Fri 1 Oct 2010
You’ve got a little smudge there. What is that, jelly?
In 2008, Sweden gave the world a present in the form of “Let the Right One In“. The film landed itself on my Best of 2008 List and delivered a new take on the vampire mythos. More importantly, there was more going on than just a bloodsucker chomping down on the locals and wreaking havoc; it was a beautiful story of two outcasts coming together because of their shared ostracism.
As is the way of Hollywood these days, if an idea is good they’ll find a way to make an extra buck off of it and so less than 2 years after the United States release of the original, director Matt Reeves (of “Cloverfield” fame) is ushering the slightly re-titled and definitely remade “Let Me In”.
Putting aside my issues of remaking an already great film for a second, Reeves and team did a marvelous job of casting. Chloë Moretz, who is scooping up all the high profile roles in her age group, plays her character nicely; balancing the awkward new friendship she strikes up with the boy next door (Kodi Smit-McPhee) with the savagery of her blood lust. For his part, Smit-McPhee really captured the mentality of a boy who’s not only being bullied at school but also going through a tough time at home as his parents have recently separated; and as the story is truly centered on him, if Smit-McPhee didn’t get things right, all of it falls apart.
Rounding out the cast are the two adults: Richard Jenkins delivers another solid performance as the human caretaker of Moretz with an unspoken history between them, and Elias Koteas, whose role was expanded as one subplot was removed in the remake, was the perfect choice for a well meaning detective who doesn’t have the first clue about what he’s dealing with.
For the most part, Reeves sticks to the original story. As I mentioned there is one subplot (involving a few of the neighborhood residents) that gets dropped but it isn’t too crucial and was a good choice to remove for pacing, as well as to allow for Koteas’ extra screen time. There is even one added scene, where we get an inside-the-car perspective of a crash, that is truly one of the best action scenes of the year.
However, as good as Reeves’ intentions may have been, there are also drawbacks to ‘Americanizing’ this project. First of all, don’t go crazy with silly CGI, extra makeup and an overblown score simply because you have the budget to do so. When Moretz utilizes some of her vampiric abilities, the terrible computer graphics reminded me of Yoda’s awful fight scenes in “Attack of the Clones”. Our eyes spot unnatural movements, which is why pulling off human CGI is so difficult, and when you speed it up like this the scare factor quickly lapses into groaning and guffawing.
Also, Moretz’ vampire makeup removed too much of her humanity, which was so key in allowing more commonality with the human boy that makes the point of the story so poignant. Even one great scene, where we see what happens to a vampire that enters a residence uninvited, was better done in the original sans the big Hollywood bucks.
My last real complaint comes from the score, which was done by Michael Giacchino. While he’s done some nice work for Pixar projects (most notably winning the Oscar for “Up“), I’m very, very, VERY tired of his live-action work. Everything seems to be a variation of the work he did on “Lost” and apparently he only knows how to go big, rather than be able to simply compliment the actors and the required tone of each scene. From the first bars, which are far too ominous (laid over a ridiculously contrived opening sequence), Giacchino continues to give away every turn as the music swells to unbearable proportions whenever something is about to happen. ‘Annoying’ is too kind a word for his efforts.
However, while I still ascertain that literate Americans are better off watching the original, I begrudgingly accept the fact that many people don’t like subtitled films and would recommend seeing “Let Me In” given those circumstances. It’s a completely unnecessary remake and loses the subtlety of the Swedish version, becoming awash in bad CGI, overdone makeup and unneeded extra gore (as much as extra gore can be unneeded) but it’s still a refreshing take on vampires in the “Twilight”-centric marketplace. I’m giving Reeves’ version a 3.5 out of 5 but so much of that is based on good casting delivering on solid source material, and not so much because of anything done differently for U.S. audiences.
Additional side note for Netflix users: The subtitles on the streaming copy are a mess, alternating between the top and bottom of the screen with no apparent rules as to why. Although it may be the most convenient manner to see the original, getting a copy of the Blu-ray will be better from that standpoint (and there are even Spanish subtitles if you prefer).