Let Me In, written and directed by Matt Reeves, based on the Swedish film and novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, starring Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Chloe Moretz (Abby), Richard Jenkins (The Guardian) and Elias Koteas (Policeman) (2010): The original Swedish version of this film, Let the Right One In (they’re both based on a Swedish novel) was such an unexpected delight that anything other than a totally awesome remake would suffer in comparison.
And suffer we do.
There are still moments of shock and nicely modulated characterization, but there’s nothing here that feels fresh or startling the way the original did. Moreover, writer/director Reeves (Cloverfield, The Pallbearer) seems to have been infected by American Mass-Market Screenwriting Virus#1.
How so? Well, he excises all the secondary characters, at least as characters and not plot devices. He throws in a ‘shock’ flashforward at the beginning of the film for no apparent reason other than to get a shock into the first part of the film. He makes explicit a number of plot and character points that the original wisely left implicit. And he casts the pretty, pretty-traditional-looking Chloe Moretz (Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass) as Abby, the mysterious 12-going-on-500 vampire who befriends bullied, lonely 12-year-old Owen. Oh, and Reeves omits one whopper of a plot twist because American films don’t show certain things, even if they’re R-rated.
One of the odd things about the original film was that while it was set in the 1980’s, nothing much was made of this — indeed, I didn’t realize it was set in early 1980’s Sweden until I watched the ‘Making Of’ documentary on the DVD. Here, though, Reeves goes with the Hot Tub Time Machine approach to period detail, in addition to the opening title that tells us it’s 1983. By the one-hour mark, you’ll be unable to forget it’s either the 1980’s or Retro Sunday at Call the Office. Were the filmmakers hoping to recoup costs with a soundtrack album? Fuck, it’s annoying!
The result isn’t a mess so much as a bore. Most of the best setpieces come almost verbatim from the original. Inexplicably, Reeves sets the movie in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which apparently looks exactly like Wisconsin during the wintertime. And maybe it does, but the cognitive dissonance of having New Mexico treated like Wisconsin (or Sweden, or Manitoba) kept getting in the way of my suspension of disbelief. Really? It’s that cold and snowy?
Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Owen, gives a grave and winning performance, and Moretz does what she can with an underwritten part. This isn’t really a bad film. It’s just sort of there, filling time. Richard Jenkins also does what he can with his underwritten and yet overly explicit role as Abby’s ‘guardian’, a role which Reeves apparently felt needed flashing neon lights around it so that we would ‘get’ the similiarities between Owen and Jenkins’s character. Thank you, Matt Reeves. Your stolidly plodding command of film is hereby noted. Not recommended.