So, the final movie I’ve discussed before. It’s not a new movie, and it’s not one I’ve not reviewed before. But I watched it with a new appreciation for one of the stars and I wanted to see if maybe I just didn’t give it a fair chance the first time around.
This one’s called Let Me In. Remember that one?
This is an American version of a Swedish version of a Swedish book about a couple of strange kids who become friends. There are lots and lots of subplots and subtexts in the book, but the movies both streamline those out to focus on the two kids. Let’s face it, the English translation of the book comes in at a whopping four-hundred and something pages; you can’t really capture all that in a movie.
The Swedish version is one of, if not the, best take on vampires I’ve ever seen. So yes, right up front I’ll tell you, this is a vampire movie. But I wouldn’t call it horror. I’d call it tragic.
The story is that a child vampire moves into an apartment building next door to a weird little boy. He’s a loner, and there’s not a lot for him to do in his tiny little world. He’s bullied at school and steals to make up for it. He copes with his fears by getting a jack knife at a local five-and-dime sort of place, and stabbing trees while pretending they’re his enemies.
But his life gets a lot more interesting when he meets the little girl who moves in next door with an older man. Their initial meeting is a bit strange and awkward, but they share a common interest in puzzles and both are lonely. It doesn’t take long for them to become friends, and soon the little boy has more than a little crush on the new light in his life.
Trouble is, she’s not all she appears to be.
Let Me In isn’t as tender and warm as the Swedish version. There was something sweet and sort of endearing about it which is missing from the American version. But, it does a few things better than the Swedish version. The man the little girl lives with is portrayed much more clearly in this version, if not more accurately to the original text, and his weariness comes through his voice. The way he plays his part in the little girl’s life is much better, I thought. More realistic, and in a lot of ways, more brutal. The special effects are a bit better in the American version, but it probably had a bigger budget.
The actresses playing the little vampire girl are both brilliant. In the Swedish version, the actress managed to capture a tender innocence and a tragic, sad element which is missing from the American version. The depth of her care for the little boy comes through better. The American version – and this is no surprise since it was produced by Hammer Studios – focused more on the monster aspect of the character. My daughter was frightened by the American version in a scene where we see the little girl being a vampire. In the Swedish version, the scene is much more vague and the character weeps over her victim. This is important to the character and helps us understand she’s almost as much a victim as her victims.
Also, Let Me In chose to take the relationship between the little girl and her “guardian” in a different direction than the novel did. The Swedish version never addressed that aspect at all, but it added a certain creepiness to the little vampire girl which didn’t exist in the Swedish film. It leaves the viewer wondering if she’s a manipulative, cloying little demon, or if she’s just a normal kid and things happen because she is what she is? She’s been twelve for a long time, she states in the movie.
Overall, I think the film is probably one I’d not been fair to when I saw it the first time. And I’m willing to see it a third time to try and find out if I could enjoy it independent of the Swedish movie. Drawing comparisons isn’t a good way of doing this, and I don’t think the producers were smart in “remaking” a movie which already addressed the characters so well. But there’s a lot of that in Hollywood over the last several years – remaking foreign films.
If I’d seen this one first, I don’t think I would be compelled to read the book, but that’s what happened with the Swedish version. So I still think, in my opinion, the foreign film is superior. But Let Me In isn’t bad, and if you haven’t seen it yet, give it chance. It’s not your classic monster movie.
Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved