Thursday, January 27, 2011

Catching Up With 2010: Capsule Review – Let Me In

Refocusing the context of Tomas Alfredson's 2008 film adaptation of John Lindqvist's novel Let the Right One In, Matt Reeves has created one of the best American horror films in years. It's not just that the film is a more visceral experience with a more horrifying undertone, but it's also a more emotional experience with better acting by its young actors (the fantastic Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz). I was completely floored by how much I liked Let Me In. That's mostly because I wasn't expecting anything from director Reeves (Cloverfield). All the credit is due to him, though, as he has not re-imagined (the most dreaded words in movies of the last ten years) or remade the wonderful 2008 film, but he has simply taken elements from the novel that spoke to him more personally and built a film out of those experiences. And it's easy to see the love for the source material Reeves has as Let Me In never feels like we're just seeing an Americanized version of the Swedish film. Sure, there are similar scenes (some even framed the same way), but Let Me In is its own movie without making the viewer pine for Alfredson's. In fact, the two can co-exist as different film experiences even thought they have the same source material, and that is maybe what is most fascinating and impressive about it. I also appreciated how Reeves trims the fat the story audiences know because of Alfredson's film. Let the Right One In is a great film, there's no debating that, but I've seen it three times now and each subsequent viewing makes me more aware of the superfluous material. Alfredson's film just kind of drags in parts as he's more interested in telling a more contemplative story that gets under your skin and lingers for a long time afterwards (atmosphere and nuance, not to mention ambiguity, are all strong points of emphasis for Alfredson). Reeves believes in these things, too (especially the restraint he shows in the films initial murder scene at a railroad crossing, and the way he and his DP shoot a car accident from the inside backseat), but he puts more emphasis on the coming of age aspect of the story (there's a great scene where Smit-McPhee quietly emotes like an old pro in a painful scene where his character Owen has a painfully emotional phone conversation with his part-time dad) and definitely more focus on how Abby (Moretz) has evil intentions towards Owen as she looks to recruit him for purposes other than friendship and love. Some people may say that Oskar and Eli from Let the Right One were the better relationship because Eli's intentions weren't so obvious, but that's what makes Let Me In so great: it doesn't do anything to tarnish the great things that Alfredson's film did with the source material. This is Reeves' vision, and it's a damn good one. Not only is the film atmospheric and a great vampire movie, but its better acted and more emotionally profound. It's definitely the biggest American surprise of 2010. I loved it.


  1. "In fact, the two can co-exist as different film experiences even thought they have the same source material, and that is maybe what is most fascinating and impressive about it."

    Indeed Kevin. This is an excellent point, especially for those who might make claim to a basic replication of teh earlier film scene by scene. I still believe the Swedish original to rate an edge, but this American re-make is far better than I thought it would be, indeed far better than it really deserved to be. I agree it's dramatically compelling and compound, very well-acted and pictorially beautiful. I do believe time will be kind to it as well. Excellent work here as always!

  2. Richard Jenkins is the element that makes this film superior to me. Man has the saddest eyes in the world...

  3. Well, you've convinced me to give this one a go. As soon as I finish up I SAW THE DEVIL (I had to stop at an hour into the film, but thus far I'd recommend it to you) I'll check this one out.

  4. Sam:

    Thanks! Sounds like we had similar experiences with the film. It really is one of the biggest surprises I've had at the movie in a long, long time. Thanks for the comment!


    Yes, Jenkins was fantastic. In fact, one of things I failed to mention in my capsule review was how good the adult actors were, too. I focused on the kids, but man, Jenkins and Koteas were great as well. Great observation there about Jenkins having the "saddest eyes in the world." I agree!


    Yeah, I think you'll like it. I'm waiting on I SAW THE DEVIL because it won't be released in the US until 2011, so I'll consider it for next year's countdown. But I can't wait to see it; Kim is one of my very favorite directors currently making movies. Jason was right: THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE WEIRD was a ton of fun. And of course, you know my love for A TALE OF TWO SISTERS.

  5. Hey, count me as one of the people who though Let Me In was better than Let the Right One In, though to be honest, I thought that was not nearly as good most gave it credit for. The Swedish film had some uniquely creepy moments, but never engaged me on an emotional level. I found the American remake more tightly wound in the emotions department, but offered no surprises in the creep out area. Ultimately I can't say I liked either film, though I can respect what they both tried to accomplish.