2009 was the year that Sweden became the new cool. At least in the UK. There were Wallander originals and remakes on the BBC and Let the Right One In was a hit with the critics and the public. I liked, not loved, the original and was intrigued by news of a Hollywood remake.
So I was curious about Let Me In, just to see what Matt Reeves (director of Cloverfield) made of the Swedish film.
Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1983. Owen, (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely 12 year old boy who is brutally bullied at school and living with his mother whilst his parents get divorced. A mysterious 12 year old girl moves in next door, coinciding with a string of grisly murders around Owen’s home. One night, the mysterious girl introduces herself as Abby (Chloё Grace-Moretz) and she happens to be a vampire.
I really liked this version. I found it better in some aspects. It is a faithful remake that focuses more on horror.
There are few changes but they are big. The 80’s details and grounding have changed from Swedish to American which gives the film, for me, a greater sense of familiarity. Kids are playing with Rubik’s cubes, Ronald Reagan is on television and the radio has classics like Bowie’s, Let’s Dance.
The main change of this remake is in perspective. It focuses more on Owen’s point of view and I found this made the relationships feel stronger than in the original while the anger and alienation felt dialled down in favour of desperation to escape.
There is a change in the relationship with Owen’s parents: his mother is transformed from the original over-worked and care-worn to religious lunatic while his father, in the original, is an affable chap with a drinking problem, in this he is just a selfish voice on the phone. It made Owen’s life feel much more hellish as he has nobody to communicate with except Abby and even though we recognise the danger she poses we still will him to leave with her.
Indeed, I felt Abby was much more predator, not just in the way that she hunts people but also in the way she collects guardians.
Abby is a Jekyll and Hyde character – not as distinct as the androgynous “other” like the original film’s Eli but more a savage angel that Owen longs for. Cute Chloё Grace-Moretz capably does melancholy and savagery when she engages in vampire CGI acrobatics. Certain scenes really got me like the change in voice that Owen can hear through his bedroom wall or the scene involving Owen cutting his thumb to make a blood pact with Abby. At sight of blood, Abby loses her composure and the director, Reeves, signals this by cleverly letting sound distort as a record plays.
With Hammer being the production company the locations are typically atmospheric (I had no idea it snowed in New Mexico). Owen’s apartment complex is straight from Silent Hill 2, Owen’s room being a place from where he can spy on people with his telescope – a great way to show characters from Owen’s life and build them up (although they lack the depth of the Swedish original).
So I found this remake worked much better as a straight horror film. It’s still beautiful and I found many moments much more haunting and chilling than the original. Whether you like this or not depends upon how strongly you feel about the original and remakes in general. If you loved the original then any remake is sacrilege but if you enter it with an open-mind I can recommend this whole-heartedly.