Saturday 6 November 2010

Review: Let Me In

Year: 2010
Director: Matt Reeves
Screenplay: Matt Reeves
Starring: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins

Synopsis is here:

It's very interesting that David Cronenberg gets no shit for his remake of The Fly. In fact when you ask some people, they probably don't even know it's a remake due to the fact that Cronenberg did such a great job with his version. For many his film is the one to be celebrated. The same could be said (depending on who you speak to) for Christopher Nolan and Insomnia (remake from a 1997 Scandinavian feature). I do believe John Carpenter gets almost nothing but props for his remake of The Thing from Another World (1951). The Thing is considered one of his best movies. And as for Invasion of the body snatchers, well you can take your pick of the four different versions of the material (1956, 1978, 1993, 2007).

Yes, when it comes to remakes we do get fussy don't we? These days our horses are never higher then when we hear of a film being redone, remixed, reimagined or rebooted. I was pretty much told that I was wrong to enjoy The Departed over Infernal Affairs, while those who know me know never to mention The Omen 666 within close proximity to me. We love those original ideas the way they were, and who the hell are Hollywood to be stealing ideas and gussying them up? Well considering that the first remake was The Great Train Robbery (1903) they're only doing what the medium has been doing since the beginning.

Which brings me on to Let Me In. A remake of the very successful Let The Right One In (2008), Let me in was quickly pushed into development much to the outrage of many fans of the Swedish vampire flick. I can see why many are so angry. The issue with remakes these day are of course time, volume and knowledge. If Let the Right One in was a little known 50's film from New Zealand then no one would give a damn. Unfortunately it's not. It's a critically revered vampire drama released not even two years ago as I write this. Because of such a short turnaround, a high volume of material being remade and so many people knowing (and liking) the original, this makes Let Me In feel more than a tad unnecessary.

The dirty little secret is however, Let Me In is quite good. In fact there are certain changes within the film that are accomplished better than the original film. One is a stunning, one shot, car crash set piece that not only replaces a botched changing room incident but does so with terrific aplomb. Another is how Matt Reeves displayed the strained relationship between Mother and Son within the film. Reeves use of long shorts, opaque glass and generally obscuring the mothers face in conversations with Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) enhances the isolation the character feels within the film. That strained relationship is of course within the original film, however it's not as strongly implemented.

Such moments hit harder as Let Me In is a more slightly more aggressive film than it's counterpart. However films need balance and the films more "bombastic" aspects sway the movie slightly. Let The Right One In is a film of poetic beauty with much of it's power coming from being so understated. Let Me In reminds you that American movies (particularly now) are more about reference and clarification than anything else. The opening segments involving Owen seem to evoke Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960), while the singular scene involving Owen's father is no longer a quiet meeting but a telephone conversation with dialogue to push the development. If there's one thing that Let the Right One in does well it's tell the story with it's visuals. Let Me In is a "louder" affair with it's overwrought score, extra dialogue and more explicit violence. It's filling in the holes, telling you a little more than you need and taking away the ambiguity.

This reaffirms something that I believe some American features suffer from; which is, lack of faith in the audience. It's very slight but the aforementioned elements shows a reluctance from Reeves to just run with things.  He has two brilliant child actors to work with (Smit-McPhee and Moretz are grounded and believable and intensely watchable here) and both have these wonderfully evocative faces to utilize, and for the most part he uses them well. However in the need to make the film it's own entity, Let Me In simplifies it's narrative (the bullies are harsher, but no cryptic crotch shots) to make everything feel more palatable. There's also certain choices that help morph the film into more of a "thriller" than the coming of age drama, vampire hybrid Let The Right One In happily straddles. 

But lets make things clear here. Reeves coming off Cloverfield (a film I consider an extraordinarily well done genre piece) has made a beautifully shot and entertaining film which despite a few side steps still manages to maintain that emotional core relationship and does not offend the source material. What it lacks in subtly it makes up in balls. I did not have that same rush I felt after watching Let The Right One In but I did find myself more than satisfied with the end product. I will suggest you watch the original film but there is nothing wrong with this film being a noisier cousin.

Note: I stated in my original review of Let The Right One in that the movies score was obtrusive. After a second viewing this week and watching this I can safely say I was wrong.