Cody and Priscilla contemplate the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In and its 2010 Americanization, Let Me In.
We often like our Remake Comparisons to coincide with certain holidays. For example, we've done My Bloody Valentine for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Flowers in the Attic for the Mother's Day holiday, The Stepfather for Father's Day, Night of the Demons for Halloween, Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night for Christmas...
Christmas aside, the list is dominated by the American versions of those holidays. But when we started to think of what we could cover for June, my Brazilian collaborator and I had a Brazilian holiday in mind. Brazil's version of Valentine's Day is June 12th, Lover's Day, Dia dos Namorados. Then June 13th is Santo Antônio's Day, the celebration of a matchmaking saint. So we were thinking of love stories... And on the heels of the holidays, we're ready to post our write-up on one of my favorite love stories and its remake.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)
When writing his debut novel, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist essentially wrote his childhood. Born in December of 1968 and raised in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, Lindqvist was twelve for most of 1981, and he set his story, which had a twelve-year-old protagonist, in Blackeberg circa 1981. His main character is relentlessly bullied at school, like Lindqvist himself was. What didn't reflect reality was a character he had his protagonist meet and befriend, a little girl with a dark secret. A secret that firmly set the book within the horror genre.
A Morrissey fan, Lindqvist titled his novel Låt den rätte komma in, which translates to Let the Right One In, inspired by the Morrissey song "Let the Right One Slip In".
The fact that the writer knew the location, the time period, and the emotions all very well enhanced the effectiveness of the book for those who read it, and it became a bestseller in Sweden when it was published in 2004. The publisher was quickly bombarded with requests for the film rights. Lindqvist eventually decided that producer John Nordling was the one to make the film. The deal was made with the stipulation that Lindqvist would handle the screenplay adaptation of his work himself.
Tomas Alfredson, who had been working primarily in Swedish television for nearly twenty years, came on board to direct the film. He wasn't very familiar with horror, but what drew him in was the emotional connection between the two lead characters, as well as the '80s setting and the bullying aspect. Alfredson could relate to those elements; he had been sixteen in 1981, and had also been bullied in his youth.
It took nearly a year for the filmmakers to find the child actors they felt would perfectly fill the roles of the two leads. Once that foundation was in place, the production was on track for a January 2008 premiere.
The film begins with silence and darkness. Opening credits appearing in white on a black screen. The sound of blowing wind comes in. As the credits near their end, the black screen becomes the night sky. Snow is falling. We hear a little boy say, "Squeal like a pig. Squeal!"
The boy is twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), who's hanging out in his room, shirtless and wielding a knife, looking out the window and threatening an imaginary victim. While doing this, Oskar witnesses the arrival of new residents to the apartment building: a girl who appears to be Oskar's age, accompanied by a middle-aged man. These are Eli (Lina Leandersson) and her caretaker Håkan (Per Ragnar). They move into the apartment right next to the one Oskar shares with his often absent mother.
As Håkan oddly goes to work blocking one of the apartment windows with a poster and some cardboard, another resident takes notice of their arrival - a middle-aged drunk man named Lacke (Peter Carlberg), who sees the movement in the window while he's outside urinating in the snow.
I love how subtle this beginning is. Atmospheric, sort of melancholy, and mysterious.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding the first scenes. And the sad, dark score takes it to an even more somber level.
The next day we see why Oskar threatens imaginary people with pig insults. It's what he endures himself during the school day. A boy named Conny (Patrik Rydmark) and his two buddies make Oskar's life a nightmare, intimidating him and calling him a pig. Oskar seems to be a smart kid, he correctly answers a forensics question asked by a police officer who's visiting his class, but he's meek, withdrawn, and damaged because of what Conny does to him.
The police officer had a presence throughout the book, but that didn't make it into the film because he didn't really serve a purpose in the end.
That night, Håkan goes out to a path through a wooded park and when he catches the attention of a young boy by asking him the time, he pulls out a canister of the anesthestic gas halothane and places its breathing mask over the boy's face, knocking him out.
Apparently this isn't just going to be a drama about a troubled kid!
I was puzzled when I watched the movie for the first time, since I didn't really know what it was about.
Håkan then hangs the unconscious boy's body upside down from a tree. After putting a jug with a funnel under the boy's head, Håkan slits his throat. The blood starts draining into the jug while Håkan waits to gather it. His wait is interrupted when a dog strays from the path to check out what he's up to. While trying to shoo the dog away, Håkan knocks over the jug of blood. Worse, when the girls who were walking the dog get too close, Håkan abandons the jug and runs, not realizing his blunder until he's on the way back to the apartment.
Even before the jug issue, Håkan comes off as incompetent simply due to his choice of location. A sparsely wooded area just off a busy path is no place for blood draining.
You'd think he's new at this, that he's never done it before.
Oskar is also out with a knife tonight, threatening his invisible adversary again, stabbing a tree in the courtyard of the apartment complex. Oskar's dark fantasies are disrupted when he senses the presence of Eli, standing on top of the nearby jungle gym. While Oskar is bundled in winter clothes, Eli wears a simple button down shirt, the sleeves rolled up above her elbows.
Eli asks, "What are you doing?" Oskar replies, "Nothing," and asks if she lives there.
I first saw Let the Right One In at an all-night theatrical horror marathon in October of 2008, and was so blown away by it that I pre-ordered the Blu-ray as soon as possible. I was disappointed to find that the home video release had different, lesser subtitles than what I saw in the theatre. My first negative response to the new subs was in this scene, with how Eli replies to Oskar's question. In the theatrical subs, she answered with a joke, "Yeah... I live right here, in the jungle gym." In the DVD/Blu subs, she simply says, "Yes... I live here."
It really bothers me when things like that happen. Less subtitles is just very lame and lazy.
The reworked subtitles got such a negative reaction from people who had seen the movie theatrically that an edition with the original theatrical subs was released soon after, but I've yet to get my hands on a copy that has them.
I've only seen this movie twice, and the first time I saw it was actually on TV, so the subtitles were in Portuguese. I don't exactly remember if anything was any different than in the DVD I have, which is the same one that Cody has.
After confirming to Oskar that she lives in the apartment right beside his, then jumping down from the jungle gym with unnatural ease, Eli ends their talk by saying she can't be friends with him. That's just the way it is.
When Håkan gets back, Eli is enraged to find that he didn't bring the blood jug with him. He's supposed to help her...
I remember how baffled I was at Eli's and the middle-aged man's relationship the first time I watched the movie. I didn't know who/what he was, so I assumed he was her father, and the way he let her treat him was just so awful. I couldn't believe it.
Oskar's mother is very worried about the news of a murder over in Vällingby. Oskar isn't concerned, he just wants to collect the newspaper headlines about a killer draining their victim's blood for his scrapbook full of pictures of knives and newspaper clippings about murders.
The next night, Oskar has just sat down to play with his Rubik's Cube on the jungle gym when Eli sits down behind him. Dressed the same as she was before. They both say they want to be left alone, but they keep talking. Even after Oskar makes the comment that she smells funny. Oskar lets Eli borrow his Rubik's Cube for a day or two. When he asks if she's cold, she says she's forgotten how to be cold.
Throughout the scene, the sound of Eli's stomach growling can be heard. When Oskar leaves, she experiences a hunger pain so bad that she doubles over.
Having gotten in another evening of drinking, Lacke and his friend Jocke depart for the night. Jocke's path home takes him through a tunnel, and from the shadows the voice of a little girl can be heard, asking for help. Jocke approaches the girl, picks her up to carry her to safety... and the girl attacks him, biting him on the neck and drinking his blood. It's Eli, and when she has drank her fill, she finishes Jocke by breaking his neck, twisting his head 180 degrees.
As easily as Eli takes down this grown man, she could have killed Oskar even more easily at any time during their interactions. She chose not to.
All of this is witnessed by shut-in cat hoarder Gösta from the window of his apartment. Gösta knows Lacke and his friends, and where to find them. Gathering them up, Gösta leads them to the scene of the murder, but by the time they get there there's no sign of what happened aside from some blood in the snow.
Jocke's body has been dragged off by Håkan, who dumps it into a nearby lake. Håkan was very upset to hear that Eli went out and took care of business on her own. Through the wall of his bedroom, Oskar could hear the man yelling at her, although the words weren't clear, only the fact that Eli was in trouble.
By the time Eli and Oskar meet again, she has solved the Rubik's Cube, which greatly impresses him. She has also cleaned up and put on different clothes. For the first time, they sit side-by-side, with Eli even scooting closer to Oskar to ask if she smells better. Oskar is too shy to admit that she does.
I wonder if Eli planned on making Oskar her next caretaker all along, or if it occurred to her she might need a new one soon, since the old one wasn't doing his job very well anymore. Or was it just the twelve year old in her trying to make a new friend? Maybe she did try to avoid getting close to him, but just couldn't resist it.
The pair tell each other their names and ages, sort of. Eli is much less precise with her answer than Oskar is, but they're both twelve. She doesn't know when her birthday is, she doesn't celebrate it, she doesn't get presents. Hearing this, Oskar offers the Rubik's Cube to her as a gift. She declines, but proceeds to show him how to solve it.
Despite what Eli said to him during their first exchange, it appears that Oskar has made a friend. He's no longer alone in the world.
Oskar gets the idea that he and Eli could communicate through his bedroom wall with Morse Code, so he takes some time at school to write the code down. Conny notices this, and doesn't like that Oskar has private business. The bullies confront Oskar, and when he refuses to hand over his Morse Code paper, they beat him with a switch. Including an overzealous strike to the face, which draws blood.
Oskar lies to his mother about the wound on his face, telling her he fell during recess. However, when he and Eli meet that night so he can teach her the Morse Code and give her the paper, she asks about his face and he tells her the truth. Eli tells Oskar that he needs to stand up for himself. That he needs to hit back. Hard. The more who are picking on him, the harder he needs to hit. "Hit harder than you dare." And if that's not enough to stop them, she'll help him. She can do that.
The first physical contact between Oskar and Eli is made when she assures him that she can help, as she puts her hand on his.
This is a really beautiful and emotionally effective scene, my favorite in the entire film.
It's not my very favorite, but it's one of them, definitely. Very touching moment.
Oskar and Eli return to their apartments to try out the Morse Code. To get to the wall one room shares with Oskar's bedroom, Eli has to get Håkan to move out of the way, shooing him out of the room. Oskar and Eli then start tapping away their messages to each other.
As Oskar sounds out the letters, the home video subtitles just show the noises he's making, while the theatrical ones convey the fact that the message being sent is "SWEET DREAMS".
Another night, Oskar and Eli go out on the town, where the boy buys a bag of mixed candies to share with her. Eli turns down the candy when it's offered to her, but seeing the disappointment on Oskar's face she decides to try a piece... And is soon puking it back up.
When Oskar awkwardly gives Eli a hug, she asks if he likes her. He admits he does, a lot. She appears concerned when she asks if he would still like her even if she wasn't a girl. He supposes he would.
This is my favorite scene. As soon as Oskar realizes why she said no to the candy, and why she changed her mind, you can see his face overflowing with emotion, it's very sincere. I love it. And their hug is the sweetest thing.
Soon the time has come for Håkan to make another blood run for Eli. As he prepares to leave, he asks Eli for a favor - that she not see Oskar that night. She doesn't respond vocally, just touches his face.
He sounds jealous when he says that.
Håkan never returns from this blood run. It's his final failure. He attempts to get the blood from a young boy in the locker room of a gymnasium, but the boy has friends waiting for him outside, and when he doesn't show up the friends come busting in. Cornered, Håkan pours a bottle of acid over his own face so no one will recognize him as the man who lives with Eli.
Håkan doesn't even try to run this time. It becomes clear that he was tired of doing it, or maybe just too old. He was messing up a lot, and it sort of feels like he was doing it on purpose, that it got to be too much for him to handle. And still, one final time, he proves his love and loyalty to Eli.
Waiting for Håkan, Eli resists the temptation to knock on Oskar's wall.
The next night, Eli learns from a news report why Håkan hasn't come back yet. A story of a severely disfigured man being taken to the hospital by police. Barefoot, she comes in from the cold to ask the nurse working the front desk where her dad is, the man the police brought in. The nurse tells her what floor he's on, but says Eli isn't allowed to go up.
So Eli goes outside and scales the side of the building. Reaching Håkan's room, she taps on the window and asks if she can come in. The damage the acid did is so bad that Håkan can no longer speak, so he goes to her, opens the window, and lets her feed on him. His corpse drops to the ground from the seventh floor.
That scene is very sad and dramatic. Makes me think that it doesn't matter how happy Håkan had been before - if he had been happy at all - nothing would make up for such a horrific end.
Eli returns to the apartment building and taps on another window. Oskar's. Oskar is in bed and was sleeping, but wakes up enough to invite Eli in. She enters and gets in bed with him. As the two lie there, Oskar asks her an important question. He asks if she'll go steady with him.
Once again, the theatrical subtitles had a line I liked better, with Oskar directly asking, "Do you want to be my girlfriend?"
Eli says she's not a girl, and wants to keep things the way they are.
With his back turned to her, Oskar's facial expression shows disappointment, but he doesn't let her know he's disappointed. It's really sweet and touching.
Once Oskar assures her that going steady doesn't require anything special that would change things, Eli agrees to go steady with him.
It's a nice, sweet scene. But I just feel bad for Oskar. He is so innocent and kind... I get it that Eli has given him something he never had before, which is someone to talk to, someone who understands him and is there for him, but seeing what happened to Håkan, I think Oskar deserves better, a better life. Eli is selfish... she could either end her journey or go through it alone, but it seems that she's been finding young boys who are willing to give up their lives for her, for ages, literally. Is that love? Is that fair? Was she even sad about what happened to Håkan? I don't think so.
The new couple falls asleep holding hands. When Oskar awakes in the morning, Eli is gone, but has left behind a note. Depending on which subtitles you have, the note either says "To flee is life, to linger death. - Your Eli." or is a quote from Romeo & Juliet, "I must go and live or stay and die. - Yours, Eli."
To make sure he can take Eli's "hit hard" advice, Oskar has been attending an after school strength training program, but the bullying continues. So when Conny threatens him during a field trip to a frozen lake, Oskar finally hits back, using a plastic stick he finds to whack Conny in the side of the head with.
While Oskar is standing up for himself, a couple other kids are discovering the corpse of Jocke. This is the lake Håkan dumped the body into, in fact he had used the plastic stick Oskar hits Conny with to shove the body into the water.
That night, Eli meets Oskar at the gymnasium as the strength training class ends and he leads her down to a secret hangout room in the cellar of the building. They're just relaxing, listening to some music, when Oskar has the bright idea that they should make a blood pact and slices his hand open with his knife.
Eli has a frightening reaction to the sight of blood. Her stomach growls, her appearance changes, and she can't control herself - dropping to the ground to lick up the blood that dripped on the floor. Rather than attack Oskar, she's able to run away.
Lacke has been in a downward spiral since Jocke died, obsessing over the incident, craving revenge on the kid Gösta saw attack his friend. Gösta has been too afraid to go to the police, so nothing is really being done and it's driving Lacke crazy. When his ladyfriend Virginia (Ika Nord) tries to comfort him during a visit to Gösta's, he snaps at her, so she leaves.
Lacke follows Virginia out into the night - and is there to witness when she is attacked by Eli. He kicks her off of Virginia before she can finish her, so Eli just runs away.
Rather than go to a hospital, Virginia just goes home to bed, and the next morning realizes she has an extreme sensitivity to sunlight... and that the blood on her bandage seems oddly appealing.
Occasionally, Oskar travels out into the snowy countryside to visit his father at his home. Father and son appear to have a lot of fun together and enjoy each other's company. But during Oskar's second visit within the film, their father/son time is interrupted by the arrival of his dad's strange buddy, who wears socks and sandals in the snow. Oskar's dad stops paying attention to him in favor of his friend and the two men bust out some alcohol.
I get the feeling that Oskar's dad's friend is more than a friend.
His dad's place had been a fun retreat for Oskar, but now it's just another place to feel lonely and neglected.
Oskar hitchhikes back home. Back to Eli.
Earlier in the film, a cat was shown to have an angry reaction when Eli came near it. When Virginia goes to see Lacke at Gösta's, the man's cats totally freak out, swarming and attacking the woman.
This is the one scene where Let the Right One In employs some questionable CGI. It's not too bad, but it stands out a bit.
It never really bothered me.
Oskar visits Eli at her apartment for the first time and asks questions to find out details on her condition. Is she a vampire? She lives on blood, yes. Is she twelve? Yes, but she has been for a long time. She also has unbelievable riches at her disposal, gathered over her long life.
Virginia finally went to the hospital after the incident at Gösta's, but knows that something's very wrong with her. Something she doesn't want to live with. Knowing what will happen, she requests that a nurse open the blinds on her room's window. The sunlight causes her to burst into flames.
Eli comes over to Oskar's apartment to visit him while his mom is out, coming to the door this time instead of a window. When Oskar opens the door, she stands at the threshold and says she needs to be invited in. Being a kid, he playfully refuses. So Eli enters, uninvited.
As usual with vampire movies, some things are "facts" in some movies and not in others. Like, in Let the Right One In vampires have mirror reflections. The one thing that's usually true is the "not being able to come in unless they're invited" rule. I've always thought that they couldn't actually get in, like there would be a physical barrier stopping them from entering places uninvited. It is cool to see how they approach it here, though it also means that if Eli was tired of being a vampire, she could end it at any time.
This movie is the only one I've ever seen answer the question of what would happen if they weren't invited and came in anyway.
Within seconds, blood starts running from various points on Eli's body - her back, her hairline, her eyes, her ears. It appears that she might die, if Oskar didn't finally say she could come in.
Eli talks to Oskar about the first things she ever heard him say, his desire for revenge. She only kills people because she has to in order to survive. She asks that he see things from her perspective. "Be me a little."
In the novel, Eli was then able to briefly allow Oskar to see things from her perspective literally, with a kiss causing him to experience a flashback to the moment when she was turned into a vampire.
I do wish we could see that. I actually wanted a prequel... I'm very curious about it, and interested in Eli's story.
Eli cleans up and changes into one of Oskar's mom's dresses while the boy puts on some music. While Eli is changing, Oskar peeps in on her - and sees an odd, shocking sight. A mannequin was used as a stand-in for a quick glimpse of Eli's nether regions. There are no genitals, just a jagged, man-made horizontal scar where genitals should be.
So this is why Eli says she's not a girl. Not just because she's a vampire, but because she was born male. The novel tells that she was castrated during the same ritual that made her a vampire, but the film is much more subtle about it. Really, I don't think it needed to be included. That mannequin shot didn't, anyway. It's too jarring and strange, leaving people wondering what they just saw.
When I first saw Let the Right One In on TV, that scene was cut. I think they thought it showed Eli's actual girly part. I was shocked to actually see it when I watched the movie this time around... and, I could not make out what it was until now. There is no way people would be able to guess that Eli was a castrated boy just by seeing that. I agree that it shouldn't have been included. No need for it at all.
Eli rushes out of the apartment when Oskar's mom gets home. The next morning, Oskar goes over to Eli's and finds that she has left another note for him, this time telling him not to disturb her in the bathroom, where she sleeps in the tub during daylight hours, but asking if he wants to meet that night. She ends the note by letting him know that she really likes him.
Stumbling past the building, Lacke takes notice of that oddly blocked window... and puts two and two together. He enters Eli's apartment through the unlocked door and snoops around.
Oskar is still in the apartment, and when Lacke discovers Eli in the tub and is about to unblock the bathroom window, he has his knife at the ready. But rather than stab the man, Oskar cries out. This wakes Eli, and she attacks her potential attacker.
After this, Eli feels she has to leave. She kisses Oskar for the first time. A kiss goodbye.
Don't mind the blood all over her mouth.
Yeah... one thing Eli hasn't learned in all of her years is how to use a napkin after a meal. Actually, she needs better hygiene skills, period.
Eli empties out the apartment and leaves in a taxi. Oskar is crying over the loss of his friend when he gets a phone call - it's Martin, one of Conny's friends, saying the teacher was wondering if he'll be at the strength training class that night. Martin also mentions that he thinks what he did to Conny was a good thing. The bully deserved it.
It's a set-up. Conny and the other lackey are in on, as is an even bigger bully - Conny's older brother.
That night at the school pool, the bullies set fire to a dumpster outside the building. When the teacher goes out to handle the situation, he gets locked out. The bullies then order everyone other than Oskar to leave the pool area. And Conny's brother pulls out a switchblade.
Oskar is in danger of serious physical injury... but Eli's still around. She has been invited into this place before, and she can help.
The pool scene is mind-blowing. It's fast, silent and yet extremely creepy and effective. I love it, it's wonderful.
It is a very satisfying conclusion to the bullying storyline, and a fantastic climax for the film.
In the final scene, Oskar is riding a train out of Blackberg accompanied by Eli, who's safely hidden within a trunk. The pair tap a Morse Code kiss to each other as the film comes to an end.
Again, even though it can be seen as a "happy ending", I can't help but feel bad for Oskar and all the things he's giving up, the kind of life he's going to have, and how it'll eventually end.
As of my first viewing of it in October of 2008, Let the Right One In instantly became one of my favorite movies of all time. I still firmly believe that it should have been an Oscar-winning film, but it never had a chance because it was never submitted to the Academy.
It is a shame, Let the Right One In is definitely deserving. It is a unique movie with very special tone and elements, that you rarely find, especially in the horror genre.
Since horror is my favorite genre, the horror elements definitely help boost the movie in my opinion, and the vampire stuff is handled very well, but it's the relationship between Oskar and Eli that truly makes me love the film. The interactions between them are incredible, and to me this is a heartwarming dark love story.
A very grim love story, but a love story, nevertheless.
I love how the vampire aspect of the movie is mostly subdued. It is bloody and violent, but it never really exploits the fact that she is a vampire. That subtlety works, because deep down, that's only secondary to what the movie is truly about.
Take away the fact that they're a twelve year old and a vampire, and at its core it's about someone who finds another person feeling alone and messed up but still wants to be around them while they work things out, to be by their side rooting for them to stand up to their problems, and if their problems prove too great for them to handle on their own, "Then I'll help you. I can do that." That's a greater love story than most straightforward romances.
The only thing that takes away from the love story angle for me is what Eli's true intentions really were. I feel like Oskar was at a point where his soul was getting dark from all the bullying, from the less than ideal situation at home, and from being lonely... all he needed was some attention, and he could've turned things around. Eli took advantage of the situation somewhat, and that's not cool. But even then, they're very sweet. Oskar is lovely; when he hugs Eli after she puked, when he asks if he has a chance with her... it's just so touching and open. Can't help but love him.
The yearlong search for the actors paid off, because Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson both do great work at fully inhabiting their characters. Even though she was dubbed by another actress to take the "little girl" out of the character's voice, I thought Leandersson was going to be an international sensation after this. But that's my appreciation for the film running away with me, logically I guess there's not that much call for teenage Swedes in international productions. It is good to see that, although Hedebrant and Leandersson took a few years off from acting following Let the Right One In, they've both returned to the screen in other projects since.
Outstanding performances by both of them. You find yourself invested in those characters. You believe them, you want to help them, you feel bad for them. They really do take you on this crazy emotional trip with them. And to think that they were such young actors, it's just incredible. The rest of the cast is really good as well, but they carry the movie. Amazing.
Everything rests on Oskar and Eli, they are the heart of the film, but the film around them is masterfully crafted. Nothing about this movie feels like happenstance, every moment, every shot feels like a lot of thought and consideration was put into it. Tomas Alfredson and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema made the film into a true work of art.
It's a combination of events that make the movie what it is as a whole, and it's hard to find words to describe it. It's hard to explain how a movie that has what could be called a morbid subject is everything but.
I absolutely love the cold, white scenery... it's simply perfect and it's another aspect that contributes to the greatness of Let the Right One In.
Hoytema captured an awesome look for the film, so it's no wonder that he has gone on to be hired for much larger productions, including the next James Bond film.
Very true. I also love the score by Johan Söderqvist. Costume and production design deserve a nod as well.
Let the Right One In is a film that I'm very passionate about, and one which I connect with on a deep emotional level. It will always be one of my favorites. The word that most strongly comes to my mind to describe the film is, beautiful. That's not often the case for a genre movie.
I understand Cody's love for this movie, it really is superb. Very engaging and so different than the usual vampire movie. It's deep, exquisite and very well written and well done. The pace is perfect, like all of the other elements. One thing it does is leave you wanting more.
LET ME IN (2010)
When a foreign film is well received, the English-language remake rights often get snatched up immediately, and that's exactly what happened with Let the Right One In. An executive at the newly revived Hammer Films had been tracking the project before it was ever screened, and once it started screening, winning praise and awards, Hammer snatched up the rights.
The first director Hammer offered the project to was Tomas Alfredson, but he had no interest in making the same movie twice, he had other stories he wanted to tell.
This makes sense to me, I've never understood how a filmmaker could stand to make the same thing all over again.
A different director was quickly found in Matt Reeves, who had recently had a hit with the found footage kaiju film Cloverfield. Reeves connected with the material because, like Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist, it was set in the time of his youth. Reeves was fifteen at the time of the novel's 1981 setting, and although his ideas for his adaptation of Lindqvist's prose caused him to change the year, he did keep it in the '80s.
The setting for the Americanization of the story is Los Alamos, New Mexico, in February and March of 1983. The remake gets off to a similar start - white credits on black, the sound of wind blowing, snow fall - but opens on different imagery. Emergency vehicles speeding through the snowy countryside, sirens howling, lights flashing. A criminal suspect is being rushed to the hospital after pouring acid over his own face.
I don't know if this would be okay for people who never saw Let the Right One In, but I feel like it gives the whole movie a completely different vibe right from the start, not to mention it spoils a couple of scenes that were crucial in the original movie.
At the hospital, nurses are watching President Ronald Reagan deliver his "Evil Empire" speech, giving this night the exact date of March 8, 1983.
A policeman (Elias Koteas) visits the suspect in his hospital bed and attempts to get answers out of him, despite being told that the man can't talk. He offers the man a pen and notepad, and monitors his vital signs for reactions to his questions.
The policeman is called away from the room to be notified that the man's daughter had shown up at the hospital asking about him. By the time the policeman returns to the room, the suspect has gone out the window and lies dead on the snowy ground several floors below.
The story then jumps back in time two weeks.
It seems Reeves was taking a bit of inspiration from his Cloverfield producer JJ Abrams here, as a flash forward opening is a very Abrams thing to do. It gets the remake started in a mysterious way of its own, but I prefer the subtle beginning of the original. Movies don't always need death or heightened emotions right away.
I don't usually have a problem with flash forward openings, and I did like Cloverfield, but it just doesn't work here. It gives too much of the story away, and it all happens too fast. I think this was the wrong way to start the movie.
We're introduced to Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen, a young boy from a broken home who lives a lonely life with his mother in an apartment complex. His parents are still going through the process of the divorce, still arguing over the phone, causing his mom to break down in tears.
In his bedroom, Owen puts on a mask and uses a kitchen knife to threaten an imaginary person he calls "little girl". He gets distracted from this disturbing activity by goings-on around the apartment complex and does some spying out his window. A young man in one apartment works out to David Bowie's "Let's Dance". In another apartment, a couple - one of them a twenty-something woman named Virginia (Sasha Barrese) - starts getting intimate.
Even though Oskar was obsessed with crime stories, he never feels weird or creepy to me. But right away with Owen, there's this strange vibe when he's basically spying on people, makes he seem like a weirdo. Of course he acts sweet later on, but I don't know...the movie just sends off strange vibes right at the beginning.
A moving truck arrives with two new residents. A young girl who walks through the snow barefoot, followed by a middle-aged man. Chloe Grace Moretz as Abby and Richard Jenkins as a chracter credited as The Father, although he's not a father.
Let Me In and Matt Reeves' involvement with it was announced before I had even seen Let the Right One In, but once I had seen the original, I couldn't imagine how an American remake could ever possibly hope to compare. Especially with Reeves at the helm. I wasn't a fan of Cloverfield. The one thing that eventually gave me hope was Chloe Grace Moretz in the Abby/Eli role, as she really impressed me with her awesome performance as Hit Girl in Kick Ass, which was released around seven months before Let Me In reached theatres.
Owen is relentlessly, violently bullied at school by a kid named Kenny (Dylan Minnette) and his lackeys, who call him "little girl" while tormenting him until he pees his pants.
Buying himself a pocket knife, Owen uses it to act out an imagined stabbing on a tree in the apartment complex courtyard... Until he senses Abby standing on the nearby jungle gym.
Both the original and this one have the saddest excuses for jungle gyms I've ever seen. This one's so pathetic that there's not even anything special about Abby's jump down from it.
The first interaction between Abby and Owen is basically the same as the first interaction between Eli and Oskar. She's dressed inappropriately for the weather - this time exposed legs instead of exposed arms - and says she can't be his friend.
Their first interaction is a little too fast and staged, it feels like they're just delivering the lines in sort of a mechanic way, and that's that. There's not a whole lot of emotion coming through either one of them, although the words are pretty much the same as the ones in the original.
One difference is that Owen provides information rather than asking questions. He's the one who tells her their apartments are right next to each other rather than the other way around. Sort of like he's already reaching out to her.
Soon it's time for The Father to go out and get some blood for Abby.
Richard Jenkins looks like the devil himself when Owen sees him lighting a cigarette on his way out. Something about his face and the way the light reflects off either his glasses or his eyes.
Håkan was already gone when Oskar and Eli met, though. I like that Eli meets Oskar while passing the time waiting for Håkan to return more than the idea of Abby wandering out and meeting Owen while The Father is still there.
Same here. It makes it even more obvious that Abby was probably already looking for a "Father" replacement.
Wearing a plastic bag with eye holes cut in it over his head, The Father breaks into a car sitting in a grocery store parking lot and lies on the floor in the back, waiting for the driver to get back in. When the car stops again at a train track, The Father makes his move and knocks the driver out.
No sign of incompetence here, this guy is a pro.
The Father takes the driver out into a woods, strings him upside down, cuts open his throat, and drains his blood. Nothing interrupts the process. The problem is, once The Father has the full jug of blood, something gives way under the snow covering the ground and The Father falls, spilling the blood.
They make sure to show that this guy knows what he's doing. The only reason why he wasn't able to bring the blood back home to Abby was purely by accident.
Through his bedroom wall, Owen hears Abby raging at The Father for his mistake. The Father theorizes that maybe he wants to get caught, or maybe he's just tired.
I feel like there was no need for The Father to make things that clear. For one, there's not a lot of emotion/feelings left between the two characters by now, so leaving it up to the imagination how he feels about it works best.
Also, it contradicts itself quite a bit... The Father did his job, he didn't exactly mess up...what happened wasn't something he could control, and he didn't act like he wanted to get caught at all. So, yes...too much, it makes little sense.
The policeman from the beginning of the film visits Owen's school, not for a simple classroom talk, but to address the entire student body about the murder of one of the school's recent graduates.
The young man Owen saw working out to "Let's Dance" earlier has been out for a jog with "Let's Dance" playing on his headphones, and his path back to the apartment complex takes him through a tunnel.
Similar to Oskar keeping his murder scrapbook, at the end of 2009 I had fallen down an internet rabbit hole and spent way too much time reading about way too many cases of teenage, or younger, killers. In one case I read about, a young boy had broken into a home at night and found the woman who lived there sleeping with MTV on. The boy stood over her, watching her for a while, and when the "Let's Dance" video came on, he murdered her. That was fresh in my mind when I first saw Let Me In, so I wondered if Reeves included the song as reference to that murder. But it could be that Reeves doesn't have such dark reading habits and it's just in there because of the time period. This guy shouldn't have the song in February, though. The "Let's Dance" single wasn't released until mid-March of 1983, the album in April.
In the tunnel, the man finds a little girl asking for help. Abby. She asks to be carried, and when the man picks her up, she attacks, tearing into his throat, drinking his blood, and finishing him off by snapping his neck.
Abby becomes CGI when she attacks, and it looks awful. That was a bad decision.
This whole scene pales in comparison with the one in the original. Abby acts shady, and not frail and believable like Eli. And showing what happens that close is a huge mistake. No mystery, and the CGI is terrible.
Owen again hears yelling from the apartment next door, this time The Father raging at Abby before having to go out and dump the corpse she left behind into a nearby body of water.
Abby impresses Owen by solving the Rubik's Cube, and the scene plays out where she meets him on the jungle gym, cleaned up and wearing different clothes. Her legs are still exposed, but she has put on some winter boots.
Reeves sure wasn't trying to put his own stamp on the dialogue in these scenes, basically just directly translating the original Swedish. It's an impulse I can understand - if you want your movie to even come close to being as effective as the original, stick with what worked.
I guess I get that, but it's probably the same reason why some of it feels so staged... it's too close, almost identical, so it's hard to achieve the emotional level we see in Let the Right One In.
The differences come in the performances and cinematography. McPhee is more openly emotional, Moretz is a bit more reserved than their Swedish counterparts.
I'm not crazy about the look of the movie. It doesn't really do much for me. And even though Moretz and McPhee are pretty good, they didn't connect as much as Hedebrant and Leandersson did.
Reeves doesn't give us a good shot of Owen and Abby sitting together like Alfredson gave us of Oskar and Eli. It's almost all over-the-shoulder. Give me a two shot! The shot of Eli sitting beside Oskar and scooting closer is in itself enough to put the original scene far above this one.
While his class watches a screening of Romeo & Juliet, Owen copies down information on Morse Code. Kenny notices this and confronts him about it after class, wielding a radio antenna that he beats Owen with. When he hits Owen in the face with the antenna, it cuts his cheek.
In the remake it explains why Kenny is such a jerk. His older brother does to him what he does to Owen. And probably even worse, because this kid is a total psycho.
Kenny is no jackass little bully, he's really intense. He comes off like a serial killer in the making, scarier than anything The Father and Abby have going on.
When Owen meets Abby on the jungle gym that night, she takes an interest in his Romeo & Juliet book from school, but he's more interested in showing her Morse Code. Abby realizes Owen can hear what's going on in her apartment through his bedroom wall sometimes, and he asks why "her dad" was so mad. He asks about her home life, telling her that his parents are getting divorced.
This was some nice added emotional content.
They either started to connect more from here, or it just feels that way. I'm not sure, but it feels real this time.
Abby asks what happened to his cheek, and Owen tells her the truth he didn't tell his mom. She advises him to hit his bullies back. The more of them there are, the harder he should hit. Hit harder than he dares. If they hit back, "You have a knife."
Bringing up the knife is a misstep. Advise him to stand up for himself, that's good, that's sweet. Tell him to bring his knife into the equation, that's going too far.
I agree. Let Me In has a few moments of "too much". Less is more, most of the time.
If the knife doesn't stop the bullies, she can help. "I'm stronger than you think I am." As she says this, she puts her hand on his.
Owen and Abby go inside to try sending Morse Code messages to each other through the apartment walls. To get to the right spot, Abby has to shoo The Father out of the way. He leaves the room, listening to "Let's Dance" on her victim's headphones.
The Father smiles when he first sees Abby walk in, before realizing she just wants him to move out of her way. That's a sad little moment.
The relationship between Abby and The Father is completely different, even though the dialogue is mostly the same. He doesn't seem to be into her at all, he does act more like a concerned parent, one that is tired of putting up with what he has to.
Owen takes Abby out to an arcade and buys some of his beloved Now & Later candy with money he stole from his mother. He offers Abby some candy and she declines, until seeing how badly he wanted to be able to get her something. So she tries a grape Now & Later... and has to rush outside to vomit.
After seeing her get sick, Owen gives her a hug and admits that he likes her a lot.
While walking back to the apartment complex with Abby, Owen tells her that he plans to leave Los Alamos someday and never come back.
As Abby gets back to her apartment, The Father is preparing to leave on another blood run. It's clear that he's not happy, so she shows him some tenderness, touching his arm and then his face. But she won't promise him that she won't see Owen anymore.
Another example of how different their relationship is than Eli and her caretaker's. In the original movie, it seems like he is jealous, and in the remake it seems like The Father is actually looking out for Owen. In a "don't do to him what you've done to me" way. His attitude is very different. He gets mad at her a lot, he flat out says he's had enough.
I don't see any loving feeling left in him anymore, and that makes the next scenes less believable. I believed that Eli's caretaker would've done what he did for her, but I don't believe The Father would go that far to help Abby, based on their interactions.
I do sense some desperation in his body language when she touches him, like he really wants to be close with her like they used to be. But their love was lost for some reason. Because he trips in the snow too much?
The Father picks his next victim at a gymnasium, but doesn't get trapped in the building like Håkan did. He hides in a young man's car, but the young man is unexpectedly joined by a friend when he's leaving. As the driver runs into a gas station, the friend discovers The Father in the back seat. A struggle ensues. The Father ends up trying to flee the gas station in the car, but quickly crashes.
The Father's entire escape attempt, ending with the car going off the road and rolling down a hill, is presented in one shot from the back seat of the car. It's pretty cool and impressive. I have issues with the direction and cinematography in general, but not in this scene.
This scene is very well shot, I like it a lot.
Before anyone can reach the wreckage, The Father pours acid over his face so he can't be identified.
Now we've reached the point in time when the first scenes in the film occurred. Abby hears about The Father's capture on the radio and goes to the hospital to find him. She meets him at his room window and they share a final moment before she finishes him off.
Since we pretty much know what's going on thanks to the opening scene, this isn't very effective. Whereas in Let the Right One In, it's one of the most important and dramatic scenes.
Abby then goes to Owen's bedroom window, where he sleepily invites her in. She climbs into bed with him, and as they lie there he asks her if she'll go steady with him. Be his girlfriend. She replies that she isn't a girl, she's "nothing". This upsets Owen, who feels like she's just making up excuses not to be his girlfriend. Since Owen assures her that going steady doesn't require anything special, Abby agrees to go steady with him.
Opposite of what she had done with The Father, she places his hand on the side of her face.
Don't mind the blood all over her mouth.
In the morning, Abby is gone, but she has left a note behind for Owen. A quote from Romeo & Juliet: "I must be gone and live or stay and die." "Abby + Owen" is written inside a circle.
Owen joined an after school strength training program after Abby told him to stand up for himself. On a field trip to a frozen lake, he gets a chance to stand up for himself when Kenny threatens to push him in the water. Owen finds a pole and uses it to smack Kenny in the side of the head.
The Father used that same pole to push the body of Abby's tunnel victim into the water earlier, and while Owen is hitting back the David Bowie fan's corpse is being found in the ice by another group of children.
Since the Bowie fan lived in Owen and Abby's apartment complex, the policeman from the hospital shows up at the complex to seek any information his neighbors might have. He doesn't get a response at Abby's residence.
When Owen tells Abby about what happened with Kenny, she gives him a celebratory kiss on the cheek. Owen then decides to show her a secret room in the basement of the apartment building, a place where he used to hang out with a friend who moved away.
The boy has the bad idea to use his pocket knife to slice open his thumb so he and Abby can make a blood pact. The blood makes Abby lose control, vamp out and lick the drops off the floor before running out of the room.
Virginia has the bad luck to be walking through the complex courtyard at that moment to escape an argument with her boyfriend. Abby pounces on her and tears into her throat.
Again... it doesn't need to show it that closely, it just makes it look a bit silly since the CGI is pretty awful.
There's some lame CGI in this sequence, but when Moretz is actually going at her fellow actress like a wild animal, that looks nicely horrific.
I don't know. Eli always looks so small and fragile, when in reality she can be a vicious murderer. Abby looks stronger, and that doesn't work as well, in my opinion.
Owen is deeply disturbed by what has happened. Throughout the film, there have been indications that his mom is a religious woman, and religious thoughts are on Owen's mind tonight. When he can't get his mom to wake up for a conversation, he gives his dad a call. Scared and crying, he asks if there's such a thing as evil... But his dad mostly just turns this question into another divorce issue.
This scene is the biggest moment in the film for Owen's dad, who exists only as a voice on the phone. Unlike Oskar, Owen doesn't visit his dad.
I like this scene because it basically shows us how clueless Owen's parents are. His dad especially. It's all about their failed relationship, Owen is invisible.
McPhee handles the emotions here especially well.
Owen goes next door to visit Abby and get some answers. Before he'll enter, he has her say he can come in, like he had to when she came in through his bedroom window. She meekly answers his questions, admitting that she needs blood to live, and that she has been twelve for a long time. Owen finds proof of this - a picture of Abby with The Father when he was a young boy and she was still twelve.
So, in this movie vampires appear in pictures. Hrm.
Also seeking answers is the policeman, who goes to Virginia's hospital room to talk to her boyfriend and show him a sketch of what the killer might have looked like. The boyfriend recognizes him as a guy who lived in the apartment complex.
The policeman's obsession with the idea that the killer might have been in a Satanic cult is very '80s.
As the men talk, Virginia wakes up and starts feeding on her own arm, drinking the blood she received in a transfusion. When a nurse opens the window blinds, the sunlight that streams in causes Virginia to burst into flames. The fire is so intense that the nurse also ends up burning to death.
Another example of "too much". No need to show Virginia munching on her arm, and no need for the nurse to be killed, either.
The policeman should just stay out of the hospital. Nothing good happens when he goes there.
While Owen's mom is out, Abby comes over to the apartment to see him. She needs to be invited in, but Owen doesn't understand this invitation business and has Abby come in without saying she can. Walking into the apartment, she starts shaking and bleeding. As soon as he sees the blood running down her face, Owen stops it by saying she can come in. He gives her a hug and asks what that was. Abby doesn't know. It's just what happens.
Abby washes up and changes into an old dress belonging to Owen's mom. She has just gotten into the dress when the mom gets home, so she has to run off and escape out the window.
Owen peeks in while she's changing, but Reeves doesn't put in a P.O.V. shot. No mannequin crotch in this movie!
Once his mom is asleep, Owen sneaks out to spend the night at Abby's. Early in the morning, he wakes to find that she has left him a note saying that she is hidden away in the bathroom for the day, but would like to hang out with him again that night. And that she really likes him.
That's when the policeman shows up at the door. He doesn't need an invitation, he just busts in, gun drawn. Snooping around the apartment, he finds items belonging to victims... and Abby, asleep in the covered bathtub.
Oskar was ready to stab someone to protect Eli. Owen doesn't make the same move, and that's in a film where he was told to use his knife in tough situations.
The movie has two things going on a lot. The contradictions and the "over-the-top" stuff.
The policeman pulls covering back from the window, and when sunlight hits her legs Abby springs awake and attacks. Owen witnesses the policeman's vicious, bloody murder.
As I mentioned in the Let the Right One In write-up, there was a policeman in the book, but his part didn't amount to much. Here the policeman character has been combined with the Lacke character, a change that I think works rather well.
It works well, but it never went anywhere really.
After this, Abby is going to have to leave. She gives Owen a bloody-mouthed kiss goodbye.
With the policeman's body poorly hidden in the basement room, Abby takes a taxi away from the apartment complex.
That night, Owen's strength training class moves up to the pool training level... and Kenny, his lackeys, and his older brother Jimmy pull off a plot to catch Owen alone in the gymnasium. He pulls his pocket knife on them when they come after him, but it does no good.
As bad as Kenny seemed before, Jimmy is even worse, using Owen's own knife against him to threaten serious physical harm. But Abby isn't really gone, and she shows up at the pool to help Owen with his bully problem, like she said she would.
The problem here is, the original film established that Eli had been to the pool before. She had been invited there. Abby hasn't been invited to this pool...
True. And another big problem here is how lame this scene is compared to the one in the original movie, which was awesome.
Owen catches a train out of Los Alamos, accompanied by Abby, who rides inside a large trunk. As the train rolls on, the two send Morse Code messages to each other through the trunk lid.
John Ajvide Lindqvist created a wonderful story with Let the Right One In, and Matt Reeves stuck so closely to the source material and the original film with his remake that Let Me In can't help but be a good movie, too. As good as the original? No, not for me. Not even close.
Let Me In definitely isn't as great as Let the Right One In. It's not bad at all, but there are some issues that are quite evident.
I get completely emotionally wrapped up in Let the Right One In. Let Me In doesn't hit me on that same emotional level. Even though the characters are doing the same things and saying basically the same things, it just doesn't work for me the way its predecessor does. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's simply the fact that I was so familiar with Let the Right One In before I saw this one, so this just comes off as "going through the motions" to me.
That's how I feel about most interactions between Owen and Abby. It is hard to explain, but it just feels off and disconnected pretty often.
I do think that for people who only watched the remake, or watched it first, it might not feel that way. It's probably comparing the two movies that hurts the remake a little.
Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz both do some great work in their roles, but I don't connect with them the way I did with Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson.
It's more like that they don't connect as much as the actors in the original. Though they do act closer in a few scenes, but not all of them. There's a certain distance that can be felt.
I prefer the way Tomas Alfredson shot things over the way Reeves chose to, and greatly prefer the look of the original film over Greig Fraser's cinematography here.
Yeah, cinematography is an aspect that suffered in the remake. The gorgeous white, sober look of Let the Right One In was one of the things that made it so unique.
Let Me In is part of the hideous modern "orange and teal" trend. Most scenes are deeply saturated in orange. These characters live in an orange world. The filmmakers could use the excuse that it's because the apartment complex's exterior lights have sodium-vapor bulbs, but the main reason is because a lot of filmmakers seem to have been convinced that orange is the best look for their movie. I don't like it.
I don't like it either. It's among my least favorite aspects of the movie, along with the pace - that's either too fast or seems to drag sometimes - and the CGI. Chloe Grace Moretz looks more like a zombie than a vampire in those close-up CG shots. Also the contradictions and the "too much's". None of that helps the movie in the slightest.
That being said, I do love the '80s songs and things like the Arcade scene. Very well done. There are positives in the remake, it's just hard to like it as much as the original, since it's so great.
Let Me In is a fine movie, it just doesn't add up in comparison with Let the Right One In. It mostly feels unnecessary. But, in an age when remakes are usually inevitable, I'm satisfied that this is the remake Let the Right One In got. I'm glad it was faithful and respectful, they didn't drop the ball or miss the point. The story and characters are intact.
It could've been a disaster, I'm glad that isn't the case. I don't know if staying that close to the original was good or bad, but again... since the original is such an amazing movie, I think that straying would've hurt it way more than the opposite, which is what we've got.
When I want to see the story and characters, though, it's Let the Right One In that I'm going to choose to watch.
I feel the same way, though the remake has some re-watch value as well.
We dodged a bullet with the remake, but the entertainment industry isn't done with Let the Right One In. The television network A&E recently announced that they're developing a TV series version of the story. I don't know why they would do that or how it would work, but I'm sure I'll check it out to see what they've done with it.
I'd definitely watch it. It's been working with Bates Motel and Hannibal.
John Ajvide Lindqvist wasn't done with the characters, either. Largely in response to the theory that Eli never cared about Oskar and only wanted to use him, Lindqvist wrote a short story called Let the Old Dreams Die - the title taken from the second line of Morrissey's "Let the Right One Slip In". Eli and Oskar aren't the main characters in the story, but it is about a search for them, and there is evidence that they were still together as of 2008... and both still twelve years old. They went through with that blood pact after all.
That's very nice. I've often wondered why she wouldn't turn Oskar. That works much better than just making him her caretaker and then replacing him when he's old or dead.