Saturday, October 30, 2010
Let Me In (Matt Reeves) ***
Dir. Matt Reeves
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas
I have to admit to being incredibly skeptical of this film from the moment I heard about it. After all, this is an English language remake of 2008's Let The Right One In, a masterpiece made by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson. I was certain that they would screw this up based not only on Hollywood's reputation for adapting foreign films, but also because director Matt Reeves really dropped the ball in his directorial debut Cloverfield and the lead female role went to cutesy preteen star Chloe Moretz. I was mostly relieved that this turned out to be an honest attempt to match the spirit of the original without dumbing it down for American audiences.
The story is completely faithful to the original. Bullied teen Oscar (Kode Smit-McPhee) notices a mysterious girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) move into a nearby apartment with her father (Richard Jenkins). He's quickly smitten with Abby, who helps convince him to fight back against the school bully, only to soon find out that she is a vampire. Meanwhile, a detective (Elias Koteas) investigating mysterious deaths in the town seems to be zeroing in on the culprit.
There are some really disturbing aspects to the first film and I'm impressed that the filmmakers and especially the studio did not water this down one bit, particularly a really uncomfortable moment between Moretz and Jenkins. It's just as creepy and upsetting as the original story. This is essential to creating the exceedingly dark atmosphere for the central characters to operate in. It's not at all what you think when you hear "vampire movie". There are no sparkly vampires to be found here. Nor are there any over the top action sequences. This is serious business.
Reeves' Cloverfield was derailed because the characters were incessantly annoying It was really hard to care about any of them. On top of that, the dialogue was putrid and insulting to the audience's intelligence. Therefore, this adaptation was perhaps a perfect vehicle for Reeves to tackle. The film is less dialogue heavy than Cloverfield and Reeves seems to have a much easier time exploring characters visually. The source material gave him a fascinating set of characters to work with and he understands each of them very well. Also, the casting proved to be much less problematic than I had feared (Moretz is very good, even if she doesn't approach the brilliance of the original's Lina Leandersson).
However, the fact that Reeves has done such a good job capturing the tone and spirit of the original actually makes this remake feel even more pointless. Who is this film aimed at? It's doubtful that audiences who scoff at reading subtitles in the first place would enjoy such a dark and uncomfortable story. People that loved the original already know what happens, diminishing the impact of the story's wonderful surprises. This is perhaps a bit unfair. Certainly, I'd also be complaining if he had heavily altered the film to make it more marketable for a wider audience. So it's pretty much a no win situation, which is usually the case when you remake a great foreign film that is only two years old.
Posted by Larry McGillicuddy at 1:24 PM