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Critical Mass: 'Let Me In'

September 30, 2010 |  3:51 pm

Letmein-mass1

Writer-director Matt Reeves has taken the clout he gained from directing the hit "Cloverfield" to adapt the popular Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In" for American audiences and given it a more Hollywood title: "Let Me In." It opens the same day as David Fincher's "The Social Network," which is notable in that Fincher is currently engaged in remaking another popular Swedish film, based on Stieg Larsson's novel, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

As the first wave of American-Swedish re-dos hits movie screens, how are critics reacting? If "Let Me In" can be considered a typical case, then Fincher and those who follow won't have much to worry about.

Michael Phillips writing for Tribune Newspapers is mostly positive about the movie, even though he prefers the Swedish original (what movie critic doesn't?). As Phillips says, "The original was a damn good thriller. The new one is simply a good one."

But what exactly does Reeves do right? For one thing, Phillips says, the director doesn't mess too much with the original story, inserting his improvements around the edges: "In one instance he has improved on a visual shock effect from the original, involving a bedridden vampire victim whose hospital stay ends badly. In other instances Reeves approximates shots, or a series of shots, or entire sequences, to fairly good effect and with just enough variation to call the results his own."

Kurt Loder, who has popped back up on Current after leaving MTV earlier this year, is of two minds about the movie. "There's a new character or two, and some unobjectionable new narrative touches; and there's also a bit more blood, and quite a bit more action — which, as it turns out, is entirely fine." But for those who have seen the original? Well... "they may be left wondering: What was the point?"

With its early '80s setting, its suburban Southwest American setting and its story of a lonely young boy's friendship with a fantastical creature, the New York Times' A.O. Scott amazingly seems to be alone in seeing a parallel between "Let Me In" and a very different, yet similar, film. "The early-'80s cultural touchstone that "Let Me In" brought to my mind — indirectly and perhaps perversely — was Steven Spielberg's "E.T.,"  he writes. "...That one is a warm science-fiction fable and the other a dark horror film makes the similarity more striking, since both movies begin with, and build their fantasies against, the terror and fury of childhood."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers states his bias upfront, admitting that he thought any American remake would be a "crass desecration." But give the man points for eating crow. "Well, color me blushing," he writes. Like most everyone who reviewed the film, he was wowed by the performance of young Chloe Grace Moretz, whom he describes as "an acting dynamo (see "Kick-Ass") whose mesmerizing performance goes deep."

Not all of Reeves' changes are necessarily seen as improvements, however. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, though generally liking the remake, is not as big of a fan of the added presence of Elias Koteas as a cop. "Elias Koteas, in an unkempt wild-man 'do, plays a local cop who hones in on Abby and her father after Los Alamos, N.M., experiences a wave of bizarre, possibly ritualistic murders. Consequently, 'Let Me In' is a bit more of a conventional police procedural, and a bit less about the troubling proto-sexual or quasi-sexual relationship between the central duo."

But enough praising with faint damnation from the critical elite. At its heart, "Let Me In" is a horror movie, after all, and we should hear from the blood-soaked die-hards. "The Arrow" at Jo Blo's Arrow in the Head horror movie website gives "Let Me In" 3 1/2 out of four and seemed right in line with the big critics. Fan of the original? This is nothing new. He writes, "80% of this remake was the same as its source. But that doesn't mean it was not worth a lick of spit. Awkward CGI aside, LET ME IN was on top of its game on every level; visually, acting (McPhee and Moretz were amazing), musically (again...what a score..wow) while sporting its damaged heart proudly on its blood stained sleeve."

And for the curious, he breaks down the nudity and gore in the film. The violence, for instance: "We get acid in the face, blood, severed limbs (yeah there's a severed head in there...yeehaw), a ripped up ear and a couple more goodies."

And there you have it.

-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Kodi Smit-McPhee, left, and Chloe Grace Moretz star in "Let Me In." Credit: Overture Films


 
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