If it's crap ... We'll tell you
There is always that nails-on-a-chalkboard reaction when audiences hear another film remake is on the way. Especially for a film embraced by critics and viewers as Tomas Alfredson's chilling Swedish vampire-film "Let The Right One In." Sometimes we get remakes that bastardize the original film and are churned out to exploit a fanbase. To all die-hard fans of the 2008 original film: lay down your wooden stakes. With "Let Me In", Writer/Director Matt Reeves has not only crafted one of the best horror films of recent years, but a film that will go down, along with John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing", as one of the best remakes ever.
The basic premise revolves around a reclusive and viciously bullied boy named Owen (Kodi Smith McPhee), as he befriends a vampire-girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz.) As the story between the children unfolds, a string of death and tragedy surround their friendship. Story-wise, this film is less of a remake and more of a well-told translation of the original Swedish story. What Matt Revees has done so brilliantly with this film is have the change to the American landscape add to the narrative.
"Let Me In" takes place in Ronald Regan era 1983 in Los Alamos, New Mexico. During the time when Regan famously stated that "The evil was around America." This change adds a chilling and frightening resonance to this vampire coming-of-age story that focuses on the violent nature of growing up and punctuates that chilling fear from the 1980's. Everything in the translation from the original Swedish landscapes works well for an American context. When watching the film, it's hard to not feel that wave of nostalgia and flashback to that moment in your childhood where you felt different from everyone else or befriended the new next door neighbor and plunked down five dollars at the local arcade together. The writing is so textured that Matt Revees nails it on the head with the emotional beats to where you have a strong sense of pathos and connection to each of these characters. Chloe Moretz delivers a mature and chilling performance as Abby. Kodi Smith-McPhee's performance as Owen is hard to not have empathy for given the sad nature of being a child of divorce and brutal bullying. Just a really great performance by Kodi. Richard Jenkin's brilliant performance as "The Father" communicates so much with very few words and his eyes that he becomes the stand out performance from the cast.
This film doesn't try to outdo the original film, but brilliantly reinterprets some of the events and attains it's own identity. The film has so much heart, that it transcends the horrific elements and becomes really a sweet coming-of-age film between a boy and a vampire-girl. Don't let the fact that this is a remake of a great film stop you s from seeing this. This remake stands above the rest as a film not made for a profit, but because this story deserves to be retold. In walking out of this film, the argument between the folks waiting in line shifted from whether or not this movie was any good to whether the original or this film was the superior film. Matt Revees proves with this film that with the right storyteller and intention, there can still be some great remakes.