film comment: why Let Me In is good, but not as good as the original

Let Me In is the crazier, louder, rougher-around-the-edges twin sister of the original film Let the Right One In. The original is Swedish, and the aesthetic is rather different if you’ve never caught a Swedish film. The ones I’ve seen (mainly Bergman’s work) are more still and slow, with moments of power that rush over you. And even the powerful moments have a quiet quality. This aesthetic serves this particular story exceptionally well. I was gonna include a link to a trailer, but I feel it shows too much. Hop on netflix and watch it (it was on Instant play last I looked). But trust me when I say the big moments are major payoff for all the quiet in this film. I’m pretty sure I’ll always love Let the Right One In.

To clear, I liked Let Me In. It’s a solid and respectful remake, with its own identity as a film. It’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year as well. It just isn’t as good as the original. If I gave the original an A, I’d give this one a B. Overall, I feel that the aesthetic of American horror films over the last few years is just not a good fit for this story. Even though it’s a lot quieter than most horror films this side of the pond (with virtually none of the cheap horror tricks that directors love to use when they think there isn’t quite enough piss running down a teenager’s pants), it still is a little too much. The one improvement I’ll say Let Me In makes is in the way is shows the relationship of the boy’s parents. It’s handled more efficiently, largely through two brief phone calls, whereas the original had a whole scene where the boy visits the dad and then leaves on his own with little explanation about what exactly was going on. So I’ll give them that. Performance-wise, the actors are on par with the original cast. No weak links. There are two things I had an issue with, and they made all the difference for me.

The first is the way the central relationship between the boy and the vampire develops. It felt hasty, from the first moment they meet. This is not a script issue; it’s the editing. A couple of pauses here and there would have easily taken care of that. It felt like the characters didn’t discover each other as much as they were thrust in front of each other and they immediately rolled with it. I think this may have been a deliberate director’s choice, but I didn’t like it. Some of the intimacy of the story was lost for me.

The second issue I had is what really blew it for me. And the fucked up thing is that it initially had the potential to be BRILLIANT. I’m getting ahead of myself. So earlier I said that they handled the parents’ relationship more efficiently in this film. They tried to be even more efficient with this other part of the story, and it backfired terribly. There’s a few scenes in the original where a woman is attacked by the vampire but survives, and then slowly becomes a vampire, and dies in stunning fashion (do not watch the trailer). This time they tried to do the whole transformation in a single scene. A. Single. Scene. Noooooooooooo. We lose the opportunity to realize what’s happening, and there’s NO build up to the stunning death. No build up at all. It’s like squirting your pants while making out. Seriously. And the reason I say it COULD have been brilliant anyway, was because the angle they used to show that she had transformed was way in the background, a little out of focus. If they’d kept that kind of restraint for the total revelation, it really could have worked. But what happened was that after the subtle hint that I just described, they go WAY overboard, and it’s gory and freaky, with no chance for the audience to even GET what’s going on before it climaxes. It was too rushed, too in-your-face. Man they blew that. It hurts. Furthermore, there was a key decision that the character makes prior to her death that does not occur this time. It was poignant moment that is lost.

So if those two things had been better, I’d have even nicer things to say about Let Me In. As it stands, it is simply the crazier, louder not-quite-as-good twin sister of Let the Right One In. If you see the remake, you owe it to yourself to see both. If you only see one, hop on netflix.

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