Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unnecessary Remake? Not quite. Why Let The Right One In Being Brought To America's A Good Thing.

Sometime last year, it occurred to me just how lucky I am to live in this era. Sure, fashion wise, I'd much rather have been a girl about town in the 1920's, wearing sequined headbands and drop waisted dresses, doing the Charleston at my local speakeasy and harboring dreams of being a Zigfeild girl or even being in a talkie one day but if that had been the case, I wouldn't live in the age of youtube. The site's pretty much altered the daily existence of life and drastically changed the way the world consumes entertainment and I, personally, am especially thankful for the website's inception because, without it, I may never have been able to see Let The Right One In. It was sometime in early summer and I lived with a wonderful, sarcastic, and off-putting girl not unlike myself named Sara. One night, we decided to watch a film called [Rec] on youtube, based upon a comment on one of Oh No They Didn't infamous creepy posts that said the film's ending was the scariest thing that had ever been put to film. (This was in the glory days before Paranormal Activity ruined everyone's perception of scary in cinema.) The next night, I decided to continue the trend of streaming modern foreign horror fare and checked out a movie I'd heard nothing but amazing things about, the 2008 Swedish vampire flick, Let The Right One In.

Let The Right One
In surpassed being one of my favorite films of the year and went straight to being one of my favorite films of all time. It's not often that a vampire film is understated and realistic and it's even less often that a vampire film is heartfelt and affecting without being sappily romantic. Blame my early teenage obsession with Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Hey, what can I say? I'm a feminist.) but I've always had a soft spot in my empty-chest-cavity for bloodsuckers done right. Twilight? Don't talk to me about that shit. True Blood? Please do talk to me about that shit, especially that Eric Northman. Me-ow! Regardless of my lustings, however, nothing in modern pop culture comes close to getting vampires right as Let The Right One In. The film is near and dear to my heart so naturally, when it was announced that the movie would be remade, Americanized, and called Let Me In, I was perturbed to say the least. Why, exactly, was it necessary to remake the masterpiece into what I feared would become standardized subtitle-less tripe? I even went so far as to begin a blog, in my sort-of-series on unnecessary sequels, as to why Let The Right One In should just be released to a wide audience in the states and the sequel should be halted mid-production. In the past 24 hours, however, I have had a change of heart.

Centering around a 12 year old named Oskar, Let The Right One In casts it's melancholy spell within the first ten minutes. Oskar is bullied and friendless at school and appears to be the only kid in his apartment complex. He spends his evenings alone, usually in his room envisioning being brave enough to enact revenge upon the boys in his class that make his life so unbearable. It isn't until he meets Eli, who appears to be a pale girl his own age, that he begins to develop confidence. She's just moved in next door to Oskar and his mother with who, to the outsider, seems to be her dad, Hakan. Of course, this is a vampire movie so it's soon uncovered that Eli is a vampire and Hakan is a man who, many years beforehand, fell in love with her and decided to look after her.This entails Hakan going out and killing on Eli's behalf- The first time we see him do this is especially chilling as what Hakan does is hang a man upside down from a tree and drain his blood into buckets that he then takes home. Eli resists befriending Oskar for his own safety at first but ultimately, she finds that his loneliness is so much like her own and it appeals to her better nature. They fall in love but this isn't Pinocchio. There's no turning Eli into a real girl and a string of brutal murders in a small town outside of Stockholm can't go unnoticed. There's no happy ending here, no matter the outcome and nothing's as it seems- Especially Eli who, even by "undead" standards, isn't remotely close to what she appears.

I'm not the only one who loves Let The Right One In as intensely as I do. In fact, everyone I encounter who's seen it seems to have the same sentiments about the movie: Not only do they think it's wonderful but they seem to have a strange protective feeling over it, just as Hakan does over Eli.

The film is not only beautifully shot and acted but nearly ever character in it is humanized (for lack of a better term) and made to be multidimensional. From Oskar, who's picked on for not having a dad, to Hakan, a man who loves Eli so intensely that he's devoted his life to murdering strangers, no one in Let The Right One In is left undeveloped or cast aside. No one, of course, is more sympathetic than Eli who - Spoiler alert! - isn't even a girl at all but instead a boy who, centuries early, was castrated by his vampire maker before being transformed into a monster (Something that, in the film, is only alluded to in one brief and shocking scene and never explored in depth). It's no wonder that Hakan (Who may be a pedophile, it's left a little open to interpretation in the film) wants to protect Eli so intently. Eli, like Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan before her, was completely blameless for what she became.

Let The Right One In, like most foreign films of astounding caliber, never saw a proper theatrical release in the U.S. but did find second life, both on youtube and, even better, on DVD. It was building progressively more and more buzz thanks to the people who were lucky enough to see it and feel so impassioned about it that they felt the need to tell all their friends. Called "the best vampire film ever", Eli landed herself near the top of Entertainment Weekly's Best Bloodsuckers list and received amazingly positive press from everyone from Fangoria to Little White Lies. It was my hope that Let The Right One In would build enough buzz to soon merit a rerelease but instead, it was optioned to be remade.

Naturally, I wasn't pleased. The film is nothing short of the perfect vampire movie- Gory when need be, understatedly creepy, and emotionally resonant, Let The Right One In gets under your skin. So what if it's Swedish?! Abba's Swedish and Americans seem to like them! (Or maybe that's just me and my fondness for singing "Mama Mia!" at karaoke.) I feel as if fans of things that rule have been robbed horribly by not being able to see Let The Right One In at the local cinema and a remake just can't get it right. Remember that movie I mentioned way back in the first paragraph? A Spanish thriller called [Rec]? Well, that was remade into Quarantine and was, for all intents and purposes, a shot-for-shot remake of it's predecessor only what they removed was the soul of the film. Let The Right One In is, simply put, just far too good to suffer that fate.

Slowly though, Let Me In (As it will be known in America) is beginning to win me over. Matt Reeves, the man behind Cloverfield, is directing it and you can say what you will about Cloverfield, but Reeves had a very cohesive vision for the whole thing. Additionally, taking the role of Hakan is Phillip Seymour Hoffman and it's no secret that the man can act. If anyone can win viewers sympathy as a pedophile and murderer, it's Hoffman.

Recently, Reeves went on the record in a breif interview with MTV of all places, praising the original and saying how much it meant to him. "The film touched me," He said. "I read the book (which was written by the screenwriter of Let The Right One In) and it moved me too. It reminded me so much of my own childhood in certain ways. It's so much about that period of preadolescence, that feeling of being a child and being bullied, the dificulties of growing up. Our story follows the same trajectory (as the original but) I wanted to put the viewer, even more so, into the point of view of the boy and understand his childhood as vividly as it comes accross in the book."

The fact that Reeves has read the book coupled with how revered the movie is to him makes me find faith in him. Up until I read that interview, I was fully prepared to watch and cringe at the travesty that the film would surely be but after reading that Reeves knows what a challenge he's facing because Let The Right One In is loved in a very real way by it's fans and is facing it head on makes me less worried that the remake will be over-romanticized or shy away from some of the more shocking topics. There's no word yet on how Eli's backstory will treated or how Hakan's love for Eli will be tackled, nor if anyone will be shown committing suicide by bursting into flames or if the film's climax will still be a breathtaking underwater shot. But the fact that Reeves was as invested in and touched by those themes and scenes as I was gives me hope that the film, while it'll still be bad in comparison to it's predecessor, might survive as a remarkable stand alone feature. Adapting brilliant source material is always going to an uphill struggle. It's something that's nearly never done successfully but at the end of the day, I desperately want Let Me In to succeed because it's a story that more people ought to know.

Amber Valentine is the girl behind The Hot Half Life and the Features Editor of TRACER Magazine. Compared to Fangtasia, this blows.


  1. Last fall it was rumored that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was going to play the part of the Håkan character, but instead the part is being played by Richard Jenkins (did you see him in "The Visitor"?)

    If Let The Right One In is one of your favorite movies of all time, you should visit the fan site at, which I happen to run. ;-)

  2. this is what i get for being slow on the uptake. i was editing this exact same blog, and decided i was gonna read the the book first. reading really is for suckers. i just watched two different translations of the movie with my roommates, both to the same outstanding results, though one feels a bit darker. my concern for the american version, is the experience and subversive sexuality exuded by eli may not be something this audience can fully handle. i really want to read it and see if i am impacted the same way, as they are basing this version off the book. it must be there with the same writer, and i just can't see the states being comfortable with a twelve year old having the desirability of ancient experience. i also can't envision the film following the same tone with out. also, clarity of vision aside, cloverfield sucked. clarity only polished that turd.