‘Let Me In’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 6:44 am,

Let Me In new movie image Let Me In Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Let Me In

There are two types of people who are going to want to watch Let Me In: those who are all-too familiar with the Swedish novel-turned-movie which spawned this English-language remake, and those who have never heard the name Let The Right One In and are simply interested in a unique tale of adolescent romance and vampire drama.

Count me amongst those who know of Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s famous novel – and while that association certainly lends me a strong critical bias, I’ll try my best to be fair and judge Let Me In on its own merits.

The story is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in a small town circa 1983. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a boy living with his mother (Cara Buono) in a rundown apartment complex, as his parents fight their way through a nasty divorce. Owen’s mom deals with her pain one empty wine bottle at a time, leaving Owen perpetually alone, trying to stumble through his own emotional turmoil. School is no better: a nasty bully (Dylan Minnette) constantly goes out of his way to make Owen’s already-troubled life an unbearable hell.

Owen is a strange boy to begin with, and the ongoing issues at home and at school slowly push him to embrace the darker sides of life. He steals from his mother’s purse, spies on the nocturnal activities of his neighbors, and plays out some very dark fantasies about what it would be like to murder the classmates who torment him.

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The dark cloud hanging over Owen is seemingly lifted when he meets Abby (Chloe Moretz), a little girl who moves into the apartment next door with her “father” (Richard Jenkins). Abby is just as strange as Owen – she smells funny, seems just as isolated and walks around at night in the snow with bare feet.

As two outcasts stranded in the same dead end town, Owen and Abby quickly form a bond. But the closer the two get, the more Owen realizes that his new crush may have secrets that are far darker and more dangerous than anything he’s ever known, and that the cost of knowing her and loving her, could be his soul.

It’s no SPOILER to say that the hook in this story is that Abby is a vampire – in fact, most people will be going to see Let Me In expecting a vampire story. The problem is that Let Me In is stranded somewhere in a middle ground: it’s above conventional vampire genre films but below the subtle, nuanced work of art it aspires to be. By basing the script on the original by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it seems that Matt Reeves sets the bar at a height that he and the cast can’t quite reach.

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I can’t say the problem lies with the film’s young leads: Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz do an admirable job carrying this movie, given how young they are and how adult the subject matter is. Of the pair, I have to give Moretz the higher grade: she does well alternating between the sweet and innocent facade of a little girl and the feral nature of a deadly predator. Smit-McPhee does well enough making Owen into a frail, dough-eyed victim – a kid who has been shoved into the side margins of life at an early age by people who refuse to notice him, respect him or care for him.

If I have to make one criticism of both Moretz and Smit-McPhee, it’s that they didn’t quite match the brilliance of Kåre Hedebrant and Lena Leandersson, the two young actors who played these roles in Let The Right One In. What Moretz is missing is that subtle hint of an older soul hiding behind that little girl face, while Smit-McPhee makes Owen into too much of a victim; a few contrived scenes of Owen wearing a scary mask are not enough to make me believe this wimpy kid has a killer’s edge buried deep inside him.

In the end, both young leads inevitably show their age – especially when it comes to the chemistry between them. They seem only capable of bonding on the juvenile levels they’re familiar with, which is something of a misstep for Moretz’ character, who is supposed to be well-versed in what it means to find, nurture and ultimately lose love. But still, the pair are charming in their puppy-dog affection and work hard to portray their characters in full complexity. Again, they both reach for that high bar, but can’t quite manage to grab it.

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The only cast members who are able to really tap into the subtle depth required of them are Richard Jenkins as Abby’s guardian and Elias Koteas as the policeman who is investigating the murders being committed by Jenkins’ character. These two veteran actors are able to convey entire stories in just a few words and expressions, which is an especially important task for Jenkins, who holds up his end as Abby’s soul-sapped companion well. Also worthy of note is Dylan Minnette as the bully tormenting Owen: Minnette is a young actor, but it’s a real compliment to say that he manages to turn his bully character into a monster far more menacing than Abby (just as Lindqvist’s narrative intended).

I believe that director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) genuinely had his heart in the right place when making this film, it’s just that he doesn’t seem to have the proper sensibilities as a director to achieve what this film required. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying that Reeves is a BAD director – on the contrary, the camerawork and cinematography in Let Me In looks crisp and clean. A few sub-par CGI moments and lens flares aside, this is a visually competent film.

let me in moretz smit mcphee Let Me In Review

However, Tomas Alfredson made art out of Let The Right One In. Alfredson took the slow-burn pace of Lindqvist’s script and created some stunning Mise-en-scéne, certainly the best I’ve seen from modern vampire movies. Let The Right One In moved slowly, had little dialogue and even less ambient music, but every frame told a distinct story and every scene alluded to so much more than what was simply on the surface.

While Reeves has copied Alfredson’s vision in many places, his shots and scenes lack the visual depth of the Swedish director’s work. This is most obvious in the many closeups Reeves relies on to tell the story, often translating the relationship between Abby and Owen into the visual equivalent of “in their own world,” rather than using wider shots that subtly contextualize what it is we’re seeing transpire. The end effect for me was a movie that looked much the same as its foreign counterpart, but wasn’t nearly as stimulating or interesting for the well-trained eye. To put it in plainer terms: Reeves’ direction is a subdued, safe, clean – and a bit boring.

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Finally, those who worry about that dreaded cinematic dirty word, “Americanization,” are going to likely feel justified in their fears.  Let Me In is indisputably a shiny and polished Hollywood product and one thing that really did irk me was the heavy reliance on a musical score.

The Swedish version of this story was so still and quiet, and yet, so moving. This version feels overblown and overly dramatic at many points, and a lot of that I would have to blame on the music, which attempts to cajole the viewer into the emotional spaces the acting and story should’ve been solely responsible for carrying us to. To me, that kind of cinematic manipulation indicates a lack of trust in your film’s poignancy (the need to pad it at every point with a soundtrack) and I don’t think the filmmakers behind Let Me In needed to show such concern. The silence could’ve said so much more.

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On the larger scale of movie remakes, Let Me In is neither the best nor the worst of the bunch. It’s fairly entertaining, but ultimately offers very little of anything that will make it feel necessary or memorable. As a standalone entry in the vampire genre, the film does offer something unique – especially for those who don’t know about its more beautiful and interesting cousin from Sweden.

Watch the trailer for Let Me In to help you make up your mind:

[poll id="77"]

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

TAGS: let me in, let the right one in

108 Comments

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  1. Well, that’s disappointing. :(

  2. So it’s not as good as the original, therefore it’s utterly pointless.

    • You said it all, man.

  3. If anyone is wondering, I agree with Kofi’s review. I’d heard so much praise, and while it’s certainly nowhere close to being a bad film, it just felt lacking for me – I enjoyed the original much, much more.

    Vic

    • isnt that nearly always the case with american takes of foreign films Vic? i havent seen the original, been planning on it, i think reading this review will speed it up in my netflix que.

    • I agree vic.

      i find that the sexual ambiguity that was so present in the original was toned down to an extent that the entire relationship between abby and owen was changed.

      There are so many things that you can do with an art house film that you can’t do with a wide release. Studio heads are cowardly creatures that want the biggest audience possible. I honestly can say that I hate the fact that we have to live in a country with free speech but we still have to dumb things down because we are afraid of angering one small segment of the population.

      But the one thing i have to hand reeves is that he knows how to make a beautifully composed shot. not to mention that i actually felt real terror between owen and his bullies…was the lead bully the kid from percy jackson?

      I also found the setting of new mexico kinda weird….isnt it supposed to be hot there :-p

      i dont see why it couldn’t have been set in colorado. it would have worked better

  4. I am in an interesting position… being that I know all about Let The Right One In, the novel it was based on, and the Americanized remake, but I have not yet had the opportunity to watch nor read any of them yet.

    I think I will be watching the American version first so as to not be let down if I watched the Swedish first which apparently set the bar very very high.

    Interestingly, currently this american version has an 85% Fresh on the Tomatometer, so apparently a lot of people do think it is a very good movie.

    I am sure I will like the Swedish original more, however I also feel that I will enjoy the American version plenty (while making sure to not have any standards set to bias my feelings) *cough* *cough* *Kofi* ;)

  5. Well at least they’re not sparkling. I will probably wait to check this out when it’s available via Netflix.

  6. Not surprised.

  7. Gah posted my post did not show…???

  8. I am taking the road of reading the book first, then watching the American, then watching the Swedish. I am over 3/4ths of the way through the book. The book is great. Fantastic writer. Creepy story. While I had such high hopes for this, one could only assume it wasn’t going to be as good. I am still looking forward to seeing it, hopefully I disagree with this based more on the fact that I haven’t seen the Swedish version.

  9. Ok so the biggest Americanization of it was to add music? From what I understand the issues you had were:

    1. Music
    2. two young actors were lacking in certain emotions
    3. moved to fast
    4. and scenes did not tell more of the story..

    What was the bar set to the book or the screenwriting? While this is a remake wouldnt the screenwriting hold sway over say a previous screenwriters vision?

    I make no secret that I thought the original was slow and at times seemed badly filmed. (killing someone and bleeding them in a well lit park?)

    I did like the basis of the story and should read the novel. However my question to you (even with teh 3 of 5) is how unbiased were you? Did the movie follow the book? Wouldnt the screenwriter base the screenplay on said book? Did you score it based on a comparison and not by itself (as evident on the it was filmed one way in the original but not in this one)?

    • Aknot

      The book, screenplay for the Swedish version and American version were all written by the same guy – the author of the book. I mention that twice in the review ;-).

      And I’m as unbiased as one can be having already been familiar with the source material. I tried to speak to two camps of thought on this: those who know the Swedish version and those who don’t.

      • Kofi, in reading your review, it just makes me wanna see the better of the two versions, its hard for me to watch any type of american remakes/adaptations of any foreign films…Point of No return taught me that lesson years ago lol.

        • True lies was a good american remake. I didn’t thein p.o.n.r. (almost porn!) Was that bad.

          • Almost forgot Nolan’s insomnia was a remake as well.

      • Oh I know that but you state:
        “You would think that having the novel and Swedish film’s writer,  John Ajvide Lindqvist, onboard as the screenwriter for this remake would be an asset: instead, Lindqvist sets the bar at a height the filmmakers and cast never quite reach.”

        So were you saying the bar he set was the Novel or the Screenplay? Or the previous move?

  10. Ok this or case 39? I dont know which one to see. HELP!!

    • make your own mind up sir :)

      • Damn you lol

        • Case 39 it’s not so good, watch Let me In.

          • yes just saw the movie and i enjoyed it GREAT REVIEW! :D

  11. so what we have is another [rec]/quarantine situation?
    it’s only purpose will be for people to show their philistine friends who are too lazy to read subtitles a fantastic story.
    i’m glad this didn’t get appaulling reviews since nearly everyone involved is extremely talented and deserves at least SOME kind of praise for working hard to capture some of the essance that made the original so magical

    • A fantastic story can still be told. I thought the story was fine.. I wasnt sold on the acting, pace or placement of the original and some of it didnt make sense. To me that took away from the story and movie of the original.

    • cazitron,

      This is a much better remake than “Quarantine” was.

      Vic

  12. I still wanna see it. Loved the original, but with the casting of richard jenkins it really makes me wanna watch it now. Watching the original i kept thinking how awesome jenkins would be in an english version.

  13. pffffffffffffffffffff!

    Haven’t seen it but I’ve sen the Swedish movie.

    I guess it’s hard to a) distinguish moments from one as specific to just that one in such a case and b) rate a single event without bias.

    I’d like to make a request just now…if its possible…that someone from Screen Rant, who hasn’t seen the Swedish movie, to do a separate review of this.

    …or to have a repected freelancer who is unaware of what’s already appeared on SR to do a review (difficult I know).

    Basically I think its reallly hard to judge this one on its own…particularly as a fresh event.

    Somehow I tink such an approach is important to respect the spirit with which this version was created.

  14. hmmm, I wonder when they are planning to remake Pan’s Labyrinth…

    (Note to Hollywood: Sense the tone, this isn’t a suggestion, don’t even think about it!)

  15. Well writen review Kofi! I saw the original AFTER reading the source material and oddly enough, your review echoes my sentiments in both cases. Even though many strong reviewers (nod to VIC…)found the swedish film very entertaining, I thought that it lacked the subtle yet constant tension of the literary work. I found it mildly interesting, but I believe that the book set the bar too high to be realized on film.
    Just my 2 cents, but again, a VERY well written review. Kudos!

  16. Ok im seeing this,im heading out wish me luck!!!

  17. Well I did see the original film and was surprised by how sad it all was, this is not your typical vampire story. Having said that, if this is a faithful remake of the first film, as I have heard it is, why do it? Let the Right One In struck all right the chords. The kids were not professional actors and they gave very natural performances. The slowness of some of the scenes made those powerful moments more jarring and the young boy did not seem to be harboring a dark side, which makes his ultimate destiny even more sad. Much like The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, if you have a foreign film that works, coping it over in an English language version does not mean it automatically becomes better.

  18. You made a big mistake in your review. Matt Reeves wrote the script. The author only wrote the script for the original movie, which Reeves “adapted”. Hence his writing credit on the IMDB board. However, John Lindqvist had nothing to do with this remake. You might want to fix that on your review.

    • googergieger,

      Thank you for pointing that out – the reviewer went to Lindqvist’s IMDB page and it listed him as the screenwriter. We’ve corrected the review to reflect Reeves wrote the screenplay.

      Vic

  19. Havent seen the remake yet…maybe sunday. Although i dread that it wont come close to the original, for me the best thing about the original was the emotional connection between the boy and girl.

    My take on the original was that the girl was a vampire in the truest sense of the word. I came to the conclusion that she used people to seek out her own ambitions and that she was now using the boy the same way she had used her caregiver…and when they became no longer useful she would seek out a new host, like a parasite albeit.

    Loved the original performances and i got the feeling that she was able to kill people and it go unnoticed because the area was remote and the residents of that country experienced the same kind of daylight/nighttime shift as people in northern alaska (ala 30 days of night)…so the location made sense for me. I think the director chose New Mexico because many parts are remote (and it does snow heavily).

    • Wait so they didnt find any of her kills and they went unnoticed? Not to mention her protectors kills?

      Maybe I dont remmeber so well in my old age but I thought they found all/most of the kills from the time they moved in?

  20. Anyone who saw Let The Right One In were rightfully justified in their worries when it was announced the American remake was in the works. I for one knew deep down this would be at best – as lesser copy of the Swedish version.
    As someone else mentioned, it was really pointless to remake this movie. (Unless of course to spoon feed those who cant read subtitles or stomach English dubbed audio.)

    • Netshark, i have NO issues with subtitles, which is why im planning to see the original film, and not this remake. :)

    • I saw it (twice soon to be a 3rd time) and see dubbed and subtitled movies when the topic interests me and (when I see it) hope to see the remake and enjoy it.

    • exactly!

  21. This review really makes me worry about the upocoming remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

  22. I cannot agree with your review. I don’t think you judged it fairly at all. You seem biased, you didn’t review it on its own merit, but more on how it is compared to the novel and the Swedish film. I found that Let Me In (which I saw at Tiff) stayed with me a long time after I saw it. I fell in love with its individualism, it had a purpose and emotional component to its horrific elements. The film frightened me and broke my heart at the same time. Also, I don’t understand your need to write 1,400 words on it. Your review was overstuffed and I wondered if anyone cares about the comparisons of camera angles. When I write film reviews I tend to talk about how it feels to watch the film rather than summarizing plot and other such stuff that is frankly too hard core to matter.

    • Karen,

      It sounds like your reviews are more along the line of the way I write them, which is not the traditional movie review approach. Although I review in your style, I do agree with Kofi’s assessment of the film.

      Had you seen “Let the Right One In” before you saw this version?

      Vic

      • I love film, so I talk about what I love about watching it rather than rambling on about the facts of how its made. I suppose because for me I review from an emotional place because its partly the appeal of film. Feeling can override logical for me, which is why I enjoyed Buried a whole lot more than my boyfriend.

        No, I haven’t seen the original Swedish film. My perceptive may change when I do finally see it. But I think the average person is not gonna care whether you hated Let Me In because of was too little or alike to the original film. While I love Let Me In, I’m not even sure the film will do that well at the box office. Its perhaps too smart for American audiences. It’s not singled minded like most horror films are – it appears to be one thing and then under the surface something else completely.

        • @ Karen,

          Well, I did kind of admit upfront in the very beginning that I have a bias.

          I’m genuinely curious for you to see the Swedish version and tell me what you think.

          I respect your feeling and I’m glad you enjoyed the film.

  23. “Its perhaps too smart for American audiences” not sure how I, or anyone else should take that statement lol

    • Perhaps I should also say that its too smart for Canadian (since I am one) audiences I am. I just think certain kinds of film have a very limited appeal to the average moviegoer. The kind of films that do really well seem to be either multi-tiered ones or lowest common denominator. Inception is a great example of a film that appeals to a broader audience and can be taken to more complicated heights by another kind of filmgoer.

      • i enjoyed Inception alot..as well as Shutter Island, im a big fan of both Nolan and Scorsesse. i have Let The Right On In qued up on netflix, i’d rather see it before this version personally.

        • I’ve been a fan of Chris Nolan’s since Memento. I’ve attended Tiff for 11 years now; I got to see Memento at at screening about 9 months before the film actually got a theatrical release. I just think he is beyond brilliant, my favorite director right now!

          I haven’t seen Let The Right One In, but I do plan on seeing it. I might find I like it better than Let Me In. Until then I stand by my opinion. :) I think its far better that most horror films today. It’s classic horror.

          • i try very hard to avo8id seeing American versions of foreign films if i can, if its something i know i’ll wanna see i’ll track down the original version before i see what us American blokes do to it lol

  24. kofi i usually agree with your reviews 100% but this time I feel your off the mark. You forget that the average viewer in America isnt as nuanced as the audience that Let The Right One In was intended for. Vampire movies are way too popular here in the states and the people who went and saw this are the same people who went watched Twilight. I didnt see any arthouse or older people. I saw plenty of teenagers in the theatre who were engrossed as I was, and Im 34. I think the flaws you mention in your review are a lil skewed. Sounds like the original movie was in your top ten list. And nothing would live up to that.

    • The only reason why that crowd that you suggest went to see this movie isn’t because of Twilight,it’s because Hit Girl was in it.

  25. So I saw this earlier today and I have to say that it’s just ok,and I would probably have like it more had I not seen the original.Now admittedly,I really didn’t like the original,mainly for the terrible pacing and a lot of unnecessary scenes that felt like they were throw ins.I like the base story,but the storytelling technique is not very good to me.

    The thing that this movie did well was eliminate some of those scenes that did nothing to move along the plot.I also did like the music,though I will admit that it was a little bit too much after a while,but I liked it’s atmospheric presence.Very solid camera work as well.It was kinda funny too how not one time did you get a real good look at his mother.

    What this movie didn’t do well was fully flesh out the relationship of the two main leads,and I will admit that some of the subtlety is definitely lost in this film from the original.The whole thing with the bullies just didn’t feel right to me.They half way let you in (no pun intended) on why he was getting picked on,but it just didn’t feel authentic,and seemed forced for the sake of the plot.That whole plot point seemed more true in the original.

    Also,the CGI was absolutely terrible in this movie.It looked totally cartoonish and terrible.

    We were lied to when news came out that this movie was looking like it was a shot for shot remake.I felt like a lot was left out that should have been left out,and a lot that should have stayed.Overall,I was hoping that it would be better that it was,but it did help me gain a new appreciation for some of the things that I actually did like about the original.

    • Longshanks,

      I’m with you on the CGI in this film – I thought it was so awful that I was shocked.

      Vic

      • You know Vic,That scene in the tunnel really takes away any creepy,uneasy feeling that anyone could have,with that cartoony CG.

        One of my favorite parts of the original(though there were very few) was when she was climbing up the wall outside of the hospital.In the original,it was really cool the way they did it,and I didn’t even notice her until she started moving.In this one,it just didn’t have the same effect in any way.

        Thank goodness that the scene with the cats wasn’t in this movie.Can’t even imagine how bad that would’ve looked.

      • Thats like the only thing that bothered me the CGi..

  26. Why is that? I love many foreign films (really love Aussie Cinema), but I do think that America makes the best films in the world. Don’t even get me started on the state of Canadian film!

    • LOL…i just dont care for remakes in general, sometimes i’ll make exceptions, not usually though lol. the American film market in the past few years has been flooded with reboots, remakes, and its just gotten really boring to me. this stories premise reminds me of an old Highlander episode though to be honest.

  27. I agree with you! Hollywood is running out of good ideas and are too focused on remakes and comic books adaptations. I thought 2009 was bad for film, but most of 2010 has been far worse. Still I think America makes good films, they are just far and in-between these days. To me the best of the year has been Inception, Toy Story 3, Let Me In, Buried… This is my favorite time of year for film too, studios always save their good stuff for Oscar season.

    • im gonna be seeing Buried next week:0

      • So good! I have review for it up at Fusedfilm.com. I saw it at Tiff!

        • Toronto Independant Film Festival?

          • No, the Toronto Internatinal Film Festival.

            • i was close!!!

  28. Do they ever touch on her gender in this version?

    • They just say female as in the last one. They just didnt do the puppet genitalia scene

    • Not really.

      • not really what, she’s female just with out genetalia.

        • Actually not.It’s a boy with genitalia removed.Notice how androgynous “she” looks?

  29. watched it today. would have been better if they showed her actually killing the bullies not the after math, but it was decent.

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