It is very rare for me to really enjoy a remake if I don’t feel it necessary. Now and again remakes come along that do better the original, The Thing, The Hills Have Eyes even Piranha. Where I get really frustrated though is the remakes of foreign films, especially ones that are remade almost instantly after the original is released. The words “jumping on the bandwagon” spring to mind, and the feeling of a cash-in, that it’s all about the money fill me with anger. Let Me In was remade far too soon, however with Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves in the director’s chair i was willing to give it a chance. Hell, I was even excited about it. So how did it turn out, was it as good as the original? The simple and quick answer is yes. Now I will really shock you. Was it better than the original? In a round a bout way, yes!!! (I will give you a moment to get up off the floor….)
Let Me In is beautiful in a way I never imagined it could be. Don’t get me wrong, Let the Right One In was one of the finest and most perfect vampire films of all time, but Matt Reeves has somehow made the whole thing even more convincing, more beautiful and more dramatic. There is a desperation in Owen here that was absent from the Swedish version. Kodi Smit Mcphee plays Owen as good, if not better than the freaky looking white haired Swedish lad, and here certain scenes really make him out to be not just a social outcast who is bullied at school, but also a poor kid desperate to be loved. In one scene his Mother gets into an argument with his Dad over the phone, and the look on the poor kids face is heartbreaking, as is a scene when he talks to his Dad on the phone. Owen is a tortured soul, and all his emotion, all his sadness, all his incredible loneliness is captured here in one hell of a performance by Smit Mcphee. He had a HUGE role to follow as the acting in the Swedish original was some of the best child acting I have ever seen. Mcphee more than lives up to the task, and in some scenes he actually had me close to tears. His screams of desperation in some of the bullying scenes are also incredibly powerful thanks to how he plays it, and make the whole thing far more unsettling.
You all know the story, but if you don’t I will briefly explain. I have told you about Owen, but what I haven’t told you is that he lives in a rundown block of flats and spends most of his spare time alone. A new girl moves into the flat next door, with her “guardian”, the two form a close friendship and a beautiful love story blossoms. What we don’t yet know, and what we very soon find out, is that the young girl is a vampire. Chloe Mortez fills the shoes of the vampire, and after a staggering performance in Kick-Ass, she does it all over again here in a mesmerising, haunting and hypnotic performance. You find yourself really connecting with these kids, and suddenly the age means nothing as they behave like adults and have the kind of conversations kids that age should not really be having. The dialogue is deep and meaningful and well thought out. Added into the mixture of characters is the ever brilliant Elias Koteas as the detective looking into the case of a man who poured acid on his face and then kills himself at the hospital. Koteas is everything De Niro should have been as he got older. Instead, De Niro opted for comedy, and Koteas continued to give one blistering performance after another. His character here is powerful and damaged; he too seems a soul at unrest with the world. We never look into his story, but it’s clear he too is a lonely person full of questions and the want to be at peace.
Now the big question is what exactly does Reeves bring to the story that’s different from the original? It’s sad to say that he brings nothing new; this is pretty much a shot for shot remake although it somehow feels different. The atmosphere in the original was cold, lonely, unsettling and utterly compelling. Reeves version is incredibly dark, moody, disturbing and also lonely but the whole thing makes a little more sense than the original. I mean, I actually started thinking about the whole idea of letting a vampire into your home watching this. The original was shocking, but here I actually reflected and tried to think of a vampire film where vampires do actually break into their victims home. I can’t think of any. It’s a rule often overlooked, or never really made any use out of, but here I really really considered it. I also missed the point in the original, or more, didn’t get the point until later about the Guardian. I won’t spoil things, but let’s just say I had a realisation here and it made more sense. The music really drives this film, moody, classic horror sounds and this added to the masterful camerawork of shadows and dark corners made the whole thing feel really old fashioned, really authentic and you can clearly see Hammers stamp all over the design. It’s refreshing to see a horror not afraid to go back in order to go forward.
Reeves also pulls off a moment of masterful camera trickery which I had to replay just to appreciate its brilliance. The car crash scene, where the camera sits in the back of the car and everything moves but it’s the outside which is moving because the camera is bolted down. It’s truly an awesome scene as at first you completely become disorientated in all the madness and confusion. It’s moments like these that really set Reeves apart from his peers. He is truly a director to watch and one with an immense talent. To actually get me to enjoy a remake of such a brilliant film THIS much is an achievement in its self. Reeves has pulled off a work of pure brilliance here, it’s not a horror for the gore hungry fans though, oh no, this is serious horror for the serious horror fan who like a bit of quality to their horror. The story in itself is good enough, fascinating even but when it’s in the hands of a director as good as this it becomes something very special indeed.