Let Me In, Toronto Film Festival
Friday 17 September 2010
It's only been two years since Tomas Alfredson adapted John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Let The Right One In for the big screen, and already the American-set remake is upon us. This is the first film made by the recently resurrected British horror brand Hammer Films, and they have a hit on their hands.
Cloverfield director Matt Reeves has been charged with filling Alfredson's considerable boots, and he does a fine job of not steering too far from the original, while also putting his own stamp on the vampire tale.
The big change is the decision to set the movie in the 1980s, which ensures that the movie has an eclectic soundtrack; arcade games and the Rubik's cube also feature, but in a subtle way. The film also makes use of Reagan-era politics in the background to suggest that the characters are living in a more dog-eat-dog world.
The central story is still the same. A young bullied loner, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee from The Road), strikes up a friendship with his seemingly young female neighbour Abby (Chloë Moretz from Kick-Ass), and is enamoured by her strength of character and willingness to fight her corner. As they get closer, she reveals that she's a vampire.
The changes from the original when they do come are handled well. A small uninspiring town in New Mexico is the replacement for Stockholm. Reeves also places more emphasis on suspense and horror. Far less time is taken before it's revealed that 12-year-old Abby is a bloodsucker, a smart move given the success of the original and the marketing machine behind English-language films meaning that few will go into this film without knowing it's about creatures of the night.
The role of her "father", played by the fabulous character actor Richard Jenkins, is also beefed up and given a different, more complex, hue. And Elias Koteas has fun dressing like a TV cop from the late 1970s as he investigates the string of bizarre murders that have been taking place across town. These complex adult characters add a further level of intrigue to the tale.
For the most part, though, Reeves remains incredibly faithful to the original, even going so far as to recreate several scenes exactly, although he does occasionally surprise by placing these scenes in a different order.
What's especially nice about Let Me In is that it doesn't try to play with the conventions of the vampire picture in the way of a lot of modern American films have, the prime example being the Twilight series. So the vampires in Let Me In have to stay out of the sunlight and need to be invited into people's houses if they are to enter with all their faculties intact.
The bigger budget of this remake also means that the special effects are a bit more spectacular. Moretz looks incredibly sinister with her eyes glowing and blood pouring from her mouth.
Nonetheless it's not the CGI that will win audiences over, but the great central performances from the two young actors. Plus the fact that – as in all the best examples of the genre – underneath the gore, the true story is about internal emotional conflict and the loneliness of being an outsider.
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