Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Let Me In - Review and Comparison

Mwhahaha, dance puppets, dance!
It is an odd time to be a fan of the horror genre at present. After the glut of self-referential horror movies in the 1990s, we were subjected to the torture-horror movies of the 2000s that followed the success of the 'Saw' and 'Hostel' franchises, before finally the re-emergence of traditional horror movie monsters in the form of the multimedia zombie blitz that occurred after Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' remake and British horror comedy 'Shaun of the Dead'.

And then came 'Twilight', which, for better or worse, was something of a game changer in terms of horror fiction. Besides the books themselves being poorly written dreck and the movies being absolutely hilarious for entirely the wrong reasons, the fact remains that just one franchise managed to seemingly change an entire audience's perception of an entire sub-genre. No longer were vampires aristocratic noblemen, snarky English punks in black leather jackets or irritating guys with floppy hair from around New Orleans. They were no longer seen as being threatening, they had effectively been defanged, to use a pun. Though really, when compared to the sociopathic manipulations of Bella Swan even the likes of Pinhead has trouble matching that manipulative creepiness.

But despite this, there were a number of attempts to have variations of the more traditional vampires, despite the overflow of neutered teenlit vampires (and werewolves, for more information see the new 'Howling' movie) that have flooded the market. One of these newish traditional vampire stories comes in the form of John Ajvide Lindqvist's 2004 novel 'Låt Den Rätte Komma In' (English: 'Let The Right One In'), which oddly shares a couple of traits with the Twilight franchise but plays them more for horror than the bizarre adolescent romance of the Twilight franchise. It was adapted into two films, one in the novel's native home of Sweden another remade by British horror movie company Hammer in 2010 under the title 'Let Me In'.

The basic plot of both films is basically the same, but with a few slight variations. A lonely boy (Oskar in the original, Owen in the remake) becomes friends with an odd girl (Eli/Abby) who has just moved into his apartment block with an older man that people take to be her father. The boy and the girl slowly become friends, with the girl giving the boy advice with how to deal with the bullies that are tormenting him at school whilst he clumsily tries to date her, despite her being more or less bemused by the whole experience. But, it turns out that the girl is actually a vampire, and the man she's with is essentially her servant, who goes out every couple of days to harvest the blood of young men for Eli/Abby to feed on. Despite this revelation though, it seems that an odd friendship grows between the two, but by the girl's very nature things begin to take a not so good turn in her young male companions' life...

 Just to start out, I have to be honest and say that I have yet to read the novel, so this is more of a review of the movies, particularly the remake, so please bear with me if my interpretations contract what's in the original book.

My thoughts of the remake compared to the sequel? It's actually pretty damn good, surprisingly. Pretty much all of the actors were spot on in their casting and in their performances, the Eighties setting was well realised and the soundtrack (both the licensed stuff and the original score) contribute well to the overall feel of the picture.

Some of the changes kind of made sense to me from a certain point of view, such as an initial theme of the book is a policeman who is investigating the murders that resulted from Abby's diet assuming that they are the result of some kind of Satanic ritual of some sort. This makes sense, to a degree, both from the fact that crazy people are more likely than vampires and that in the time period that the film is set, the US was in the midst of some anti-Satanist/cult hysteria brought about by a number of factors ranging from the success of 'the Omen', 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'the Exorcist' to the Manson Family murders. This had far-reaching effects, up to and including causing schools to try and ban DnD, on the basis that "It has monsters and demons on the book, therefore the people reading it must be Satanists".

Another change from the original film is the major difference in the depictions of their male leads. The boy in the Swedish version of the film was shown to have a scrapbook of serial killings and bombings, and seemed to be quietly boiling with rage about being bullied, and gave the impression that the path that he's implied to be taking with the vampire Eli in the movie implictly doesn't seem to differ that much from how he might have gone on his own, albeit without the vampire companion. In comparision, the transformation of Owen through his interactions with Abby seem to be all the more tragic, because unlike the other boy he seems to latch onto his vampire out of pure, horrible loneliness and a need for friendship.

Other changes from the original I wasn't so hot on. For example, the remake has more use of CGI which, although a little more convincing than the original's, was kind of jarring compared to both movie's semi-real setting. The original benefited from not really using that much in terms of computer generated stuff, so when it did happen it was more impactive, and although the remake makes it more visceral through gore make-up effects, the original kind of does better in that department. Another example would be the difference between Eli's "gameface" and Abby's, Eli's is genuinely unnerving as it looks like someone's face only... wrong somehow, while Abby's is more of a traditional big-irised vampire.

My overall view? See it even if you've already seen the original, there's enough different between the two/three versions to still make it an entertaining and scary, while bizarrely heartwarming, film in its own right. Major props out to Chloe Moretz for her performance in this, she was fab.

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