Matt Reeves’ Let Me In, what a disappointment! I do not normally give points to films, however, if I had to do so to Let Me In, it would get no more than 5 out of 10, and that because of Chloë Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Their powerful portrayal of the two central characters, Abby (Eli) and Owen (Oskar) saves Let Me In from being just another eminently forgettable horror flick. Matt Reeves claims in a Twitter Q & A session that he was inspired by Dial M for Murder, I dare to suggest that he rather should had been inspired by Psycho instead, particularly by the shower scene. A key problem with this film was expressed in an overheard comment made by someone when I was leaving the cinema: “I am desensitized.” When we reach the final scene in the school swimming pool, I just did not care, not any more, because of the lack of subtlety not only of its treatment, but also of all the previous gory scenes. In the original Swedish film, the restraint of its treatment injected even a bit of humour into this macabre scene, something which is totally absent in Reeves’ version.
To give Matt Reeves his due, he gave a good attempt to make an American version of the Lindqvist book, the problem is that the original film is so beautiful that it is very difficult to compete with it. He fails to do so. Where the Alfredson’s version begins with a poetic scene of snow falling, a very soft sound on the background, Reeves begins with a convoy of police cars escorting an ambulance, all sirens and shouts blazing, setting straightaway the overcooked and overbearing tone and pacing of Let Me In. In a way, I could say that Reeves made two films in one, a typical American style horror film, and a story of love and longing of two twelve year old misfits, Owen (Oskar), a bullied boy with dreams of revenge, traits of a psychopath killer already growing in him, and Abby (Eli), a girl who may be not be a girl after all, who is also twelve, the difference being that she has been twelve year old for a very long time.
Alfredson captures this central theme of longing, longing for a childhood to be as that of everybody else: for Oskar to be able to go out to school and around without being bullied, and for Eli to be, for once, a twelve year old human being she actually was once upon a time who can establish a close relationship with a boy of her own age as if she were a child, without seeing that boy simply as a source of blood. Both Chloë Grace Moretz and Lina Leandersson were able to powerfully express that inner conflict tearing Abby ‘s (Eli’s) inner self apart.
Reeves, while he is also able to capture that sense of longing, his overblown treatment of the violent and gory scenes manage to disrupt that central story to properly unfold, the pacing just completely blows it apart. Even so, in one scene where Abby (Eli) disposes of the “father” (Richard Jenkins) in hospital, after he has been captured, Alfredson manages to shoot it in a much more effective manner; even the make-up on the face of the actor was more realistic than in the American version (which looks too much like any other horror film monster rather than the face of a common guy disfigured by acid). However, in almost every other scene, Reeves’ overcooked treatment fundamentally disturbs the pacing of the film and looses the nuances of the original: Virginia catching fire ends up with the top floor of the hospital in fire, the shots of Abby jumping onto his victims are so ridiculous, I could have seen that it was a mannequin on top of the unfortunate victims even if I were a mile away, the blood splattering everywhere, or the old Abby appearing under the sweet and pretty face of the twelve year old Abby is grotesque and it goes on for too long (when she jumps and licks the blood on the floor after Owen tries to make a pact with her by mixing their blood); in the Alfredson version, there is just a hint of Eli’s old self appearing on her face, and much more realistic, at that.
There is one scene, which I thought it was crucial, in Let The Right One In missing in Let Me In: when Eli confronts Oskar after she went into his apartment in spite that she was not invited in (and, therefore, putting herself in mortal danger), remonstrating the first words she heard him saying when he was stabbing at a tree pretending it was the boy bullying him, and expressing that she does what she does because either she does it or she dies, while Oskar has options, yet he is already developing as a potential psychopathic killer. That that world weariness, is intensely conveyed by both Chloë Grace Moretz and Lina Leandersson.
However, Lina expressed that sadness, the sadness of a vampire who does not want to be one, a killer who does not want to kill, so intensely that I could feel it throughout my being, particularly in that scene in Let The Right One In when Eli is doing the Rubik cube. It was just unbearable to watch.
If you have seen Let The Right One In, perhaps to see Let Me In may be a bad idea as it is disappointing. I did bite my fangs on its neck, and found the blood to be rather anaemic. However, if you have not seen the Alfredson film, you may enjoy it: there is a darkness and world weariness in it missing from most contemporary American vampire movies. If Chloë continues to perform as she has done here, she could well be one of the great American actors of the 21st Century. On the other hand, perhaps Let Me In is worth seeing just because of her performance, and that of Kodi Smit-McPhee.
When I got home from the cinema, the cats hissed at me. Should I worry?
Let Me In DVD will be released in the UK on March 14, 2011.