In 2010, legendary Hammer Studios rose, nosferatu-like, from its grave, determined to once again spread horror through the world. Its first project? An Americanized, English-language version of John Lindvist’s novel, Låt den rätte komma in, already the subject of a successful Swedish film adaptation. Fans worried. Would this be another pointless remake, a defanging of all that gave the original its bite?

Title: Let Me In

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Matt Reeves from the novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindvist

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloe Moretz as Abby
Richard Jenkins as Abby’s Guardian
Cara Buono as Owen’s Mother
Elias Koteas as Police Officer
Sasha Barresse as Virginia
Dylan Kenin as Larry
Dylan Minnette as Kenny
Pale Olofsson as Larry
Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak as Mark
Nicolai Dorian as Donald
Ritchie Coster as Zoric

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Premise:

A slightly disturbed boy, subject to frequent bullying, develops a friendship with the new girl—a vampire as unapologetically predatory as anything Van Helsing staked.

High Points:

The secondary characters have been left underdeveloped, but everyone gives excellent performances. I wondered if the American actors would match the power of Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz come close. Moretz transforms from cryptic child to bloodlusting monster with a conviction many adult actors couldn’t muster. And her character’s nature remains a key strength of this story. The vampire hasn’t been softened or dusted with glitter. She’s a dangerous creature of the night who kills indiscriminately. We see her point of view anyway.

We learn almost nothing about Abby’s guardian, save through dark hints, but Richard Jenkins comes across as twisted from his first appearance, half in shadow.

I give Reeve and crew credit for capturing the same kind of cold visual poetry present in the original. We have a bloody disturbing story, beautifully framed.

Low Points:

The film features excellent performances throughout. However, only Owen and Abby receive any real development, and even their relationship gets fast-tracked. The writer and director have chosen to minimize the secondary characters. Owen’s parents have been reduced to barely-visible presences on the periphery of his life. This approach accomplishes a couple of positive ends. The peripheral parents have been effectively scripted and played, and their absence really emphasizes Owen’s isolation. Without so much emphasis on other characters, the relationship between Owen and Abby becomes central. However, the approach bleeds the film of much of its power. We have no connection to the people who die. Their passing may be dramatic and visceral but not moving.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 We have a film adapted from a best-selling novel that has already served as the basis for a wildly successful film. Hammer has given us a different adaptation, however, in terms of what it keeps and cuts from the novel. They also transform aspects of the story by applying it to Los Alamos in 1983. We have a film filled with American touches: the Old Testament moralizing of Ronald Reagan, the folk Christianity endemic to the U.S., and elements of popular Urban Legend, from the 80s belief and widespread Satanic cults to the popular notion of the killer crouched in the back seat. We even have that cliché of American movies, the cop who fails to get any kind of back-up or even to alert anyone before charging into scary and potentially dangerous territory.

And of course, a car crash sequence.

We have an adaptation, but we have a decidedly American adaptation, and this allows for a degree of originality missing in most films of this nature.

Effects: 5/6 The physical effects look fine—gorier than in the Swedish film, but entirely in keeping with the source material. I wish the CGI looked less like CGI. In a film that strives to be as realistic as possible (given the genre), I found these effects distracting.

Story: 5/6 The story, for all the changes, retains many of the source’s strengths.

Some people will be upset that a certain aspect of Abby’s origins and nature has been removed from this production (In the novel, Eli turns out to be a castrated male vampire), but I think the filmmakers made the right choice. It works in the novel because it can be developed. In Let the Right One In, it clutters the film and confuses the audience, because no time exists to address it adequately.

Acting: 6/6 They chose the right actress in Chloe Moretz. I predict good things for her—though she does not own the role as entirely as Lina Leandersson.1 Smit-McPhee, too, serves up a strong performance. The other roles have been given to strong actors.

Production: 6/6.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The first film took down the disturbing aspects of the novel somewhat; I thought the American film would go even further. Overall, however, they kept it at about the same level as the Swedish film. If anything, Owen seems less sympathetic in his early scenes than Right One‘s Oskar. (Neither, however, is quite as disturbing as the novel’s antihero). The killings are at least as brutal. The psychological elements have not been handled quite so well, but they aren’t overlooked.

My comments under “Weak Points” should be considered, too, but I felt the film, overall, was strong enough that I didn’t want to give it a lower rating under this category. We don’t use fractions at the Bureau.

Overall: 5/6.

It’s not Let The Right One In and neither is the book, but this ranks among the best American horror movies of recent vintage, and I cannot recall when we last had an English-language vampire film that approaches this one in quality.

In total, Let Me In receives 34/42.

Note

1. Neither, strictly speaking, does Lina Leandersson. Although her ancient eyes and elegant movement define Eli’s vampiric character, another actor, Elif Ceylan, gave her voice in the Swedish film.

Halloween Countdown 2010

October 2: Halloween
October 3: The Garfield Halloween Adventure

October 9: Let The Right One In
October 10: Let Me In

October 16: They Wait
October 17: Subhuman aka Shelf Life

October 23: Satanic Rites of Dracula
October 24: The Vampire Lovers

October 30: The Black Cauldron
October 31: The Exorcist