Sunday, October 10, 2010


As a stand-alone film, I suppose Matt Reeves' remake of the Sweden's Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let the Right One In), itself an adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, is a worthwhile cinematic venture. In other words, if you haven't read the source novel or seen the Swedish film, you might enjoy Let Me In. Having seen Tomas Alfredson's attempt at adapting Lindqvist's story though, I am captive to the realization that Reeves' and the rest of the American crew missed a golden opportunity. Plainly speaking, the Hollywood redo added absolutely nothing to what was, in my estimation, a good but not great film. All the movie snobs start whining and turning up their noses as soon as they learn that a U.S. filmmaker is going to dare attempt an adaptation of an overseas film product. However, if there is room for improvement, then why not? That should be the rule with all remakes...they should only be considered when the story can be lifted to a higher level...or at least masterfully updated for a new era in time. Reeves' project does neither. Of course, it seems that most people think more highly of Alfredson's preceding film than I did, but I can only build off of my own opinions.

The main themes of the original film (and presumably the novel, which I have not yet read) are loneliness, desperation, feeling like an outcast, the notorious effects of bullying, the formation of unlikely companionship, unattainable love, and the like - all worthwhile segments of life to explore. The story centers around a downtrodden and fearful pre-adolescent boy (Oskar in the Swedish telling, Owen in the retread), who is being tormented at school, and is caught in emotional quicksand at home as he's bounced between two inept parents in the midst of a divorce (in the Swedish film, his father is an alcoholic, in the U.S. film, his mother is, and we don't see the father, though it is hinted that he is at the least, a deadbeat jerk). A cute girl, appearing to be around his age, moves into his housing complex with a man one would assume was her father. After an initial reluctance on the part of the girl (the first film's Eli, now christened Abby), the two lonely kids form an endearing friendship. After dropping cryptic hints to Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), throughout the first quarter of the film about how different she is, Abby inadvertently reveals her secret (not so secret if you've already heard about the story)...she is actually a hauntingly old vampire who has been trapped in the body of a 12-year-old girl for eternity, and consequently, she needs human blood to survive. The man with whom she lives, played here by Richard Jenkins, is not her father, but somewhat of a servant who commits heinous murders on Abby's behalf in order to provide the much-needed sanguinary nutrition.

From my own viewings of the films, combined with reading several reviews of both, I can determine that the audience is to buy into the idea that Owen is so distraught with his own life, that he would rather befriend, and in effect, give himself over to, a murderous, otherworldly creature, rather than continue on with his miserable existence. In parallel, Abby is perhaps deeply regretful of the eternal enslavement she's fallen victim to, and the hideous actions it requires her to take. I think my main problems with both the Swedish and American film versions, stem from the fact that I simply wasn't sold on either of these scenarios. Owen's predilection for all things violent (something that was much more readily apparent in the Swedish film), and vulnerability to succumb to Abby's barbaric charm, are just not justified by what we see of  his life before. I think the American film should have taken the time to create a much more unbearable existence for Owen; one that would have made it more believable for him to end up in the situation in which he does. Likewise, Abby, as played by Chloe Grace Moretz (500 Days of Summer, Kick Ass), doesn't seem remorseful in the least; not of what she has had her father figure do at her behest, nor of her own killings, nor of the empty fate she is intent on bestowing upon her new-found friend. It's therefore, utterly unclear with whom we're supposed to be sympathizing in this whole, unsettling universe. Do we root for the lonely, yet murderous bloodsucker? Do we root for the weakling human outcast who doesn't seem fazed by unprovoked serial homicide? Or, do we root for society to catch up with them and put a stop to the killing spree...sure to otherwise continue for centuries to come. A daunting choice, indeed. The Swedish film does not do an adequate job in setting up the Oskar/Eli relationship, and likewise, Let Me In also fails to build off of its predecessor and make the Owen/Abby saga believable.

I am assuming that the characters are much more well-developed in the novel, and perhaps, that might make the reader's emotional involvement more clear-cut. I will likely do something I've never done before - read a novel after having seen not one, but two film adaptations. I've never even read a book after having seen one film adaptation, so it should be interesting to see how much my knowledge of the story will enhance or detract from the literary experience.

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