Let Me In is virtually a scene for scene remake of the original, so I am gonna talk about Let The Right One In first.
This is an amazing film and probably one of the best vampire, if not horror movies, ever, because it doesn’t shove old, simple stereotypes down our throats.
The young teens are smart, complex people with rich internal lives and the loneliness or outsider-ness they express is not some superficial melodrama but a universally human struggle to grow and to belong.
Neither is the vampire theme glamorized, as in, hey I am immortal with special powers and isn’t that sexy, but rather, hey I am doomed to live off blood and it is terrible and isolating. There is no modifying the need for blood to fit into society. There is no romanticizing the relationship Eli develops with Oskar either. While they grow increasingly devoted to one another, her strange relationship with the previous companion, Hakan, who grows old and withers, looms about them. They are doomed, but they make their choices.
Besides the aforementioned, their sexuality is explored in thoughtful ways. When Eli crawls into bed naked with Oskar, it is neither childish nor adult, it is the need to be close, to be understood, accepted and comforted. And she asks him several times, I am not a girl, would you still want me? and she does not just seem to mean that she is a vampire, as is revealed in a later scene, where we catch a glimpse of her nude body. Eli has a scar across her mound, and seems to be neither female nor male. Has Eli been victimized? Did she choose this? (This is explained in the novel but left ambiguous in the film and it’s virtually non-existent in the American version.) Regardless, she is true to herself, and Oskar is devoted no matter what. And that is lovely and sophisticated beyond many depictions of intimacy and devotion in films.
Back to the horror. Being vampire is brutal business and staying hidden while meeting your needs is logistically too much for one person. Eli has a partner to do her dirty work and seems especially pained after attacking another. Nothing cute here, no vampire families or committees, no careless making of new vampires for companionship. Also, they explore the vampire mythos in a couple of powerful ways. When an attack doesn’t lead to death and a victim begins to transform, we understand the pain of heightened senses and such a deep hunger. And the title itself refers to the lore of vampires and that they must be invited in, which is indicative of the charm and manipulation these monsters must exude in order to survive. Eli and Oskar’s love for one another seems pure, but it is hinged on need (as perhaps, are all human relationships.)
While I think the remake is very well done and a Hammer production, which automatically makes it a must-see, there are a few things I don’t like.
One, stop hammering metaphors into my head, they are better when they are subtle. I don’t need to see Owen (Oskar) with a copy of Romeo and Juliet to know this pairing is tragic. This version is, overall, more sentimental and expository than I care for and less bleak.
Two, the parents in both versions are absent and self-absorbed, but in the American version they are distinctly less functional, rather than just wrapped up in their adult lives. I hate this. Why can’t divorced adults be portrayed more functionally? Sure they are pained, but does dad have to be an absentee and mom an emotional wreck? These negative stereotypes seem unnecessary.
Third, I fucking hate obvious CGI (see below.)
Last, I don’t like the way it shirks further away from the more difficult issues concerning sexuality. However, to be fair, even the original film had to veer from certain topics in the book which were deemed too much to tackle in a movie, namely her relationship with Hakan. A focused story is a better story.
Now, what it does right.
No subtitles! Seeing this done in a more local context is nice and serves the remake well. As a Hammer film it becomes part of a fine tradition of remakes that bring a great story to more people.
The bullies are way more brutal and thus Owen seems more isolated and more in need of Abby’s protection and the bullies seem more deserving of her wrath. In fact, they seem crueler to me at times than Abby is to her victims.
She turns into more of a monster after a feed and the attacks are vivid and graphic. Gore is a great American tradition and I like how the attacks are depicted here but the CGI seems too obvious at points. I hate the way bodies move like rag dolls, as though they have no weight.
Ultimately, despite these slight differences, it is an excellent remake, capturing the same haunting melancholy of this strange love story.