“You forgot the first rule of remakes; don’t fuck with the original!” That isn’t a line from Let Me In – it’s from remake-analysis-machine Scream 4. But it definitely applies to this somewhat unnecessary remake. Not because Let Me In fucks with the much-loved Swedish film it’s based on (Let The Right One In), but because it knows it shouldn’t, and it doesn’t.
Let Me In is smarter than that. Strike that, writer/director Matt Reeves is smarter than that. There’s no doubt he’s a fan of both Tomas Alfredson’s heartbreakingly melancholic Let The Right One In and the disturbing novel it’s based on, and with Let Me In he’s fashioned a loving, cynicism-free sibling for that delicate original. His film’s both love letter and companion – very almost a spliced negative.
It’s impossible to talk about Let Me In without referencing Alfredson’s film. Frequently taking its cue from its Swedish sister, Reeves’ remake is steeped in warm oranges and frosty blues, and it dutifully hits all the same story beats (sometimes even copying entire shots). This is no Psycho ’98, though. Ensuring we know he’s not sticking to a clinical blueprint, Reeves isn’t entirely enslaved to his source material – he stops Let Me In from becoming a stale retread by subtly shaking up the formula, rendering the events themselves anew with confident, polished precision.
If possible, Let Me In positions Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) even more at its centre, isolating him to a devastating degree. His mother’s face is never shown, his father’s just a voice on the telephone, and he’s brutally bullied by three bigger boys at school. When Abby (Chloe Moretz) appears, it’s a relief – a wary smile from her meaning more to Owen than a single word from his mother’s lips.
Meanwhile, Let Me In’s biggest departure comes in the form of Richard Jenkins’ ‘Father’, who hunts from the backseats of cars with a Jason Voorhees-style bag on his head. This shake-up leads to Let Me In’s finest accomplishment – a spectacular car crash shot from inside the vehicle that seems to be one death-defying, continuous take.
That’s the kind of innovative derring-do that makes you wish Reeves was directing original material. He’s clearly a talented filmmaker with things to say, but he’s almost invisible throughout Let Me In, time and again restrained by his reverence for Alfredson’s masterful original. To his credit, though, Reeves does pull off the trickiest aspect of his remake – he makes Let The Right One In American without ‘Americanising’ it one bit.
How? Well, he keeps the plot basically the same (young bullied boy meets neighbour girl who’s a vampire, they become friends). The snow’s still there (courtesy of New Mexico). So is the Rubik’s Cube. But Reeves is re-telling the same story with emphasis in different areas. He trains his focus even more directly on our scrawny, awkward duo – so much so that all peripheral characters become literally a blur to his lens.
That altered title is also a telling departure – it’s very almost a request from Reeves himself. He wants us to give Let Me In a chance. And we should, not least because it’s one of the year’s most beautifully shot films, with both Moretz and Smit-McPhee delivering complex performances well beyond their years.
Is this remake completely unnecessary? Absolutely. Is it completely redundant? Not quite. As remakes go, it’s respectful, if not quite daring enough – a kind of warm up for Reeves to move onto bigger and better things. And it certainly doesn’t fuck with the original. 3/5