Fans of the original will no doubt pore over each and every borrowed detail, but this is Reeves’ own vision and it has a tragic grandeur all of its own.
On a winding, snow-banked highway in the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Let Me In opens with a statement of intent from director Matt Reeves. As the whir of police sirens yields to Michael Giacchino’s relentless, looming score, the tone is ominously and conspicuously set. This is a horror film, bloody and unabashed. What else did you expect?
Understandably, though perhaps unfairly, Reeves has been at the mercy of the bloggers’ wrath ever since his name was attached to this adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel and remake of Tomas Alfredson’s anti-horror masterpiece, Let the Right One In. Of all the doubts cast over Let Me In, one issue recurred more than any other: the director, whose only previous feature, 2008’s Cloverfield, was hardly renowned for its subtlety and restraint.
Such qualities would be indispensable for anyone looking to capture the serenity and emotional maturity of Alfredson’s original. But Reeves’ film isn’t about holding back. It’s about classic archetypes – victims, suburban tedium and highschool politics. It’s about bloodshed, revenge and unleashing the beast within.
Superficially, then, Let Me In is a full-blown genre flick: the eerie quietude so deftly composed by its predecessor is here ousted by bloodcurdling screams and eye-watering violence. It’s explicit, but somehow this change of tack works.
It’s easy to condemn Reeves for trying to spoon-feed the uncultured masses, but Let Me In isn’t aimed exclusively at audiences who find slow-burning Swedish drama a hard sell. Under the newly resurrected Hammer banner, even the most ardent critic would be hard-pushed to brand Let Me In the cinematic sacrilege it might have been.
In truth, the more you draw comparisons between the two films, the more incomparable they become. Shot-for-shot reconstructions of several iconic scenes may reaffirm Let the Right One In’s unequivocal brilliance, but Reeves never concerns himself with trying to better perfection. Instead, he simply tells his version of a bittersweet coming-of-age story that, in essence, could take place on any street, in any neighbourhood, in any town.
His task is eased by the presence of Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who, after staving off supervillains and the apocalypse respectively, are superb as the more anglicised Abby and Owen. While Moretz and Smit-McPhee are likely to receive most of the plaudits, however, it’s Reeves’ development of several fringe characters (notably Richard Jenkins’ Father and Elias Koteas’ Policeman) along with the odd personal touch that gives Let Me In its own voice.
Swapping rural Scandinavia for small town USA and background pop culture references – Ms. Pac-Man, Bowie, televised seeds of Reaganomics – textures the film with nods to Reeves’ own adolescence. Fans of the book and Alfredson’s film will no doubt pore over each and every borrowed detail, but this is Reeves’ own vision and it has a tragic grandeur all of its own.
A refined Swedish masterpiece gets a Hollywood makeover. What could go wrong?
A surprisingly personal reimagination that ought to shake up mainstream horror cinema.
After all the talk about the director, it’s the performances of Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee that really linger.