Saturday, October 16, 2010
Confession time. I never really “got” Let The Right One In. Oh it was very pretty and austere looking, but it didn’t touch me viscerally or emotionally. It was just a reasonably clever reworking of the vampire mythos.
Let Me In is the equivalent of a fantastic cover song, that brings forth the values and qualities inherent in a work, but makes them visible in a way they simply weren’t before. This is the “Hurt”, of movies, Let Me In is simply put, a phenomenal piece of work. I had an argument with a fellow member of the message board, who fairly argued that just because Let Me In was clearer then Let The Right One In, didn’t make it better. Normally I would agree, I would point out though, that narrative clarity and thematically ambiguity are two different things. And Let Me In is articulated in its themes in a way that Let The Right One In just wasn’t.
Let Me In, is of course the story between a young boy, Owen and a vampire… well “girl”. The boy is picked on at school, and is being torn apart in a custody battle between an Alkie mother and asshole father. The relationship between himself and a centuries old bloodsucker ends up being the healthiest Owen has. He’s a monster in utero, saved and damned by a monster incarnate.
Of course that relationship exacts a terrible toll. One we don’t fully see in the course of the film, except etched on Richard Jenkin’s face. His haunted eyes and hangdog features have seldom been used to better effect. And whose garbage bag mask is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a horror movie in a long while.
Of course it’s Kodi McPhee Smith and Chloe Morentz who have the key roles here. Morentz, is fantastically believable both in her bloodlust and sorrow. McPhee has a fish faced strangeness and innate sweetness, that serve him ably, both as victim and enabler. He's less sociopathic then Oscar in In. More understandable in his desperate need to be liked by somebody. Hell anybody. The film is shot in a wintry haunting hush. The snow creating a haunting Sepulchral silence that I never would have thought Matt Reeves capable of.
I try to think of a single scene that works better in the original then in the remake, and my mind draws a blank. The hospital combustion. The tunnel scene. The pool scene. The revelation of Abby’s gender, played on a long unblinking shot on Owen’s face, rather then a gratuitous crotch shot. None hold up.
Hell the scene in which Richard Jenkin’s takes the longest car ride of his life, alone is now worthy of Hitchcock. Up to and including a car wreck so disorienting and jolting I find it hard to believe it’s not the best I’ve seen filmed.
Even the decisions I don’t understand like why it’s a period movie really really work. (Also when did “They Don’t Write Them Like That Anymore" become the song for 80’s throwbacks. I mean yeah it’s a good pun but lets not over milk this one)
There are a few flaws in the film. Though the practical makeup and effects are absolutely top notch, the CGI that augments the attacks is near bargain basement. It’s purposeful, to make Abby seem otherworldly. But in this it succeeds too well, making her look like nothing so much as the world’s most malevolent Stretch Armstrong Doll.
Still these are minor quibbles, if this is where the new Hammer horror is going, bravo. And if this indicative of what Matt Reeves (who I’ll admit I wrote off as a one hit wonder following Cloverfield) is capable of, then he is a filmmaker worthy of considerable attention.
Let Me In, is horrific and achingly human. That Abby’s love is very much real makes her more, not less monstrous and terribly pitiful.
It really hammers home the terrible nature of what’s happening in a way the original doesn’t. There’s no happy ending here, in fact same thanks to Jenkins, we know exactly how unhappily this story is going to end.
After all “Eat some now, save some for later.” Who’s to say who has the worse fate?