The Swedish film was only ever an art-house or cult success, he notes, so any effort to retool it for mainstream multiplex moviegoers was doomed. At this time in genre history, the John Lindqvist story has nothing that mainstream American vampire films want. Above all, it doesn't have sex. When he heard that an American version was being made, Wendigo was afraid that "Oscar" and "Eli" would be turned into teenagers and their relationship romanticized in an effort to lure in the Twilight audience. But if anything, Reeves doomed his project by remaining faithful to the original and keeping the main characters as children, or in the image of children.
Ronald Reagan (televised, lower right) should get credit for a cameo role in Let Me In.
Let Me In, of couse, is not something new. It's a remake, sometimes shot-for-shot, of a story familiar enough for us not to synopsize it here, moving the location from Sweden to New Mexico but keeping the period the 1980s. If not for the original, Reeves' movie would have become one of Wendigo's favorites. The ranking isn't automatic -- Wendigo likes The Ring better than Ring, for instance. But in this case the Swedish film feels more spontaneous, and the American version a little too overproduced.
"I'm not a girl," the vampire says, and sometimes Chloe Grace Moretz makes you believe it.
Wendigo admits that the comparison is unfair on at least one level, since his unfamiliarity with the Swedish actors allows him to identify them more completely with their roles, while he couldn't help identifying Chloe Grace Moretz's "Abby" with her Hit Girl from Kick-Ass. But the American actors eventually won him over, and he feels that Moretz and Reeves were more successful than their Swedish counterparts (right) in stressing the femme vampire's disquieting androgyny, and complementing it with a certain androgyny in Kodi Smit-McPhee's "Owen." Moretz looks bigger, more robust than her counterpart, and wears pants and hoodies that sometimes conceal her femininity -- as is appropriate given the original character's backstory, while Smit-McPhee's abject wimpiness gets him called a girl by his bullying tormentors.
Who are these masked men?
Reeves does some interesting original things, from the odd way he never puts Owen's mother in focus, which emphasizes the mutual alienation of son and mother, to his reimagining of Jenkins's attacks. In America you can't just hang around someplace waiting for someone to walk past, so Jenkins carjacks folks, breaking in and hiding in their vehicles to jump them at railroad crossings. These sequences are nicely done, especially an admittedly Hitchcockian scene when unforeseen complications lead Jenkins from desperation to disaster. As Reeves notes elsewhere on the DVD, his intention is to get you rooting for Jenkins to escape his predicament, no matter how evil his purpose and how foredoomed he is to anyone familiar to the story. With us, he succeeded.
Abby is never so much an American vampire as at moments like this.
If Let Me In falls short of its original, that can be blamed on overproduction. There's a little too much CGI climbing and leaping, and Moretz gets to wear a CG "grr-face" that her Swedish counterpart never needed. Wendigo has nothing against "grr-faces," but he doesn't understand why nearly every American vampire film needs them. Why aren't fangs enough? Maybe they aren't cool or badass enough, and maybe effects teams do it simply because they can. The reductio ad absurdam of that mentality was Stephen Sommers' Van Helsing. Since then, excessive FX often makes it more difficult for Wendigo to take vampires seriously, a problem he never had with more minimalist vampires of the past and present.
The American film doesn't live up to the original's wintry cinematography, despite much imported snow, and Reeves reveals some limitations as a director following the stunt of Cloverfield. He seems to lose track of Owen's creepiness once he starts "going steady" with Abby, and other interesting angles end up underdeveloped. Reeves seems to have a reason for using clips of Ronald Reagan beyond establishing the period, but search us for what it was -- probably something to do with "evil," I suppose. He also lays the pop soundtrack on more thick than the Swedes did, in what struck us as an obvious attempt to sell an album. These complaints don't add up to a negative review. Wendigo stresses again that Let Me In is one of the better American vampire movies he's seen in a while.