Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let me in

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(116 min, 2010)
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay)
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz and Richard Jenkins

(spoilers for "Let me in" and "Let the right one in")

She will keep you forever

I love this movie. It took a remake for me to fall in love with this story. I saw the original film - “Let the right one in” and whilst I recognized it to be a very original take on vampires and good movie, I didn't even like it. I didn't feel the emotions between Oscar and Eli, the story was cluttered with many unnecessary scenes and the whole thing didn't interest me much. When I heard there was going to be a remake I was very skeptical – I thought the change of gender in Eli's case was a cowardly move and it surely didn't get my hopes up for a good remake. But “Let me in” has so much fire and heart in it, I didn't even think of that during watching the movie.

I'm sure the original is already well known, but for all of you who don't know the plot – Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee from “The Road) is a young boy living with his alcoholic mother, dealing with bullies at school and with loneliness at his house. One night he meets a strange girl who just moved in next door, Abby (Chloe Moretz from “(500) days of summer” and “Kick-Ass). Soon he learns the girl needs blood to live...

The actors in the original movie did great job, but I prefer Kodi's and Chloe's take on their characters. Kodi is especially fantastic, the boy in the original movie didn't make me feel for him, whilst here I genuinely cared about Owen even if he allowed for terrible things to happen. Yet again he is shown as disturbed boy, imagining he is the killer in order to have control for once, when he doesn't have any facing the bullies. Owen is also shown to be very brave and his reactions to things, while sometimes strange, are understandable. He has great chemistry with Chloe – Owen and Abby are just two, disturbed, alone children, who found each other. Abby is given more character than in the original – there are two ways to interpret the whole story – either she really likes Owen, maybe even loves him and wants to be with him, or she just manipulates him because she needs another protector – someone who will kill people for her to provide her with blood, someone who will guard her during the day.

In the original movie the ending was happy – Oskar left with Eli, I didn't even consider what's gonna happen later – Owen is going to become a killer, just like previous protector and one day he will die a horrible death. Here, because of so many signs of manipulation on Abby's part and intriguing scene with a photo, we are given enough to actually wonder whether the ending is indeed happy. It may be both – Abby needs a guardian, but she also needs to trust him with her life, she needs to like him if she is going to spend decades with him. I adored the scene where Abby dresses up in Owen's mom dress and then when his mother is entering the apartment the two of them run away holding hands and she escapes through the window. Then Abby looks over to Owen and starts giggling. She really loved that little adventure of theirs and felt like innocent child again.

The original guardian played by fantastic Richard Jenkins is given a backstory here. We also get to see that once upon a time he and Abby had this special bond she now has with Owen. After decades spent together they grew apart. In one scene he asks Abby whether he even has a choice of living differently – he knows he doesn't. I don't think Abby is forcing him to stay, but because she “recruited” him in such young age, he knows no other life. There is a brilliant scene in the movie where he is getting out of the building and whilst trying to light a cigarette he sees Owen. They exchange the look – the predecessor and the successor, without even knowing what they fate will be. But given how much the protector did for Abby, it is quite obvious he loved her deeply.

There is another scene that suggested something to me, a thought that I didn't have during original movie. And it's all because of Kodi's acting – when he doesn't invite Abby in and she starts dying all of the sudden he yells “Come in! Come in!” and hugs her, being scared for her. That scene was present in the original but here you can really see how much Owen cares about Abby. It is bond beyond love or desire, he wants to be with her and he wants her to be all right – almost as if she was his sister. That is the kind of bond Abby had with the protector – he would do anything for her. However, few scenes were Owen is curiously staring at people engaging in sexual activities would suggest that this will interest him soon enough. Which brings me to something that annoyed me before I saw the movie...

In the novel Eli is a castrated boy. It is obvious. In the original movie we see shot of Eli's private parts – ambiguous, not because it was intended as such, but because of how it is understood. Eli was still a boy, but confused audience (the fact Eli was played by a girl didn't help) assumed he was a girl. Here the shot is missing, we see Owen looking at Abby who is changing, but his curiosity can be explained by normal reaction to naked girl. Nothing in the movie, apart from evil voice Abby talks in at times, suggests otherwise. Plus Chloe is so girly, there is no way the viewer will assume she is not a girl only because she says she isn't. She says she is nothing, yet somehow I assume she was only referring to her existence, focused on hiding and feeding. Still, even if Abby is a girl my concerns disappeared, because it works well in the story and some of the scenes – including cute date the two share, bloody kisses and bed scene (nothing sexual!) work as a classic romance story.

The extra interpretation of the story (Abby is actually manipulating Owen) is not the only thing added by Matt Reeves. Virginia's death is an outstanding scene – not only did Reeves add disturbing shots of her drinking her own blood, but everything is shot so brilliantly I was speechless. But the best addition are the scenes where the protector is hunting for Abby. The first one is scary and suspenseful and the second one is a masterpiece. We get to see car crash filmed from inside a car. The last time I was that impressed with how masterfully the scene is done was during the shootout filmed from inside the car in “Children of Men”. Also the beginning is different than in original movie. There are many scary scenes in the film but that beginning is horrifying. Intense music in the background, horrible sounds of a man in agonizing pain trying to breathe, frantic camera movements, than a lot of talk about face disfigured by acid (so that you start to get scared they will show you the effect any second), POV of injured man, yelling. Perfect beginning.

There are only two things I didn't like and one thing that I preferred in original. I didn't like how they kept shoveling in all the “Romeo and Juliet” moments – one was too much, let alone three. Star-crossed lovers, we get it, do we really need to be treated as stupid? The second thing is Abby's CGI movement when she is thirsty – it looked very fake. But her demonic face is very well done and the first time we see her in that form is one of the better shots from the movie. The thing that was made better in the original is guardian's face after acid pouring. In the original movie it looked realistic, although I have no idea neither I want to have one, how one's face after he pours acid on it should look like. Here it looked very fake, it was still repulsive and showed commitment of protector well (he did it, so he wouldn't get identified and the police wouldn't get to Abby),but I had a flashback of Two Face's makeup in “The Dark Knight” and that's not a good thing. Also that entire scene was done better in the original movie, it showed vampire's feelings towards the guardian better.

It's impossible to say which score is better - Johan Söderqvist's soundtrack for “Let the right one in” is gorgeous and works well as a delicate, hunting illustration for the peaceful original, whereas Michael Giacchino's score for “Let me in” builds suspense to almost unbearable limits and provides lovely main theme. The movie would be incomplete without such good music. The best part of the film, even better from the story you can interpret in many ways and wonderful acting, is beautiful and fascinating cinematography by Greig Fraser. There are shots in this movie that will haunt me for years – the one where dying policeman covered in blood reaches out to Owen, the one where Owen is hiding in the room, the one where the protector is hiding in the car. There are so many interesting ideas used throughout the movie.

I suspect one of the biggest challenges for Matt Reeves was the pool scene, which not only is the most memorable scene from the original but also it's perfect. Reeves couldn't omit nor copy it. He did fine – he changed the angles so that we see the horror in more dynamic way, of course the original scene is better but this one was fantastic too. Reeves had huge asset up his sleeve – the scene with the “creation” of the vampire but he chose not to used it. It's a shame because that scene was very well made and petrifying (watch here - Perhaps he wanted Abby to be completely mysterious.

“Let me in” wouldn't be made if “Let the right one in” didn't come first, so I need to credit Tomas Alfredson for making it. The basic story is the same here, some of the shots are the same, but overall the whole thing felt more alive to me. I cared for the characters, although they did terrible things, I was impressed by how well the movie was done, how clever the ideas of the makers were and on top of all of that – even though I knew the story I was so interested in seeing how the events will unfold on screen that I wasn't bored for a second. Not to mention – I was scared or disturbed in many scenes and that is something I don't feel during watching movies often. I saw it 3 hours ago and I want to see it again and again - excellent movie.



  1. Good comparison between both versions of the movie. I completely agree that the CGI movement in the remake was the worst thing about it. It looked low budget.

    For the two major storyline changes it was the one where Jenkins' character is shown to be a longtime companion to the vampire that I felt had the biggest impact. I actually preferred the ambiguity of the original - is that man a longtime companion or is he a pedophile that Eli just picked up recently? The latter would explain his clumsiness with getting the blood - something the remake explained as just getting old.

    As for the gender change, I did notice the scene in the original where we see a scar on Eli's genitals, but I didn't understand what it was about because I had not read the book. It was only after it was explained on IMDB's boards that I appreciated the whole "what if I'm not a girl?" line. It comes across as meaning she is a vampire to those who don't know, and meaning that she is a boy for those who do. The remake used the same line, but without the extra meaning.

    1. Thanks! Yeah that CGI was so bad...

      I didn't really pay much attention to that change, but I like both explanations - the one with the photo of him as a boy gave Abby more of sinister agenda and I really liked it.

      Yeah, the gender change was big issue for me. It just seems like they made it simpler. It's still a great story but that change just seemed as if they were making things easier for the audiance.

  2. Excellent movie! It was clearly better than the original, more focused regarding its theme and a much tighter script. It also looks better, but sure you have to consider that the US budget was about ten times higher than the Swedish film had. So kudos to the Swedish version for being as good as it is.

    Chloe Moretz was a great choice to play the role. She has the ability to come across "older than her years"in many ways, which is sort of commented on by the director on the comments track on the DVD.

    And Richard Jenkins is as always great in his role!

    If anyone reading this haven't seen the move, then watch it, you won't be disappointed.