When Americans remake Asian and European thrillers and horror movies, the results are often predictably bad. Every once in a while you get an American version of a foreign classic, like The Ring, that understands what made that concept work. Typically, you get something like the American remakes of Martyrs, Inside, or Pulse. These tepid versions lift the premises of their source material while neglecting everything else that made them compelling in the first place. Following the success of Cloverfield, writer and director Matt Reeves tackled the Swedish vampire movie, Let The Right One In. Also based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name, Let Me In defied expectations, earning the same critical praise as its predecessor.
Oskar (Owen) is an odd, lonely 12-year-old who is mercilessly bullied at school. When he’s not watching neigbhours through a telescope, Oskar sits alone on the apartment complex’s jungle gym. But when a mysterious man moves in next door, his 12-year-old daughter Eli (Abby) quickly befriends the boy. Something isn’t quite right, however, with Eli (Abby) or her father. Soon after their arrival a string of deaths plague the community.
Let The Right One In (2008) Remains a Genre Classic
Let the Right One In, the original Swedish adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, remains a horror classic. Unless you really dislike reading subtitles, there was no reason to remake it. Director Tomas Alfredson crafts a very intimate tale of a sad and tragic friendship set against a horror backdrop. Specifically, Alfredson places less emphasis on explicit scares, relying more on atmosphere and the sheer horror of what you’re watching unfold on the screen. In spite of its relatively lower budget, the horror scenes here are eerily impressive including a scene in which a surviving victim bursts into flames when sunlight hits them. And the climatic pool scene boasts some innovation and may actually come off better than the remake.
Director Tomas Alfredson crafts a very intimate tale of a sad and tragic friendship set against a horror backdrop.
Arguably, subtly is what distinguishes the original adaptation from the American remake. For instance, Eli’s relationship with the ‘father’ is less obvious, which has two effects. On one hand, this approach allows for a bit more mystery – there’s a bit more for audiences to unravel. Yet it also underscores the absolute tragedy that awaits Oskar by the movie’s end. Instead, Let the Right One In somewhat romanticizes the growing friendship between Eli and Oskar. And Alfredson spends more time with the apartment complex’s other residents, which feels unnecessary.
Let Me In (2010) Tells The Same Story But Remains Its Own Viewing Experience
Despite what Matt Reeves might say, Let Me In is a remake – and it follows the same story very closely. Names have changed and Reeves adopts a non-linear approach starting his movie in the middle before circling to the beginning. The effect is to let you in on Abby’s secret much earlier though promotional materials for both movies make it obvious. And Reeves does leave out a scene from the book and Swedish film version that implies a very different origin for the child vampire. Yet if the narrative is relatively ‘cut and paste’ Let Me In differs remarkably in style, thus ultimately justifying its existence. Simply put, Reeves leans more heavily into the horror and tragic elements of Lindqvist’s novel. As compared to Let The Right One In, Reeves is more direct in his use of horror.
Yet if the narrative is relatively ‘cut and paste’ Let Me In differs remarkably in style, thus ultimately justifying its existence.
To some extent, Let Men In is an ‘Americanized’ version of Lindqvist’s story. Though it’s not a ‘louder’ movie that dumbs down its source material, Reeves puts more emphasis on overt horror. No where is this more evident than with the The Father’s stalking of prey and his subsequent self-mutilation. Here, Let Me In is a more intensely frightening movie that has a bit more urgency. Yes, there’s some unnecessarily weak CGI and a bit more explicit imagery. But this version never substitutes graphic violence for more psychological horror. In fact, Let Me In may do a better job of emphasizing the absolute tragedy of Owen’s “friendship” with Abby. Both Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie) and Kodi Smit-McPhee are superb. However, Richard Jenkins (Bone Tomahawk, Dahmer), and his narrative as the doomed companion, are more fully realized in the remake.
Let Me In A Compelling Companion To The Swedish Original
Though Let the Right One In remains a classic – and the remake came only two years after its release – Matt Reeves managed to make Let Me In his own movie. It’s actually impressive that two movies can share what’s basically the same story, and still feel so different. What we have here isn’t a case of one version being ‘better’ than the other. You could easily watch each movie and take away something different. Both adaptations of Lindqvist’s novel can claim to be horror essentials.