Flicking excitedly through this year’s London Film Festival programme, cinema-goers might have understandably winced at the sight of Let Me In. Not only is this yet another vampire movie but it’s an American remake of Let The Right One In, the much-loved Swedish film recently voted the 8th best horror movie of all time. Surely no good could come of this.
Wince not, however, for writer-director Matt Reeves has done a fine job with Let Me In, transposing this dark coming-of-age tale from icy Stockholm to equally icy New Mexico. Fans of the Swedish original might be alarmed at the horror-by-numbers opening scene, but it’s not long before the film settles into its cool, unhurried groove. Visually, Reeves’s film is a murkier, uglier affair than Tomas Alfredson’s original, and Let Me In can’t match LTROI‘s elegant sound design and score, but Reeves manages to inject a level of tension and credibility lacking in the original.
Focusing on an alienated child who finds a fairytale escape from everyday problems (parents, divorce, bullying), Let Me In makes a nice companion piece to Spike Jonze’s underrated Where The Wild Things Are, released last year. Both films have the guts to take the magical or supernatural seriously, both share a tactile, sensuous aesthetic and both are seen through the eyes of the young male protagonist. Yet Let Me In rejects sentimentalism more emphatically than WTWTA. The tentative romance between the lonely 12-year-old Owen and his strange new neighbour, Abby, is touching rather than icky, and the end of the film is more a case of killing and clearing off than hugging and making up. Quibble about this or that minor change if you like, but Let Me In is a far better movie than most would have expected. Whether it will be a hit or not remains to be seen, but Reeves has made a brave adaptation.