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.