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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let Me In

As promised, here's a bonus review this week of Let Me In, the somewhat controversial remake of Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In.

Also posted at Artslink.

Does Let Me In need to exist? Whatever one thinks of the film itself, it's hard to get past that question.

Let Me In does exist, in the first place, only because a huge part of the English-speaking world simply refuses to read subtitles. No matter how strongly it may have been embraced by both critics and (small) audiences alike, Swedish vampire chiller, Let The Right One In, simply never had a hope in hell of conquering that all-important US market. Indeed, here in South Africa, Let The Right One In didn't even make an appearance on our local Cinema Nouveau art circuit, instead heading straight for some scattered independent cinemas and, most damningly, the shelves of a video store near you - and even then, only the good ones. Is it really such a wonder then that, as has become the norm in recent years, Hollywood decided to release an American-language remake of the film (with the admittedly snappier title, Let Me In) for its domestic audiences? And, lets not kid, while it was far from a massive box office smash, Let Me In took - if website Box Office Mojo is to be believed - nearly six times as much money as the original did just two years prior.            

There's no denying it, from a business stand point, it made perfect sense to remake Let The Right One In - itself based on the Swedish-language novel of the same name - but what about artistically? With the original out there and available, what purpose would a remake really serve, beyond the obviously financial, of course? Is an aversion to reading subtitles really enough of an excuse for not allowing perfectly good "foreign-language" films to exist on their own terms?

The answer to all of these questions must surely be a resounding "Leave Let The Right One In alone!" because, though it isn't exactly a shot for shot remake, Let Me In doesn't really add anything to the original other than English-speaking people not needing to tax themselves with reading some lines of text to understand what is going on on-screen. I suppose that might be enough for some but it's hard to escape the feeling that the clearly very talented people involved in making Let Me In might have been better served by offering up something that is, you know, actually original.  

Here's the rub though: however much Let Me In has no business filling up our cinemas (OK, "filling up" might be something of an exaggeration considering how few screens country-wide are actually devoted to showing the blasted thing but I'm sure you take my point), I'm kind of glad that it does. Yes, pointless remakes are symptomatic of a creatively bankrupt Tinseltown but then so are all those wretched "horror" movies that horror fans are now supposed to put up with. Let Me In may be very slightly inferior remake to a film that, though flawed, stood perfectly well on its own but it's a smart, moving, scary, wonderfully acted (Kick Ass's Chloe Moretz and The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee are unbelievably good as the film's central kid-protagonists) and moodily directed horror film, the likes of which we just don't see enough of these days.

However insane and disheartening it may be to realize that a pointless remake like Let Me In is the most impressive horror film we've seen this year - by far, at that - but that doesn't change that it is so. Really, when asked to choose between the thematically complex and interestingly-charactered Let Me In and the vacuous cheapness of Saw MCLXVII is there really a choice? 


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