Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
eternal death in the Bible
VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer
Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem? Answer
What is goodness?
FEAR and anxiety—What does the Bible say? Answer
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
How can I decide whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer
|Featuring||Chloe Moretz (Abby), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Richard Jenkins (The Father), Elias Koteas (The Policeman), Sasha Barrese (Virginia), See all »|
|Producer||EFTI (Sweden), Hammer Film Productions (England), Overture Films, See all »|
“Innocence dies. Abby doesn’t.”
If Ingmar Bergman made a vampire flick, it might have been the 2008 Swedish film “Let the Right One In” (“Lat den ratte komma in”). Besides being set in the Swedish auteur’s homeland, the film deals with the similar themes of love, death and the nature of evil in the world.
The film was actually helmed by Swedish filmmaker Thomas Alfredson.
Like a Bergman film “Let the Right One In” kinda floats around the points of a story rather than having a solid linear structure. This is one of the key differences between foreign films and more narrative driven American films. In the horror genre, the differences are akin to the difference between Jazz and Rock. American horror has a definite rhythm, which, in musical terms, goes one, two, three… scare; one, two, three… shock. While foreign films tend to rely on atmospheric tension and somber tones.
When American directors try to remake foreign horror films, something often gets lost in translation, and you get an amalgamated creature that doesn’t function in either world (for a good example of a poor remake of a brilliant foreign film watch the Netherlands/French version of “The Vanishing”—1988, then try to sit through the 1993 remake with Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock—surprisingly the remake was directed by the same director, but produced by American studios). So when director Matt (“Cloverfield”) Reeves stepped up to direct the remake of the international hit film, precedent was not on his side.
Let me first satiate the curiosities of those who saw the original Swedish film, this remake is very much like the original, and those who liked the original will not be disappointed by this rendition. There are a few minor changes, but, for the most part, the story of a solitary and awkward boy becoming befriended by the new girl in town who ends up being a vampire is the same.
The first change is the story’s locale. Though the location for “Let Me In” looks remarkably similar to the Stockholm setting, it is actually thousands of miles away in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Secondly, the two leads have had their names changed from Oskar and Eli to Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee—“The Road”) and Abby (Chloe Moretz—“500 Days of Summer” and “Hit Girl” from “Kick-Ass”). For the sake of this review, I will be referring to the characters as Owen and Abby, however, since the story is 95% spot-on with the original, most of the comments can easily pertain to Oskar and Eli, as well.
The story is about a young, picked-upon adolescent boy named Owen who lives with his mother who is in the midst of a divorce and a losing battle with alcohol. Owen pretty much stays to himself, and one evening while playing in the snow of the courtyard is approached by the new girl, Abby. Owen quickly finds out one of Abby’s interests is puzzles and offers to let her solve his Rubik’s Cube. Later, when he desires to become a life-long friend of hers and cuts his finger to form a pact in blood, he discovers her other interest, or more like craving, the taste for human blood.
Owen is the target of teasing and beatings by a group of his school peers who constantly berate him by referring to him as a girl and viciously threatening him. With his mother caught up in a custody battle with Owen’s father, Owen confides his troubles to Abby who advises him to “hit them back harder than they hit you.”
While Owen and Abby are bonding, there appears to be a pattern forming in a series of mysterious disappearances in this small, Southwestern community.
The story is far richer and the relationship between Owen and Abby is much deeper than your standard variety vampire story (and they are abundant these days). Though this remake definitely plays upon the horror aspects, the original was marketed as a “romantic vampire” film, and the innocent affection the two share takes the film a step above your generic vampire flick. I would say this is one of the areas that makes the remake better than the original. Both Smit-McPhee and Moretz demonstrate a competence in their roles that defies their young ages. Moretz is a talent to watch and is emerging as a young actress that can easily become the next Dakota Fanning or Jodie Foster.
The themes of the film are a bit deeper than your generic vampire film, as well. There is a real spiritual tone to this movie, and the question of the nature of evil permeates throughout the story. The film takes place in 1983, and, in a scene which serves as the film’s jump off point, a TV is broadcasting a speech given by former President Ronald Reagan who is talking about the existence of “real evil” in the world. Later, Owen is at home, and the TV is on and turned to a station where a televangelist talks about “spiritual evil.” Evil and temptation become prevalent themes, as Owen finds out more than he desires about Abby’s identity.
The film is rated “R” and lives up to its rating, as it is definitely not intended for children. Though there is a clear spiritual underlying theme to the film, the subject matter of vampirism will no doubt offend many Christian viewers. There are a handful of profane words including more than a dozen F-words and at least a dozen utterances of the Lord’s name in vain (“Jesus Christ”—5, “Jesus”—2, “God”—2, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”—2, plus “G*d d*mn” and “Oh my G*d”). A woman’s breast is exposed during a brief love scene that Owen voyeuristically oversees from his bedroom window. Abby strips naked in Owen’s bedroom (not explicitly shown), and then gets under the covers with him. Apparently, nothing physical happens between them. In another scene, bloody Abby kisses Owen on the lips after murdering another person, leaving blood on Owen’s mouth.
Just as one would expect in any modern horror/vampire flick, there is a pretty substantial amount of gruesomeness and violence.
Violence: There is a scene of a man being hung upside down and having his throat slit in order to be eviscerated, a scene where a man pours acid on his face and the after effects of this act, multiple scenes of throats getting bitten, cut and ripped open; physical attacks of a horrific nature and the aftermath of a man jumping to his death from a ten story window. Those who saw the original will no doubt remember the pool scene. The scene remains intact in the remake and contains more appendages being removed from bodies than the original.
There is an element in the original film that dealt with the androgynous nature of Eli. In that film, there is a famous, and to some shocking, scene which deals with the character’s gender (or lack there of). In this film, that element is only hinted at in an elusive reference that Abby makes about her gender that never really comes up again.
As far as production quality, there is a lot this stylistic remake has to offer, starting with the dynamic performances of the leads. The snow-covered terrain of New Mexico is pleasantly cinematic, when not saturated in blood. As mentioned, fans of the original will find much familiar territory in the remake, however, in some instances, the remake fills in some holes that were left open in the first film.
“Let Me In” is a film solely for fans of this type of film. Though the adolescent affection that Owen and Abby share for one another would rival that of Edward and Bella, this is definitely not “Twilight.” Audience members that are easily upset with scenes of violence and gore should definitely avoid this, and this film should definitely be avoided by children and younger teens. However, if this type of film is more to your fancy, and particularly if you enjoyed the original this remake and the performances of its young actors will definitely not disappoint.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.