2010 seems to be the year of well-made, utterly entertaining but ultimately pointless remakes. I’m happy to say that Matt Reeves’ adaptation of the Swedish film “Let the Right One In” hits all the right notes. It doesn’t mangle a great movie, a movie that was #3 on my top 10 list in 2008. That’s not a slam; indeed, that’s about the highest praise I can give it. It would be hard to improve on the original.
Again, in case you forgot, this is the story of a 12 year old girl who is a vampire, and has been one for a very long time. She has a tender, played by Richard Jenkins, who appears to be her father, but is actually younger than she is. When he dies – “Let Me In” moves his death to the beginning, than flashes back, a basically pointless, harmless diversion from the original movie — she befriends the 12 year old boy next door, who is lonely, isolated picked on, and, as I said in my review of “Let the Right One In,” well on his way to becoming a Travis Bickle.
In some ways, “Let Me In” Americanization does make it a different movie. For instance:
- The gory scenes are more glamorized, which, in my opinion, makes them less effective. I almost always prefer the chilling, matter-of-fact brutality of foreign horror over the over-the-top American kind.
- It’s set in New Mexico, which is odd to me; the season is winter, and while I know that it snows plenty in New Mexico, the fact that the snow will eventually melt off and the thermometer will surpass 90 violates the eternally chilly feeling of the original, set in Sweden. Why not set it in North Dakota?
- The time is 1983, and there’s a clip of Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire” speech on a TV at the very beginning. There’s a bit more talk about the nature of good and evil; the boy’s mother prays protection from evil every night, and his estranged father calls her religion nonsense. Reeves seems interested in making a point about good and evil — but not all that interested, because I’m not sure what that point is. The banality of evil? Certainly you don’t expect it to take the form of the 12 year old girl next door.
- On the other hand — and this is always the weirdness of watching foreign movies– while seeing Reagan on the TV and hearing ten words from a familiar (and famous) speech evokes a certain time and place– and moral climate — to me, I have no idea what was on the TV in the Swedish version. The background noise didn’t get subtitled, and I have no such associations with Swedish culture and history. So maybe that moral climate piece was there in the original, and I just missed it because I’m not Swedish.
If that last point is the case, then “Let Me In” has a reason to exist, as it brings out a point in “Let the Right One In” lost on all (or most all) American viewers. But if it isn’t, then this is “Let the Right One In” for people too lazy to read subtitles. Like “True Grit,” it’s a perfectly good movie, well made, entertaining, etc. But so was the one before it. What’s the point?