One of the most talked about horror films of last year was Let Me In (2010) an American restructuring of the flawless Swedish vampire smash Let the Right One (2009), which brought to life John Ajvide Lindqvist’s haunting, romantic novel to achingly beautiful effect.
The story follows a bullied twelve year old boy who forms a friendship with a lonely, blood depraved vampire, who teaches him how to stand up for himself and overcome his adversaries. As with any film with an ardent fan base, precious few hungered for a remake to Let the Right One In, let alone a Hollywood one, and as with many Western adaptations, Let Me In just doesn’t work.
These divergences are understandable and work well with Reeves’ updated vision, but he also goes further and dismisses aspects that made the original so memorable, chiefly the anonymity of Eli/Abby’s gender, and the relationship she shares with her ‘guardian’, here played by an unusually creepy Richard Jenkins.
One of the main marketing gambits boasted by director Matt Reeves (whose previous film was the rather flat Cloverfield ) was that his version was not a remake of the Swedish original, but a retelling of Lindqvist’s original source material; a similar route the Coen Brothers have recently taken with True Grit (2011). This artistic observation would be believable if it wasn’t for the fact that his film emulates, almost verbatim, exactly the same scenes and shots found in the far superior Let the Right One In, a key example of this being the blood-soaked finale at the school swimming pool, in which Owen’s victimising bullies are subjected to the full extent of Abby’s wrath.
Even as a quasi-‘shot for shot’ remake, it is still a lesser film than the original due to its hurried treatment of the relationship between the protagonists. Their relationship feels under developed, prohibiting the audience from fully engaging with the two outcasts as much as is needed, even if Smit-McPhee and Moretz deliver fine performances, making full use of the material they are given. The film also amps up the action, in true Hollywood form, as more focus is given to Abby’s catlike vampiric abilities and her knack for honing in on her prey.