Monday, October 4, 2010

Let Me In. (2010) Matt Reeves

I am eating some serious crow in regard to Let Me In. I wrote some time ago that there was no way an American remake of the now classic Let the Right One In would ever be able to capture the essence of this utterly Swedish vampire tale -- and even if it did, it wouldn't possibly be well received by U.S. audiences, who need loads of shock and gore to swallow down their helpings of horror.

I stand corrected on both counts. The remake does capture the essence of the original (which may present its own problems, and I'll get into that later), and whether audiences are lapping it up is really impossible to gauge, but critics and bloggers and film lovers in general seem quite smitten with it so far.

Not that Let Me In doesn't have its fair share of problems. It does. But it's a pretty damn fine film, and for me to admit it -- (when I originally heard the remake was even planned, I blurted out, "This is frickin' disgusting. Is there nothing sacred anymore?") -- makes it a monumental achievement, at least in my book. I don't go easy when America plunders the finest movies of other nations. It goes back to my belief that film energizes us to become global. That if we can't go to another country, we can at least understand another country through film. I see it as not just a good side effect from viewing foreign titles, but rather the responsibility of anyone who considers theirself cultured. Remakes in general defeat this purpose by offering films that cover-up the need to see the original in its land and in its language -- hence, why it's amazing I'm able to admit how well done the remake is here.

More than once I've read that Let Me In kept the essence of the original by becoming a shot by shot remake. That is as false as false statements get. There were similarities, sure, but an entire sub-plot is gone, traded in for a cop and a general tightening of a few core figures. Other scenes are indeed "roughed up" a bit for American fans of the horror genre.

But Let Me In has a huge problem with pacing. Yeah, they're trying very hard, probably too hard to get the pacing of the original. But the Swedish version was an extremely quiet film. As such, it was in tradition with much Scandinavian cinema, film from a land where people are typically more casual and reserved and a whole lot more peaceful than some of us in the crazy states. For the pacing of the dialogue to be understood as inherently Swedish makes the similar pacing of the remake's dialogue a little clunky when you consider that most American teens don't talk like this. (Sentence. Space. Sentence. More space. etc.)

The biggest problem is that the spaces are now loaded with music that throws this subdued style of dialogue completely off. At times the dialogue is forced. It's slower and quieter than normal American teenagers would be, wherein the original had a very natural (Swedish) flow. The score, filled with over the top tension and huge leading tones trying to steer and sway emotion, actually gets in the way and makes itself all too noticeable.

I realize that even as I pick on the score it's my own problem because I typically like subdued Swedish films more, anyway. It won't be a huge problem for the folks that show up to see the film in the theater. If anything, the biggest problem that US moviegoers will face is that they'll think the film is too slow. And that's an OK beef. They won't have fully grasped that they're seeing an art house film with horror, not a horror film with a touch of art.

Still, if I I left the theater and said the remake wasn't interesting, it'd be a lie. I guess I'm wondering whether I found it interesting because I know the original so well and, while I was impressed, I was comparing the films the whole time -- or whether Let Me In really is a good film, as stylistically created and well acted as the original. Haven't figured out my answer to that one yet.

I suppose I should celebrate that a wider audience has been exposed to a great story, a story that puts the Twilight stories to shame. (I haven't seen any of those films but seeing the trailers is enough to convince me.) I'm still wondering about the U.S. reaction, though. Will the horror fans that show up know they've encountered a great story when they finally see one?

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