Matt Reeves's Let Me In, based on the Swedish book and movie Lât den rätte komma in ("Let the Right One In," also published as Let Me In in the U.S.)--which I have not read, though I have seen the film--is a competent, slightly stately remake of a sprightly classic original Swedish vampire tale, with solid performances, but not much to add or illuminate through adaptation.
I tried to pretend I hadn't seen the original when I first watched the new one. This wasn't very easy to do, though, since despite not having seen it since it was on the big screen in 2008, the new one is nearly a shot-by-shot remake of it, like Gus Van Sant's Psycho.
In addition, the original is a great film that sticks with you. Also, I happened to watch the new one for the first time on the exact same screen in the exact same theater where I had watched the first film two or three times. So I mixed it up and watched it one more time elsewhere before writing this.
It still suffers in comparison. Lât den rätte komma in is original, bright, highly stylized and symbolized, at times quite graphic, and at other times at home in suburbia with its young heroes, Oskar (Kâre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson). It's a period piece of the eighties as well as a bit of a mystery, and it deals with more subjects than even the most exhaustive analysis could hope to touch on.
You can't just put the genie back in the bottle. I suspect that many fans of the original may be like me and feel that this film does not quite work as perfectly, not just because we don't have the suspense of not knowing exactly what's going on or what's going to happen, but also because it's not told quite as well.
Though it is very faithful, Let Me In does leave scenes and subplots out and changes things up a bit visually, generally always to its detriment. And of course the story is now set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the heroes are renamed Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee of John Hillcoat's The Road) and Abby (Chloe Moretz of (500) Days of Summer and Kick-Ass). The American actors are excellent, and they sell the basic story, along with what symbols and images are recreated for the new film.
But they are not quite the same characters, and that and some other changes throw off the balance of the original story some, without finding new resonances and symbolic pillars to hold things up. The result is not bad at all, it's just not great, and not just because it's not quite the same as what worked well in the original film.
Now, for those who haven't seen the original, do yourself the favor and do. If liking and being pretty familiar with the original got in the way of my enjoying this one, maybe the opposite would be true for you, so I strongly recommend seeing Lât den rätte komma in first. If you still want to watch this one without having seen the original, I won't try to stop you, in fact, I'm recommending this film on its own. Any way, I think you'll find it slower, with less effectively used special effects, less symbolic and dramatic unity, and less weirdness and danger than the original.
Let Me In just doesn't add enough to the mix to totally justify a remake, when it comes right down to it, though the film is all right, fine. But these days a couple of clicks and you can watch the original version of...almost anything. In this case, watch the original. There's not a lot to complain about with Let Me In, but it's competent and mostly just that.
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