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Review: Let Me In (2010) (Tiff)

Sep. 13, 2010by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A lonely young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is befriended by an eternally twelve-year old vampire (Chloe Moretz), who travels with a mysterious adult companion (Richard Jenkins).

REVIEW: LET ME IN is a film I have conflicting opinions about. On the one hand, it's a supremely well-made piece of cinema, and one of the best American vampire movies to come out in ages. On the other hand, it's still a somewhat unnecessary film, as it's a remake of the great Swedish LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, that's so faithful, one wonders why people just can't rent the original?

Sadly, mainstream audiences seem to have a problem with subtitles, so it was inevitable LET THE RIGHT ONE IN would get remade. To that extent, director Matt Reeves has done as good a job as possible with the material, and unlike something like QUARANTINE (which was the American shot-by-shot remake of REC), LET ME IN is a good enough film to stand on it's own to a certain extent.

In fact, had I not seen the original film, I might have thought LET ME IN was some kind of masterpiece. Many of the critics I saw this with at TIFF that hadn't seen the original were totally blown away by it and I imagine the mainstream audience that's unfamiliar with the Swedish film will adore this. Heck, it might even become a classic.

For me, the Swedish original is a far better film, in that it was more subtle and original, but I still enjoyed LET ME IN quite a bit. While the Swedish film was truly an art film, LET ME IN plays more like a homage to old Amblin films from the eighties, particularly E.T. While it retains the snowbound setting of the original (taking place in Los Alamos, New Mexico), it's a much warmer looking and feeling film. It's chock full full of references to E.T, from the fact that our main character is a boy from a broken home, with an absentee father (a Spielberg hallmark). Interestingly, his mother's face is never revealed (as in E.T, where most of the adults were faceless).

Reeves is able to inject a lot of his own craft into this film, and there are enough original, and impressive scenes to make this more than a shot-by-shot remake of the original. There's a bravura car crash sequence that's jaw-droppingly good, and brilliantly conceived and shot. The cast is also uniformly excellent. In fact, one might even say the kids here (Moretz and McPhee) are better than their Swedish counterparts. Moretz in particular was a much more sympathetic presence than the young vampire in the original film, which makes this a more emotionally satisfying film to a certain extent.

I also thought the two main adult actors, Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas, were phenomenal. Both are exquisite character actors, and they're as good here as they've ever been. Jenkins in particular is heartbreaking as the doomed caretaker of Moretz's young vampire. While he does some truly evil things, he never lost my sympathy, and many of his scenes with Moretz were moving, where they might have come off as creepy with anyone else in the part.

However, I did still have a few issues with LET ME IN. For one, they really milk the eighties setting, in a way that wasn't done in the original. It all gets to be a little too much, with some eighties pop song ALWAYS playing in the background (lots of Culture Club), and of course, whenever a TV's on, it's always tuned to a Ronald Reagan speech.

I also thought the musical score by Michael Giacchino was really over-wrought, and derivative of his work on LOST. A more minimalist approach would have probably been more effective, and the maudlin music is far too manipulative. He's without a doubt a talented composer, but too often the score tried to milk emotion out of every single scene, when it really should have been dialed back.

Still, I enjoyed LET ME IN a lot more than I thought I would. While I still think people should check out LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, everyone involved with LET ME IN did a great job adapting it. As far as remakes go, this is one of the best I've seen in a long time.

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