Let Me In
One of Five Stars
Rated R/115 min.
Most horror-movie remakes have the courtesy to wait a few decades before yanking a moldy old title from its grave. But we live in the era of instant nostalgia—and so we get Let Me In, a shameless rehashing of Let the Right One In, a Swedish vampire drama that was released just two years ago. The original made my Best of 2008 list and is widely (and deservedly) considered among the best vampire films ever made, though it was screened in only a handful of art-house theaters and was dwarfed by the much-hyped premiere of the first Twilight movie. Too bad, because the difference between Let the Right One In and Twilight is like the difference between a big, juicy Spam Musubi and a stale Slim Jim. The story is of a small, somewhat unpleasant little boy who is bullied mercilessly at school and meets a peculiar little girl who tells him, “I’ve been 12 for a very long time.” The boy learns that his new best friend is a vampire, which doesn’t bother him at all: he loves her and is grateful to have a girlfriend.
With the remake, let’s start with the title—it’s a giveaway that this is Let the Right One In for dummies. What, does the LOL crowd not have enough time to text the original title? The new title doesn’t even make sense, unless it’s followed with “not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!”
If you haven’t seen the original, you’ll likely wonder what the big deal was in the first place. Instead of snowy Sweden, which evoked the dark poetry of Ingmar Bergman, the story is now set in New Mexico in the 1980s, which means we get ’80s tunes and a scene where the kids play Pac-Man. Hooray for progress!
The boy is now played by Kodi Smit-Mcphee as a generically cute misfit and his vampire sweetheart is played by Chloe Moretz. Unlike the young actors in the heartbreaking original, there’s no chemistry between the kids and the love story is a wash. The original had a few bloody moments but kept the most shocking violence out of view. This one is explicitly gory and disgusting from start to finish. Severed heads and ears don’t enhance the proceedings, and neither do digital lens flares, obvious and overused CGI and a heavy-handed “Spielbergian glow” during the playground courtship scenes.
Pivotal subplots are clipped away and what was elegantly suggested before is spelled out loudly here; it’s like reading a second-hand copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with every other sentence smeared with blaring pink highlighter. The original began quietly, setting a sinister tone; the remake opens with a bombastic, screeching prologue that the story needlessly circles back to.
I don’t blame the actors, who try their best. Elias Koteas, in particular, tries gamely but his role as a cop (not featured in the original) makes no sense beyond being a walking plot device. Director Matt Reeves shows skill as a director, even when helming a stinker of a revival, much like Gus Van Sant did remaking Psycho.
This is a distinctly Swedish story that doesn’t work in New Mexico or New England or Paia or anywhere else. There was no need for this movie. They got it right the first time.