Saturday, October 2, 2010

Movie Review- Let Me In

Okay here it is. My long awaited (for me, haha) review for Let Me In. I really wanted to wait until at least tomorrow to write this so I could have time to let all my thoughts settle...but I can't help it! The words are dying to be spilled out of my fingertips. So what's the consensus? Well, I thought it was good! Really good in fact. Did I think it was better than the original? No. If you haven't read my past two blog posts, you should know that the book Let Me In is based off of is probably my favorite book of all time and the original film it's based off of is, I think, one of the greatest films EVER! So yeah, you can call me a pretty big fan, thus, I'm going to be more critical towards Let Me In than the average movie goer.

When I first heard that Matt Reeves would be taking on a remake of the 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In, I had mixed emotions. I was scared that the integrity of the story could potentially be ruined. I don't have a huge hate against remakes, I just feel that most of them tend to be remade, well, pretty shitty to put blunt. My opinion on that slightly changed on that when I saw Martin Scorsese's remake of Infernal Affairs, which would be The Departed. Scorsese was able to keep it in line with the original. He Americanize it in a Boston setting but still stayed faithful to the original and even added his own extensions on several scenes that I thought worked well. Remakes like that are some of the few exceptions to the rule and I was hoping Let Me In would be one too. Pre-production rumors of the film started with some unsettling changes that I was not too happy about, and neither were the other fans of LTROI. Let Me In became a target of hate and all sorts of flames from fan boys of the original. I still wanted to stay positive and give this thing a chance despise all the changes I heard about. I tried to look at Let Me In not as a remake, but Matt Reeves' interpretation of JAL's novel. I gotta say though, after seeing the film, there's no way I can't call this film a remake. I warn you now, this review isn't all on the grounds of Let Me In by itself- there will be many comparison critiques. You may want to read my previous one or two posts cause I'm not going to do any sort of plot synopsis.

The first change from the original would be the change in location. The dark, snowy suburb of Stockholm was a huge tone setter in the original film. The American remake placed the setting in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1983. I was kind of cynical towards the idea of the film taking place in America, but now I'm really glad it did. It brought on a new perspective to the film and was a great way Let Me In could differentiate itself from LTROI. This 1980's Reagan era worked out really well for the movie. Here and there, you'd can hear President Reagan ranting in the background either on TV or radio on the concept of evil (speaking about the Soviets no doubt). Oskar's character (renamed to Owen) is having to constantly hear these message about good vs evil not only on TV but from his uber Christian (and invisible) mother as well. Makes for a very moral conflicting moment for Owen when he realizes that Abby (changed from Eli) is a vampire. Oh and seeing that the 80's is one of my favorite musical eras, the old school records that were played in the movie made me smile. I would have never been able to enjoy these small things had it been set in Sweden cause its not like I have any understanding of 80's pop culture in Sweden.

So as you know, the characters Oskar and Eli were renamed to Owen and Abby in Let Me In. I was kind of hoping they would just rename them (or should I say respell) to Oscar and Ellie cause its not like its really foreign sounding or anything. I didn't understand at first the name change but now I do. Reeves isn't trying to portray Oskar and Eli in his film but two completely new characters of his own. Why? Well, I think he needed Owen and Abby to be more likeable to American audiences, even if it meant taking out what made them such unique characters in the original story. Well let's start with Owen. Oskar, the character his character is based off of, is an obvious serial killer in the making. He keeps a knife with him, is obsessed with keeping a scrap book of murder clippings, and whole heartedly wants to kill people. Kind of a turn off and I guess less likeable to Americans? I dunno. But Owen is portrayed to be more innocent. His murder fantasies look more like revenge fantasies (and seeing the shit he's being put through, you'd understand why) rather than a soon-to-be-real-life serial killer fantasies.

Our vampire character Abby I gotta say, is quite different from Eli. I applaud Reeves for trying to show more of her vampire side that was kind of hidden away in the original, but it looked slightly silly. The original novel did say that Eli changed to some grotesque looking monster when he fed, but Abby looked more like a zombie from a cheesy horror movie. Also, the CGI of her when she's climbing and jumping makes her look fantastical- not organic in a supernatural way that the original made it look. I really wondered how the whole former boy thing was going to be handled for Abby in Let Me In. The whole "I use to be a boy" idea is not exactly a pretty one for most Americans. I had a sickening feeling that they were going to make is super clear that Abby is a girl and nothing else, but is seems like Reeves decided to be ambiguous about the whole thing so I guess its for the audience to decide. Abby's character did however seem closer to the lost tragic vampire that was in the novel. The original film made her seem much more head strong and confident. She also wasn't dirty at all-lol. She needed some dirt on her face and grease in her hair. I guess they wanted her to appear pretty so cleaned her up.

Okay now the father character. This is one thing in the film that drove me absolutely ape wire. So the original character he is based of is named Hakan. You don't really know who this father character is for the most part in the movie. It's obvious that he loves Abby a lot, even enough to go out and kill for her so she doesn't have to risk getting caught. It's explained in the novel that Hakan was a school teacher who was discovered to be a pedofile and so fired from his job and shunned from society. Homeless and miserable, Eli finds him one night and offers him a money and a place to stay if he'd hunt for her. Eli used his desire for her to manipulate him and get him to kill for her and clean up after her. Sooooooo, Let Me In completely changed that. I understand that a pedophile is a big turn off, but changing that concept came with huge implications for Abby's character. In one scene, Owen finds like some 1930s or 40s photo booth strip of her together with "the father" when he was a young boy around Owen's age. This suggests that Abby has had a close companion before Owen and this is what's he turned into. Some slave that caters to her every evil whim without her showing the slightest hint of love back. Is this what's to become of Owen? Does she actually care for him at all or is she only interested in him cause she needs a new bitch boy? What made the original story so special was the fact that Eli has never loved or been close to someone and Oskar fills that void. She would never even think about turning him into what became of Hakan. Perhaps I'm just taking this thing the wrong way. Maybe "the father" character did mean nothing to Abby and her thing with Owen is something completely different.

One thing I was really looking forward to is seeing scenes from the book that the original movie was not able to adapt. Seeing how Reeves described Let Me In as a REINTERPRETATION of the novel and not a remake of the film, I was excepting to see a lot of new stuff. The original film was a great adaption in every way but I did leave a lot of stuff out. Reeves had a chance to include a lot of that! Instead, it seemed like almost every scene in Let Me In was a scene from the LTROI. Not a remake I see? Well thats quiet a coincidence then. I recall from the trailer a shot where Abby's head is being held down and I took that to be either one of two parts that were in the book that wasn't in the original film. Either the part when Eli gets turned into a vampire during a sadistic ritual or when a reanimated, mindless Hakan finds Eli and tries to rape her (or should I say him?). Well I didn't get to find out when I saw the movie cause they cut it. I found on an article afterwards with Chloe Moretz explaining what the scene was suppose be.

"She started as a normal little girl," Moretz said. "Her family wasn't very wealthy but they worked. Her uncle was wealthy but was always the weird guy. He stayed in a darker house and he had animal skins everywhere. We came up with that my uncle turned me and robbed me of my innocence and made me immortal."

Okay right there- that scene would have been the proof that Abby is full on girl, further showing that these aren't the same characters in JAL novel. Yeah, I'm really glad it was cut. The only addition from the book that Reeves added was the cop character but Lacke's character was sacrificed for that. I was also bummed that Virginia's character didn't get as much screen time. We didn't get a feel for who she was or get to see her emotional sufferings after she gets changed by Abby. I was really hoping for a cool cat attack scene but never got it.

Alright, enough of my comparison complaints. Even with all the stuff I was bitching about earlier, it's still a fantastic film. I'm glad Reeves didn't make Let Me In a fast paced thriller in order to appeal to American's (even thought that's what the trailers make it look like). The tone is creepy, dark and tense and maintains a good steady pace. There were many tense moments in this film, even more than the original. One scene is shot in a absolutely fantastic way- "the father" is in the back seat of a car waiting for his chance to attack the driver, when suddenly everything starts to go wrong. Another passenger gets into the vehicle and soon the two of them stop for gas. You're on the edge of your seat, nervous in anticipation on what's going to happen, yet it's strange because it's the scene is coming from the killers point of view. I was also a lot more terrified of the bullies in Let Me In versus the bullies in LTROI. That could be because I didn't fully understand the meaning of the words that were coming out of the bullies' mouths in the Swedish version, but hearing it in english put it in a whole new light.

Even with all the dark gritty scenes, the film had plenty of its tender moments. The chemistry between Owen and Abby was fantastic. There were plenty of moving scenes between the two of them. Hearing all their dialogue in english, again, brought up a emotional aspect for me. The sweetest moment I thought was when Owen offer Abby a Now & Later and Abby chews on it pretending to like it. Now I have to talk about the ending scene because I can't help myself. Sorry for the spoiler. The last scene was intense. Was it as intense as the original? I'd say so, but I much enjoyed the original version of it better. Let Me In shot the scene underwater just like LTROI, but unlike LTROI, you can tell much better what's happening on the surface of the pool. You actually see the bullies reactions when Abby smashes through the window and you see a most of the bullies getting man handled by Abby. What I loved about this scene in the original was you really had to pay attention to piece together what was happening above water. The hints are barely there but just enough for every one in ten people to figure out what happened. The chilling effect is so much more intense when you can't see it.

The two young stars of this movie really, really shine. Kodi Smit-Mcphee is phenomenal! How they got such an intense and emotional performance out of such a young kid is just beyond me. Chloe Moretz was really great too but I was expecting that. Richard Jenkins was incredible as well but I wish he got more screen time. I was really hoping for a ZOMBIE HAKAN to get me squirming in my seat. Matt Reeves really did a wonderful job putting together a beautiful, emotionally haunting film and even though it is a remake, it can shine on its own. The score was a big drive for the emotional aspects throughout the movie. The score created a lot of the film's intensity and a lot of it's endearing moments. I hope Michael Giacchino wins an Oscar for the second year in a row for best score. So my bottom line- this movie is a beautiful film on its own rights and I definitely recommend it, but being a huge fan of the original book and film, I'm going to judge it slightly harsher.

Final Score- 9/10

Side note: Can I just take this moment to bitch about annoying audience members? My friends and I saw a noon showing so I wasn't expecting very many folks to be in the theater. There were only a handful of other people so it's easy to single out individuals. Well this one pompous fat dude thought he had every right to be a pretentious asshat and laugh at the most awkward parts. The first scene showing Owen get bullied is tense and uncomfortable by itself but this guy thought it would be cool to laugh loudly throughout the entire scene. Now when I say laugh, I mean full out donkey laughing. So loudly that you couldn't even hear the audio from the movie anymore. It just made it reeeeeeally uncomfortable for all the audience members. He pulled this stunt several times too!

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