let me in.

I’d heard so very many people say this film was well-made, but ultimately a waste of time. The reason for saying this was because, while they appreciated the well crafted film, they felt it was too close to the original, stolen scene for scene so that the only difference was whether or not they had subtitles. I must have been watching a different movie.

It was obviously a direct American remake, so in part their argument is sound. There certainly was a direct crossover of tone, and many scenes were taken directly from Let the Right One In. Yet, there were so many differences and variations in nuance that many characters were very different from what they were in the original film adaptation. In several scenes, the dialogue was lifted from the original film, but in several instances the dialogue had very different meaning because of different decisions regarding several key plot elements.

This film certainly isn’t superior to the original, but there are plenty of facets in which the film offers a different interpretation of the material. Reeves’ version is more overt, less ambiguous, and answers questions that the original film left open-ended.

Reeves direction was excellent, including several scenes in which he changed the details from the original film significantly, but to great effect. The performances of each actor involved was also fantastic.

**Spoilers Follow**

One thing that is changed in the American version is that very different things are meant in each film by the line, “Would you still like me if I wasn’t a girl?” Novel: it is made explicit in the narrative that Eli isn’t actually a girl, but was a small boy who had been mutilated when made into a vampire. Swedish version: this isn’t made as explicit, but the scene when Oskar peeks at Eli getting dressed shows the scar from the mutilation. American version: It’s implied that Abby was a little girl, but has become a vampire, so she feels she is nothing anymore. It’s still possible that the original story could fit, but no one would get that idea from the text of the film.

The first adaptation of the film leaves interpretation of many events up to the viewer. Was there a sweetness and love in the midst of all this violence, or was Eli just preying on the weak and lonely Oskar? Let Me In answers that question, making it clear that Abby was taking advantage of Owen’s loneliness in order to groom him to be her caretaker in the future, as she had done in the past. The text of the the original film adaptation of Let the Right One In certainly allows for that interpretation of what is happening, but never explicitly says so. Eli/Abby’s caretaker at the start of the film, brilliantly played in each version by Per Ragnar/Richard Jenkins respectively, is handled differently in the two films. In Let The Right One In, it is possible that he is a portent of what’s to come for poor Oskar, but that is only one potential possibility, in the novel it is explicitly stated that he is not in fact a former boy companion of Eli, but instead is a formerly homeless pedophile. In Let Me In, the photo booth pictures make clear that Owen is part of a cycle that Abby uses as another aspect of her predatory behavior, to keep her hands clean from the act of killing her victims herself (or, as Owen sings in the final scene, “Eat some now, save some for later.”)

A change I appreciated was that the American film forced the audience to grapple with the innocence of all the victims in the film a bit more overtly. The police officer was a good man, and his gruesome death at Abby’s hands… er, teeth, hammers home the point of her evil. This is present in both films, but is handled with more clarity in the American film, in which we see how Owen enters into the evil of Abby’s existence because of his feelings for her.

Yet, the police officer, while expertly played by the always underrated Elias Koteas, was also the need for a giant serving of suspension of disbelief. The film primarily asks, “What if vampires were real in 1980’s New Mexico, in the real world?” Thus, everything should be realistic aside from the existence of vampires. Yet, here is one lone detective carrying out the entire investigation of these grizzly murders on his own. The bodies discovered imply serial killings, cult activity, and the involvement of children in the violence. Can you say, “Federal Task Force”? There is no way a single cop would be carrying out an investigation of this scope, but we are never led to suspect that there is another investigation going on and that our hero cop is simply going beyond the call of duty. This unexplained silliness is a loose end, and by far my least favorite part of the film. Although, as a character, he was certainly easy to care for.

Anyway, I think this film was well worth my two hours, and while I won’t watch it once or twice a year like I do Let The Right One In, I certainly do hope to see it again someday.

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  1. I watched Let Me In the other night and found it gorgeous. I must say it was here that I was convinced it was worth a viewing! Nice recommendation.

    Here’s one in return, take it or leave it: Do not, under any circumstances, see Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. Unless you are doing so to explain to me why it happened to me. Thank you.

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