Let Me In: Good Horror, Interesting Adaptation
As a horror film, Let Me In already takes away one major source of fright: the audience is instantly allowed to emphasize with the vampire, a young girl named Abby (played by the amazing Chloe Grace Moretz). Young here, as all vampire fans know, is a subjective thing. Her physical body is that of a 12 year old, but she’s an immortal, un-aging being who has been around for quite a while. Despite that, the movie delivers its own share of scare and gore, but done tastefully enough to keep it from getting to visceral.
Like a Diluted Mix
Story-wise, the Let Me In hits all the key notes of the book and the Swedish film adaptation (Let the Right One In). However, the way it actually hits the notes leaves a little to be desired. For one thing, many of the more unconventional or controversial story details have been heavily toned down or completely edited out. This is most noticeable with the depiction of Thomas’ relationship with Abby (basically, Hakan and Eli in the original). The US film also depicts Abby as a girl, instead of being a castrated boy. It takes away much of the weight of the decisions for the characters (why Thomas is loyal to Abby, or how Owen gets into a relationship with her). The change makes things a lot more straightforward and acceptable for the general viewers, but it does take away some of the stakes.
Of all the changes however, we are least happy with what happened with Virginia’s character (Gosta in the original). In both films, the character was turned into a vampire after Abby/Eli tried to drink her blood but was stopped midway through the attack. She gets hospitalized and during that time, transforms into a vampire. However, while Gosta manages to understand what she has become and has made a solid decision on her fate, Virginia meets an accidental and pretty random end (her vampire form is also depicted as more unthinking, unlike Gosta). This removes the depth of thought that the character has undergone after waking up as a vampire. This whole thing is just a side story for both films, but the resolution in the original gives it a sense of depth and meaning, while the US version simply closes the narrative without any sense of thought.
Still Worth Watching
As much as we may complain about the changes however, we do contest that both films deserve to be watched. At the very least, if you love horror, don’t pass up on either one. Matt Reeves has a good grasp on delivering suspense and shock, and the way that violence is presented in this movie is as artfully tasteful and classy as the Swedish movie.
There are critics that claim that the two movies are too visually similar -while some may think that’s a bad thing, it’s not. It comes from the same source material, and even Reeves is upfront that the earlier Swedish film delivered some parts so perfectly well that there was no reason to deviate on it. Obviously, the similarities are quite evident if you watch the two movies back to back. Copying the Swedish film, however, is a good idea. The screenplay, after all, was done by the original writer. For an adaptation, it is better for Let Me In to be guilty of being too similar than to be branded as too different (which is one of the worst things that an adaptation could be if not done right).
Removing the Romanticism
Most depictions of vampires depict them as long-lived, worldy, immortals who live like demigods. They are an elite caste often in positions of both wealth and power –acquired thanks to their mystical power as well as centuries of knowledge and experience (which are also used in order to allow them to sustain their very unnatural needs). Let Me In takes that all away and leaves us with a young girl who relies on the love and loyalty of a single servant in order to get by.
Abby is not rich, her daily life is grueling, and despite her powers, she is often in a position of weakness. Owen’s relationship with her does not bring to him an opportunity of something better, but simply a future that is likely to end in the same path as Thomas. Vampirism is more than just a power, it can truly be a curse –for those afflicted by it and those who are around them.