Friday, February 4, 2011

Another mea culpa: I was wrong about "Let Me In"

Just a day or two ago I assembled a list here that featured a handful of things I was wrong about/shitty things I’ve done. In retrospect, I forgot about one thing that I didn’t make a “mea culpa” for, of which I’m now going to do right this instant. Ever hear of a film called “Let Me In”? It was in theaters not too long ago, and now it’s just arrived on the home video and download market. Now, I’ve decided to grit my teeth and give it a shot. If you don’t know anything about my hesitation to the film, read this:

"This is a record for me in terms of how short a time it's been between blog posts, but there is something that I just have to get off my fucking chest. A couple days ago the trailer for the upcoming vampire flick "Let Me In" found its way online. Despite my reservations about it, I watched it anyway out of the sake of morbid curiousity...and proceeded to scream obscenities at the top of my lungs afterward.

Why did this trailer for what appears to be an adult take on "Twilight" anger me so you may be asking? For those of you who don't know, "Let Me In" is a remake of the beloved and critically acclaimed 2008 Swedish film "Let the Right One In": a film that is equal parts shockingly beautiful, horrific, touching, and manages to get under your skin. "Let the Right One In" is a rare type of horror film that does more than provide shocks and scares to the audience, as it presents the newfound relationship/friendship between an abused and neglected pre-teen boy and a decades old vampire girl who has just come to town. While that synopsis only really scratches the surface of what "Let the Right One In" is about, the themes of alienation, revenge, young love, and heartbreaking loss are what really help set the film apart from others of its ilk.

Seeing something special like "Let the Right One In" be remade for mass American audience consumption isn't surprising in the least to be totally honest, but can't well enough just be let the fuck alone?!?! Besides changing the title and names of the characters (which is understandable to a degree considering the transcontinental translation and blah blah fucking blah), "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves was hired to helm this remake, which by the looks of the trailer appears to have viewed the original film repeatedly. How can I tell you may ask? Because there are so many shots in the trailer that don't just mirror shots in "Let the Right One In", but flat out just copy them and rip them off for lack of a better term. This isn't anything new when it comes to remakes though, since just a few months ago horror auteur Wes Craven lit into those behind the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" remake for doing the exact same thing. Yes, originality is officially dead in the film making world (don't get me started on remakes again...). Sure, it may have Hit-Girl from "Kick-Ass" as the vamp and the kid from "The Road", but that's as much promise as this thing can hope to have.

So let's go back to just why would anyone want to remake "Let the Right One In" for mass consumption? In an interview with FearNet, producer Simon Oakes stated that,

"...the story was so great, so beautiful, that it should be seen by a bigger audience. So I was always saying to myself, people in Manhattan have seen it, guys like you [genre journalists/fans] because it's in your wheelhouse, in New York, in Chicago, in Chelsea, in Notting Hill, in London but no one in Glasgow or Edinburgh or Bristol or Idaho or Pittsburgh has seen this film. It's a story that needs to be seen by a wider audience. Then it came down to [the question], how do you achieve that? By paying homage to the original."

"Paying homage"? Are you fucking serious? You don't pay homage to something by directly copying/ripping off the shots of the original film! Gus Van Sant did just that for his 1998 remake of "Psycho", before admitting what a mistake he had made in doing so. Plenty of directors, from Brian DePalma to Clint Eastwood, have paid homage to classic directors and classic films in their works by replicating bits of scenes and/or shots, but 99% of the time it's done in an admirable and even affectionate way. From what can be seen in the trailer for "Let Me In", this isn't so, and just comes off as a quick way to take something good, and water it down for American audiences to digest, as vampire flicks these days are all the rage, and here's another way for a studio (in this case Icon) to cash in.

At this point I would say that I may be alone in my feelings about "Let Me In", but I know for a fact that I'm not. Every person I've spoken with about "Let the Right One In" being remade feels the exact same way, and that isn't an overreactive statement on my part either. Granted that tons of great foreign films get Americanized remakes and have for quite some time now. Some you may be shocked to know that "Reservoir Dogs", "Desperado", "The Departed", and "Inglourious Basterds" among others are Americanized remakes, but for the most part they have many factors that are similar to the originals from which they are based, while also managing to do something different in the process. One can tell already just from the trailer alone that "Let Me In" isn't along those lines.

You may think I'm overreacting, you may think that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover" or "the trailer looks interesting", which I would agree with had I never heard of the original film or seen it. However, I remember seeing trailers for flicks like "Terminator: Salvation" and "Diary of the Dead" which looked awesome, and turned out to be big steaming piles of horseshit. If I'm wrong about "Let Me In" being any different from being a steaming pile of shit, then I'm wrong and we can all chalk it up to me being too much of a film geek/snob, but if I'm right...well, that'll be something of a rarity won't it?

One thing we can all be certain about though, is that no matter what, nobody here is gonna sparkle"

That was a blog post I made a few months ago when the film was due to come out. Now let it be said that, as if you can’t already obviously fucking tell, is that I love the original “Let the Right One In”; it’s not only my favorite foreign horror film ever, but it may well be my favorite foreign film ever PERIOD. With that in mind, you can understand my severe reprehension about an Americanized remake that I felt for sure would kill any of the originality and ballsiness that made the original so goddamn good. Hell, I was sure that it would be awful…

…well folks, I was dead wrong.

“Let Me In” does so much justice to “Let the Right One In” that it’s almost nearly as brilliant a film. Director Matt Reeves was quoted as saying that he wanted to pay as much homage and do as much justice to the original that he could, and he succeeds mightily. The ballsy storytelling, the creeping death atmosphere, and the overall just plain fucked up love story between a bullied pre-teen boy and a centuries-old vampire forever trapped in the body of a 12 year old girl. And just like the original film, “Let Me In” is surprisingly touching and heart wrenching amidst all the blood-letting, and may very well be the best American remake of a foreign film in the history of fucking ever.

If you’ve never seen “Let Me In” but desire to do so, I suggest watching the original “Let the Right One In” first and foremost. It’s still the better film between the two, but make no mistake that the remake is a wonderful surprise in itself.

I was wrong, dead wrong. Do yourself a favor and put both films on your viewing list.

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