As the main justification for doing an English language remake of a non-English language film is often so that a wider audience will be able to enjoy the story, there is often the fear that the remake will be dumbed down in order to best appeal to the types of audiences who won’t see subtitled films. That is why it is so exciting to discover that this English-language remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In (itself a novel adaptation) is so wonderful. Like the original film it maintains an incredible mood of dread and foreboding while also being a strangely touching story about young love.
The setting is now a small town in New Mexico in 1983 but the film is still about a shy, bullied and lonely 12-year-old boy (now named Owen and played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his friendship with a vampire who is permanently stuck as a 12-year-old girl (now named Abby and played by Chloë Grace Moretz). Smit-McPhee (The Road) gives Owen the right degree of vulnerability yet slightly strange sensitivity, while Moretz (Kick-Ass) brings a remarkable blend of otherworldly mystery and melancholy to Abby. She is absolutely convincing as an old soul who is physically and mentally trapped forever to live life as a 12-year-old girl. The pair are two of the finest young actors in recent memory and have a genuine chemistry, which brings an enormous amount of pathos to their relationship.
Let Me In does lack the icy edginess of the original film, however, Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser (The Boys Are Back, Bright Star) has done a remarkable job capturing the various light sources to give scenes between Owen and Abby a beautiful warm glow. This approach works extremely well and the combination of Fraser’s cinematography and the music by composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Star Trek) creates an atmosphere of both horror and beauty. The only visual component that lets this remake down are the CGIs used to animate Abby when she attacks. There is certainly a creepy uncanny aesthetic to her movements up to a point but they end up simply possessing the unconvincing cartoonish look that is so prevalent in so many CGI effects.
The concerns behind Let Me In were that it would be yet another inferior remake or simply redundant. It is neither. It is arguably one of the best remakes ever made and yet it is different and inventive enough so that both versions complement each other. Director and writer Matt Reeves has done a remarkable job and like he did so effectively throughout Cloverfield, he situates the audience within the action at key moments so that we experience those moments from the characters’ perspective. This skilled manipulation of positions of spectatorship is just another element that makes Let Me In a remarkable film. Rarely do remakes feel this refreshingly original.