Let Me In
Dir: Matt Reeves
Although I vowed to watch Let Me In, the American remake of Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, as if the latter film did not exist, I found such an idea to be impossible. The original version came out two years ago, an unjustifiably short period of time for a remake to appear, and it was not viable to pretend it didn’t exist. However, rather than be a soulless facsimile of the original, Reeves somehow transports the beating heart of Let the Right One In and plops it squarely down in the middle of wintry Los Alamos, New Mexico, circa 1983.
A study of youthful alienation (just like Tomas Alfredson’s original), Let Me In would have been such a damned good film if not a remake. But instead, it is damned for perpetuity to being compared to the Swedish version. Purists will prefer Alfredson’s film, of course. It would be garish to choose an American film over a European one. But despite minor changes and a different idiom, Let Me In and Let the Right One In are more or less the same films. They both feature a hurting, isolated protagonist and shitty special effects.
However, Let Me In cuts out the disconnection between the people living around the apartment complex that plays out as the film’s central location. While Let the Right One In also included the reactions of neighbors and the vivid transformation of one woman into a vampire, Let Me In focuses only on the characters that fall within the purview of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee): his absentee mother, the kids that bully him at school, the neighbors he observes from his window and Abby (Chloë Moretz), the vampire child who moves in next door with her hapless “helper” (Richard Jenkins).
In both films, we are seduced, just like the young boy, by the charms of the young vampire. Like Owen, we are alone in the darkness of the cinema, surrounded by strangers who are focused on something other than our personal worries. Abby is that lifeline, the escape from the pain and torment of everyday life. When Owen closes the door as Elias Koteas’ dying policeman reaches up for him, Owen is succumbing, becoming part of the violence surrounding him.
Reeves is also very canny about where and when he places his story. Ronald Reagan is on the television, giving a speech about “Star Wars.” We never see Owen’s mother’s face. His father is a disembodied voice on the telephone. It is impossible not to watch the film on only a humanistic level but as an allegory of a time and era where discontent sucked the lifeblood out of families, tearing apart homes and ratcheting up the number of divorces in the United States. Owen is just one victim of many.
by David Harris