What was once in Swedish is now available in English. For those unfamiliar with the moody cult vampire movie Let The Right One In—many of whom likely refuse to be familiar with it, for fear of subtitles—Matt Reeves’ uncanny remake Let Me In may well be a revelation. It’s a faithful adaptation, honoring the story nearly to the letter and retaining the slow, methodical tone (and bursts of ultra-violence) that sets it apart from Twilight, or the shock-filled horror films of the day. And it will surely see more eyes this time around, impressing many with its intelligent, gratifyingly ambiguous twist on the genre. Yet Let The Right One In still exists. There are prints in circulation, the negative is presumably intact, and it’s readily available on DVD, albeit with questionable subtitling in early pressings. The Americanized version is a nice parlor trick, and will satisfy those who believe fidelity is the principal virtue of a good adaptation, but what’s the point?
Nevertheless, a horror movie as singularly offbeat as Let The Right One In doesn’t translate easily, and Reeves starts with perfect casting. As a lonely, picked-on New Mexico middle-schooler, Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) is an improvement on his Swedish counterpart: disturbed, yet accessible and sympathetic. Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) is equally good as his new neighbor, an eternally teenage vampire who befriends him, and ace character actor Richard Jenkins brings enormous feeling to the role of Moretz’s keeper/companion, who does much of the dirty work necessary to keep her going. As Smit-McPhee continues to get bullied relentlessly, Moretz advises him to fight back hard, leading to a series of events that deepen their bond, but have serious consequences.
Let Me In replicates the Swedish film’s spare, haunted, wintry palette, and gets the rest of it more or less right, but mostly less: One fairly silly segment involving cats has been smartly excised, but the two key scenes—the climax and the scene that gives the film its title—are significantly less effective. Though it’s a better facsimile than, say, The Vanishing or Nightwatch, Let Me In doesn’t have the thematic justification of other shot-for-shot(ish) American remakes like Funny Games or even Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, which at least counts as some screwy postmodern experiment. Let Me In is a beautiful redundancy.