version. However, I do recommend that anybody who likes these movies should read the book. It definitely clarifies some things about the dynamics of the relationships between some of the characters.
Sarah on Sep 26, 2010
@ Jimmy- The reason people tend to hold movies like this close (at least personally) is that they are connecting on an emotional as well as sensory level. Bay's "Transformer"s films are merely eye-candy that lasts for two hours. I truly would be blown away if you thought any actor pulled a career making performance in either of those films. They are literally films to go into to shut off your brain and view pretty images for 2 hours. And those films can be a lot of fun but they are not taking any risks or trying to go any farther than mere eye-candy. However, films like this films predecessor and maybe this film (have not seen) are so coveted by film fans is because they make you think and feel something while still being visually entertaining. They may not be 3-D blue creatures or reflective polygons but if you find a film you connect with this way it makes it all the more important on a personal level. That is why I like films like this and why a snobbier film buff may call this a 'real film'. I just don't see how this could be better than the original. Clearly it is doing well at what the original film did so well, but is it doing anything better? I hear the performances may best the former, but Reeves' is essentially sticking to what the first film did. And that is the rub for me, he had the original picture to make mistakes and could fix it up form there. He is literally getting credit for tuning an engine someone else built. That is my problem with this piece and I am afraid it will taint my opinion. He would have had to make a film that was literally better in every way for me to respect this as a film and not just call it an 'unneeded, Americanized clone'.
Professor Brian O'Blivion on Sep 26, 2010
Ok...had to Netflix the Swedish film tonight. Pretty darned good, as far as I'm concerned. Beyond the mythology of vampires themselves, couldn't find any "regurgitated crap," except for the candy left by the candy store wall.
The Credenza Kid on Sep 26, 2010
From reading the review, it seems like Matt Reeves is playing more the role of a translator than the director of an original work. If it is anything like a shot for shot remake of the original film then I don't particularly care how artfully it was done. Yes it might be a neat trick to find capable actors to mirror the original performances, an American setting to mirror the original, and maybe even a new audience to surpass the original, but there is a difference between inspiration and imitation. I haven't seen it, and might not ever see it, but it's hard to believe Reeves deserves so much praise. If somebody does a great new translation of Crime and Punishment, they definitely deserve some credit for that, but their contribution is minuscule when compared to the accomplishment of Dostoyevsky. And in the psyche of the average movie goer introduced to the story by this film, nobody is going to give a shit about Lindqvist or Alfredson or Hoyte Van Hoytema's (cinematographer) original ideas, or Hedebrant or Leandersson's original performances - to them there will only be Reeves and Smitt-McPhee and Mortez. This is the original sin behind the concept of the Hollywood remake, particularly of a foreign film: the arrogance to think that a film can or should be remade. And also: it's so fucking lazy. No thanks.
CD on Sep 27, 2010
Oh Don't get me me wrong I also Hate the Bay, Bayformers is about the same level of crap as both this remake and its original, my point is all the people who get on here and drool over every piece of crap put out, I can understand the reviewers doing it they are probably paid pretty nicely for it. "Wow, Jimmy…not feeling much "love," there Bro. As my Grand-pappy used to say; "Opinions are like assholes…everyone's got one, and some of them stink worse than others." Funny but that sounds like an opinion to me! Pot Kettle Black Its ok theres always room for one more conformist!
Jimmy Love on Sep 27, 2010
It's a BRITISH PRODUCTION. Not American. The original wasn't good anyways
Rashad on Sep 27, 2010
The newer versin was waaay better than the original in my opinion. You guys should see it!
erika on Oct 6, 2010
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