Let the Right One In was a quietly creepy Swedish vampire movie with a unique twist- the vampire in the story was a little girl and the seduced hero was a little boy and this was his very difficult first crush. What was great about the film was just how quiet and restrained it was- the small Swedish town looked like it was wrapped in a shroud of snow and I remember feeling like I was being too noisy eating popcorn in the theatre. The word for it was atmospheric.
Hollywood doesn’t generally do atmosphere, so news that the film was going to be remade for the benefit of those Americans who can’t be bothered to read subtitles and directed by the fellow who made the dreadful Cloverfield didn’t bode well. But, for the most part, this is a creepy, atmospheric vampire flick with a twist- not so unique the second time, of course. Thank god it’s not a betrayal of the source material, drawing from both the original movie and the book upon which the original film was based.
The little town is now in New Mexico, but as snow-covered and somber as Sweden. The young boy, Owen (Cody Smit-McPhee) lives with his mother in a cheap apartment complex when some strange neighbors move in next door: an older man (Richard Jenkins) and a young girl named Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) with some strange habits. She walks around in the snow barefoot and gets in loud fights with her older caretaker. On occasion, he kills people and drains their blood for her. In spite of this, Owen and Abby become fast friends and love blooms. But, will he still love her when he finds out that she’s not a girl? And what about the bullies at his school who have been making his life miserable; will they get theirs? The questions aren’t quite as open if you already saw the Swedish film, of course.
Simply put, this is a fairly strong, well-photographed genre film with some really clever set pieces and an engaging central storyline. A bit with a killer in the back seat of a car is fairly Hitchcockian and the eerie empty small town spaces reminded me of early John Carpenter, something that might have been intentional as the film is set in 1983; there are definitely some obvious visual homage to Spielberg. I also liked that they caught the same atmosphere of the Swedish film and the basic sadness of the story.
Any problems? Well, there are two: the CGI, as ever, looks fake. At some point, directors have to realize that CGI is just a cartoon, albeit a very detailed cartoon; thus, it almost always looks cartoony. The few times it was used here, it was hard not to start giggling- never good in a horror movie. The other problem is the obvious- the originality of the story is a bit diminished when you see the same story twice with different languages being spoken. But, what can you do? It’s rare enough to see a truly eerie horror film nowadays that it’s worth watching the same one twice.