Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves
2010 / 116 Minutes
The Setup: A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian. (From IMDB)
Ugh. Almost as soon as I dimmed the lights, pressed play, and started watching Let Me In, the American remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, I was struck with a single blinding thought. It sure is a shame the Marlaine Delargy doesn’t do work on screenplays. I know Delargy, an excellent translator of Swedish novels, didn’t actually work on Lindqvist’s Let the Right On In, but recently she’s taken over the translation duties for his newer work and has excelled at bringing it to life. If anyone could save this remake/retelling/bad idea, my money would be on her.
For the record, I loved the novel, but loathed the original film. Let Me In is plagued by two of the same problems the Swedish adaptation faced. The first is that it refuses to stick to the novel’s portrayal of Eli/Abby’s “caretaker” as a pedophile. It’s sick and twisted, but that’s his main motivation for sticking with the young vampire who is forever trapped in the body of a twelve-year old. Let Me In does cleverly try to spin the caretaker’s reason for doting on the creature in a different direction, and it’s interesting, but in the end a tad too far-fetched.
The second problem is that because both films chose to alter the role of the caretaker, they were forced to cut the character of Tommy completely out of the story. In the novel, this teenager, who also lives in the same apartment complex as the two main characters, plays a significant role in the final act of the story. For those who read the book his absence is frustrating, and without him the tale being spun just doesn’t feel as chilling.
The American remake has a third strike against it. Unlike the original film adaptation, director Matt Reeves chose not to stick to the novel’s plot twist that the vampire Eli/Abby is actually a castrated young boy, NOT a girl. This added level of confusion for Oscar/Owen and complexity with regards to the nature of his relationship with the vampire is for all intents and purposes the heart of the novel’s story. It’s mind-boggling to see it removed and to see the film reduced to relying on the straight-up, simple, young love premise.
The moments when Eli/Abby repeatedly asks Oscar/Owen if he’d still like “her” if she wasn’t a girl are still present, but without the “shocking” reveal they feel lacking. The relationship between the two youngsters is supposed to be one that transcends not only species, but also gender. Their strong attachment and bond should go far beyond the initial attraction and should hint at something that lives at a much more instinctual, primitive, and base level. Let Me In robs viewers of all of the tense, emotionally exhausting moments of confusion with regards to these feelings and replaces them with absolutely nothing.
If you can set aside the original novel and the first film adaptation however, what’s left probably won’t disappoint you. The special effects are great, the acting is top-notch, something that’s rare from two actors that are so young, and the story, Americanized and transplanted to New Mexico, is mostly enjoyable. In other words, if you don’t know what you’re missing, the chances are that you won’t miss it. Still, if you want the real deal, and not some censored, watered down sketches of the original characters, you’d be better served reading the novel instead.