Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let Me In

Not too long ago, in 2008, a Swedish film called Let the Right One In was released and it took the world by storm.  Many horror aficionados praised it—especially fans of the vampire subgenre—and a few of my fellow horror movie buffs recommended it to me, citing that I’d love it.  So, always giving anything a try, I ventured throughout the Netflix web site and found that the film was available, having it sent out to me right away.  Although I had my reservations about foreign films—especially the trouble of having to alternate between reading the subtitles and watching the action on screen—I went ahead and took a gander at this film when it arrived in my mailbox.

Well…I didn’t enjoy it.  Much to the disappointment of friends that suggested the film to me, I just couldn’t help but dislike it.  Although I found the story interesting, I didn’t think it warranted the praise it had received by a lot of horror film critics.  Now, I must say, I didn’t shut it off halfway through the movie, but watched the whole thing, thinking there might’ve been some saving grace that’d make me applaud it.  But, to me, there wasn’t…and I didn’t.  Someone asked me why I didn’t care for the film and I had to think about it for a while, not really sure myself why I hadn’t enjoyed it, and it finally hit me—the dubbed voices.  I recalled that when the disc booted up, I went through the menu and decided against watching the film in its original format, choosing to watch it with the English language dubbing.  When I informed my friend of that, he said that’s why I probably didn’t enjoy it.  He said not only did I miss out in the correct inflections of the actors’ voices, but also on the sound effects they’d used throughout, which I hear is rather unique.

Even with all that, I just couldn’t find myself trying to watch the film again.  I saw it.  I felt what I felt about it.  That’s all.

Well, cut to a couple of years later, and Hollywood wants in on this Swedish vampire craze.  Hammer Films gained the rights to the story and proceeded to go forth with hiring Matt Reeves (of Cloverfieldfame) to direct the American film version. 

Now, in my opinion, the worst thing Hollywood has been doing nowadays is remaking/rebooting/reimagining movies, showing no originality or creativity whatsoever.  Second to that, however, is when American film studios take films from other countries (especially if it’s a non-English speaking country) to make an English version of them.  Usually, the end result is something subpar in comparison to the original.  But was that the case with the American version of Let the Right One In?  That’s a good question.

Titled Let Me In, the movie didn’t veer off the Swedish film’s premise (besides the location) and, of course, the language spoken throughout.  I pretty much wasn’t looking forward to it when it was announced, but as time went on and I had seen the first trailer, I became interested and decided to see the film on opening day back on October 1st of 2010.

The film focuses on a young boy, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who’s bullied at school and is quite a
loner, spending most days by himself at the apartment that he shares with his mother (Cara Buono).  One day, he notices new neighbors—an older man and a young girl—moving in who keep paper plastered on their windows and are seldom seen.  Owen spends a lot of time in the snowy play area in front of the apartment building and he soon meets the young girl, Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), striking up a friendship with her.  Soon, Owen realizes that Abby is a vampire.

Let Me In, just like the original Swedish film, is such a simple story, but was made quite strong in this American remake.  It’s a mystery to me as to why both films are nearly the same—with the location and language excluded—but I still love the American version way better than the Swedish one.  I usually don’t take consideration on the language of the film because I’ve seen many foreign films that I’ve enjoyed and would hate the idea if they’d ever be made into an American adaptation, so I won’t cite that as a reason why.  Even though both films take place in the mid-80s, it might be because this film is a more familiar look at the decade that I had grown up in, as we see the candy Owen consumes—“Now & Later”—that I had enjoyed as a child.  Also, seeing Reagan on the television in the hospital brought back memories of my youth as well.  I guess that’s what it is, the familiarity of the era this movie represents, as to why I enjoyed this version over the original.

Besides that, the two young leads of this film do such a fine job epitomizing their characters that you really felt a sense of reality in the story even though it was about vampirism.

In a lot of movies, you have kids getting bullied, but it’s usually hard to believe that the children playing the victims would get harassed at school, seeing that they’d probably conform well in school.  But with Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Owen, he just embodies the type of kid other children would be drawn to for intimidation.  Kids in school, unfortunately, are usually drawn to the weaker-looking youngsters and that’s exactly how Smit-McPhee looks like—a little weakling.

If there’s one thing I can commend the original film on is the casting of Abby (Eli in the Swedish version).  The little girl in the movie was perfect for the role because of a mysterious subplot that wasn’t featured in the American version (I’ll get into that later).  But she was able to be a little creepier, when needed, than Moretz was in this variation.  However, she was a great little actress in this film and I really enjoyed what she brought to it.  She definitely has a great career ahead of her as long as she avoids films like the remake of Carrie (what a turd that was).

Now, about the subplot that was featured in the original that wasn’t brought up in this film…let me go over it here and give you my take on it.  In the Swedish version, there’s a mysterious scene where Abby (Eli) is in Owen’s (Oskar in the Swedish version) apartment and she changes clothes.  He peeks in on her and notices her pubic area is scarred and sewn up.  It’s quick cut and is never mentioned or brought up later in the movie, but a lot of people were a little perplexed by it.  I guess in the book, it mentions or goes over how the girl was turned into a vampire.  Seems that she was actually a boy and was castrated before being turned, leaving her forever a little girl.  I’m surprised they included that little scene in the original without explaining it, yet I’m not surprised they didn’t include any of that in the American version.  You can imagine how audiences would feel if they saw that in this film—more than likely, uncomfortable—and just how taboo that would be in the first place.  I’m glad they left it out and there was really no need to have it in there anyway.

Also, another surprise performance was by Richard Jenkins as Abby’s “father.”  I was used to quite a few movies where he plays the funny straight man and thought I wouldn’t take him seriously in this movie.  But he pulled off a hell of a performance, especially when you understand what he really was to Abby near the end of the film.

The special effects in this film were subtle and not overbearing.  They were exactly what this film needed and I loved it.  Along with the music and film editing, this film was made so much better with both of those aspects working perfectly in this film.  Overall, the style that Reeves instilled within this film was brilliant, literally putting trivial characters in the background, never featuring them in detail (sometimes out of focus) nor having them seen in full; that was something I hadn’t seen before and I thought it was a nice touch in putting the emphasis on the two main characters.

So, my final “bit” on Let Me In?

It’s an above-average vampire flick that scares you, yet, at the same time, entertains you with its touching story within.  Although not original, Matt Reeves made the film his own with the extra special touches given, making this one of the best horror movies of 2010.  It shouldn’t be missed. 
Side note: whether or not you want to see the Swedish version first is up to you.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

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