johnlink ranks LET ME IN (2010)

I usually don’t carry a torch for the original foreign films remade into English language movies. Evidence of that can be seen in the criminally low number of foreign films which have been reviewed for this blog. LET ME IN, however, is based on the same source novel as the Swedish film LATDEN RATTE KOMMA IN (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN). The Swedish version just so happens to be one of the best horror films of the last decade, so this new English language film has a fairly high standard to meet. I tried to approach this as its own film, and to not consider it against the original. That proved virtually impossible. I watched LET ME IN (2010) on 7.16.12. It was my first viewing of the film. My write up on the Swedish film can be found here, though it uses this site’s old ranking format for creating an article.

Set in a constantly snowy town in New Mexico, LET ME IN centers around a relationship between 12-year-olds Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz). Abby and a man we assume is her Dad (Richard Jenkins) have moved in to the apartment next to Owen. Abby has a very dark secret which results in an emotional detachment and general melancholia.

Owen is a victim of constant bullying in school. He’s small, quiet, slightly odd. He’s a perfect victim for a group of three delinquents determined to prove just how tough they are. Abby is able to provide him with the confidence he needs to stand up for himself.

The acting in this very good. Both kids are superb in their roles, and Jenkins (who lives in my home town of Cumberland, RI), is great in this understated protective role as The Father. Elias Koteas, having come a long way since his days playing Casey Jones in the TMNT movies, is perfectly drab and morose as the detective trying to sort out the sudden rash of murders in his home town.

So, the story is great. The acting is wonderful. So why am I so frustrated with this movie?

I have no problem with a production company deciding to remake a foreign film. If they want to Americanize a story and put their own spin on it, God bless ’em. Unfortunately, this movie feels like a cousin to Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised PSYCHO ‘remake’.

For some reason, in 1998, Van Sant released a film which was a nearly shot-for-shot redo of the Hitchcock classic. While LET ME IN isn’t that explicit in its recreation of its foreign counterpart, it is not too far off. I haven’t seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN since 2009, but I kept finding myself feeling like I was seeing the same scenes while watching LET ME IN. Rather than entirely recreate the aesthetic of the film, I felt like the visuals were often extremely derivative of the original. The climber the two friends meet at feels the same, the scenes of Owen being bullied and fighting back felt the same, and (especially) the key moment in the pool at the film’s climax felt the same. Sure, the similarity of the scenes are partly attributed to the novel both films were born from. I just consistently felt as though the filmmakers working on LET ME IN studied the Swedish film before getting to work.

The filmmaking is good here, though they (as I expected) spent a little less time on pretty shots and a little more time on action. The CGI is weak, and feels misplaced. This is a horror story, sure. But the tone and pacing are taken seriously. When Abby attacks and starts moving like the girl in THE RING, it doesn’t do the story justice. Overall, however, this movie looks really nice.

So how does one rank such a film? On the one hand, LET ME IN has a great atmosphere, very good acting, and an excellent script. On the other hand, it stands on the shoulders of an even better foreign film, paying direct homage over and over again. Should a person have never seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, I can certainly imagine that they w0uld love LET ME IN. However, as someone who is familiar with both, I can’t figure out why I would watch the American one again.

Bottom line? Very good movie. But stick with LATDEN RATTE KOMMA IN.

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 9; WRITING: 7; BONUS: -1

I have to just knock this thing down a peg for so blatantly borrowing from the original. Again, I would probably like this much better had I not seen the Swedish version, but I can’t help but feel the shadow of the original lingering over this entire film.

7+8+9+7-1=

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~ by johnlink00 on July 17, 2012.

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