Rewind Review – Let Me In

If there’s something I try to avoid, and most of the times succeed in doing, it’s comparative analysis as a film review. In the case of Let Me In, that is nearly unavoidable seeing as how, in my humble opinion, Let the Right One In, the film upon which it is based, was the best film of 2008. However, owing to the fact that many reading this will not have seen that film I will attempt to keep most of my comments to germane to the latter version alone.
First, to allay fears of the devotees. Gus Van Sant set a very dangerous precedent in the world of remakes by choosing to reshoot Psycho a feat of little to no merit considering what Hitchcock’s opinion of principal photography was that “it’s all mechanical.” This remake is not like that. Being faithful and reverential will undoubtedly get you similar shots but it is not a shot-by-shot remake. Some scenes are not there, some scenes are re-arranged some things are altered entirely to make the tale more American.
My main concern was making the story an American one without forcing it. I think a lot of attention was paid to finding a way to make the story elements seem American and to actually retell as oppose to changing for changing’s sake. There were actually some inspired brilliant touches in that regard.

Is it very similar to the original and will you be anticipating certain scenes and be analyzing via comparison whether you want to or not? No question. Does that make it a difficult watch at times? Yes, but it does draw you in and stand on its own two legs and in the end it does become emotionally engaging and not feel like it was a waste and thus the antithesis of the Psycho remake. Not only because there are certain parts of the film excised to make it a more myopic version of events within the story but also there was a literal change of pace in certain parts, certain parts played more languidly other sped up. It was like a reinterpretation of a classical music piece rather than a crass cover by a hack pop artist.

The film, of course, would never work without the right cast in place and the two most important characters in this tale are the kids: Owen, a picked on loner who is dealing with a divorce at home and Abby, a girl who is new to the neighborhood who has a gruesome secret. If you’ve seen either Kodi-Smit McPhee (The Road) or Chloe Grace Moretz Before (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kick-Ass) you know some of what their capable of but this film blows it out of the water. They are astounding and shoulder the tremendous burden of this film with ease.

This film’s horrific elements shine through quite a bit even though it is not high on the typical gruesome, gory scene that we are so accustomed to. Knowing both these characters so well their revelations carry weight and heightens the few instances that do occur. Yet the film is also taut with real human emotion as the coming of age aspect is not buried. There is the divorce, the bullying the awkward kinship that slowly Owen and Abby start to build.

At one point Michael Giacchino’s score becomes too lilting and circular like an anti-Philip Glass such that it wasn’t ambient anymore and made me pay careful attention to it the rest of the way, which is unfortunate because the rest of it was much better and quite good. It just became a distraction when it couldn’t afford to at all.

The cinematography by Greig Fraser was very noteworthy and looked fantastic. The playground scenes were as opulent as shots with negative fill could be and in much of the scenes the intimacy or claustrophobia of the tale was heightened by the framing and the lighting.

There will always be those who hate a remake just because it’s a remake. It is human nature to pick and choose. The bottom line as a fan of this story was that once I heard this was announced all I could do was cross my fingers because it was going to happen whether anyone liked it or not. I am glad it came out this way and kudos to Matt Reeves for tackling a leviathan of modern horror.

9/10

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61 Days of Halloween: Daybreakers

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Daybreakers

Daybreakers is yet another vampire movie who may have fallen victim to an overexposed genre in terms of box office. While it does have a good premise, and creates a seemingly true to life realistic future world that never seems hyper-real, it is by no means perfect. The positive is that there were at least three legitimate very good scares and shocks in this film.

What is interesting to note in the film is that directors Michael and Peter Spierig not only wrote the movie but were also lead effects artists, which allows their vision to be total in the film, and the effects work is most definitely up to snuff. It is in story that the film lacks at times. There is definitely a visual signature to this film, which possesses the rare quality of being desaturated much of the time yet still being interesting to look at. Their future work will be something to be on the lookout for.

Willem Dafoe steals the show in this film, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand he’s a great performer and it’s great to see him work, but on the other hand as soon as he enters the picture everyone else becomes less interesting even the protagonist, which of course is never good. He and his character are such large personalities that they dominate scenes he is in. Thankfully the good doctor of this tale, Ethan Hawke, does get some alone time so we can still follow him distraction free.

The second act is without question the hardest act to execute in a film. First and third acts it is often said are a piece of cake. There are struggles with pace, motivation and logic through the second act as the film nears its conclusion.

One of the central conflicts of characters is between Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and Frankie Dalton (Michael Dorman). The former being an altruistic doctor seeking a blood substitute for the vampire world and the latter being a soldier. Towards the end Frankie informs Edward why he infected him. It is difficult to tell whether or not Frankie is lying and if he is truthful as it’s a pretty flimsy excuse that is not compelling at all.

While there is the rare effective use of slow motion the ending conflict does get a little bogged down, however, the cure that is thought of in this film is clever.

The movie avoided ending on time and decided to close with a cheesy scare attempt failing to notice that the last impression we get of the film is as important, if not more so, than the first. Conversely the first impression we get is a little odd. We get an inciting incident, a well-done dramatic little scene, featuring a character who has no bearing on the rest of the film whatsoever.

It is worth watching but is does not quite live up to the expectation that is set up during a very clever and effective first act.

7/10