Let the Right One In
Directed By: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragner, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg.
Let Me In
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas, Dylan Minnette.
I’m not going to lie, there’s probably going to be a fair bit of spoilers in this review. As always, I will try to not spoil too much, but we’ll see how that really pans out. If you are absolutely set on watching either of these films with a clean slate, maybe just scan down to my rating to not spoil anything for yourself.
Since this review is more of comparison, I think for ease of writing and reading, I’m going to split it up into three categories I usually look at when I watch a film and compare them based upon those sections.
In Let the Right One In, there is Oskar and Eli, and in Let Me In they are known as Owen and Abby. Both sets of characters are similar as far as age and basic character traits, and aside from appearances, not much about who these people were was changed. However, I really felt like Let Me In spent more time subtly building the characterizations of Owen and Abby; they are both more sympathetic characters in my opinion. Oskar and Owen are the same character in essence, but both films took a different approach at developing their characters. Oskar has a much more evident relationship with his parents, spending a much larger amount of screen time with them. Owen’s relationship is shown to be strained, his mother is an alcoholic dealing with her divorce, and we don’t even get to see his father. A part of who Oskar/Owen is supposed to be is an awkward young boy, bullied by his classmates, and meant to feel very alone. Let Me In really intensified the bullying story within this character, showing the audience that he honestly has real reason to feel afraid, to be angry, and to feel like has no one to turn to. Not until the end of the film of Let the Right One In did I feel that Oskar was in as much danger or going through as much as Owen did from Let Me In. I just felt that Owen was a much more relatable and sympathetic character, and Kodi Smit-McPhee did an amazing job with the part.
The differences between Eli and Abby weren’t nearly as noticeable as Oskar and Owen. I found Eli to be more confident, and a bit less innocent about who she was – she felt more like a bit of a monster. Abby was more sympathetic, more reluctant than Eli was. It’s strange that I actually feel that way, considering near the beginning when Eli attacks someone, she actually cries. Perhaps my feelings have something to do with Chloe Moretz portrayal; I think she’s really talented, and a simple look from her could say a thousand words. This isn’t to say that Eli was a bad character though, I liked how distant she appeared to be, it made the love story more awkward, and a bit strange – but somehow kind of sweet.
Overall for the two protagonists, I enjoyed them more in Let Me In. The romance seemed a lot more an actual attraction – one that was based upon innocence and a deep friendship. Their characters did have more screen time together, which I think added to this relationship development, and probably why I enjoyed it more.
Both films have a lot of other minor characters. Let the Right One In has this group of friends who live in the same apartment building complex that I just couldn’t really bother with. I wanted to see more of Eli and Oskar, but the film spent too much time focusing on these characters, and it kind of annoyed me. Let Me In had none of these characters, well, at least that I’m aware of. A lot of the same deaths occurred, but the characters were different. Instead of the film showing us them interacting and having a lot of forced dialogue with them, they show Owen kind of spying on them through his telescope, which I enjoyed. I thought it was kind of like what a 12-year-old boy who is lonely might do – try to find a way to reach out to someone, anyone. And with this, we get to know a little bit about those characters that unfortunately die without having to spend so much time with them. One major difference was that Let the Right One In did not have the “policeman” character like Let Me In did. I also enjoyed this bit; I felt it was a nice way to tie in the different characters and elements in the story. And to show that the actions taken by Abby and her caretaker had consequences.
Speaking of which, her caretaker was a bit better in Let Me In, in my opinion. I felt that without much dialogue, they gave him a lot of characterization. Some subtle moments between him and Abby show that they had a very deep relationship, that was both uncomfortable and touching. They even gave him a subtle back story if you are really paying attention.
Overall, for characterization, I enjoyed Let Me In much more; I felt that the film fleshed out its characters a lot more without giving unneeded exposition or forcing it down the audiences’ throats. The characters were more entertaining, real, and relatable, and all of the acting was superb.
These films were very different in style as far as cinematography goes. Let Me In had a much more traditional Hollywood cinematography, a lot of medium and close up shots, which work very well in this film. I really enjoyed the use of reflections and line of sight in this film. A lot of the time the camera would focus upon one of the characters, and the other characters around would be obscured by objects, out of frame or blurred by something. I enjoyed this a lot, I think it drew a lot of attention onto whoever the camera was focused on. This was especially effective for Own, because it reinforced the isolation of his character – that despite having people in his life, he was alone.
Let The Right One In was very different for cinematography. There were a lot of long shots within the film – often having just one or two characters on-screen. This created a lot of “empty space” so to speak, and usually the characters were never centered within the shot. I really adored the look of this film, and with this kind of cinematography, it gave it an eerie, surreal look. I also think that with a lot of these long shots, it also helped reinforce some isolation for the characters. When Eli and Oskar were together, all that empty space helped create the feeling that they only had each other. One more thing this film did that I liked was filming things through windows. It always made me feel like an outsider watching in, spying on something I shouldn’t be watching – I think it fit the characters well, because their love is something many people wouldn’t understand.
It’s hard to pick which one I enjoyed more. I loved both films for cinematography reasons. I think as far as reinforcing the characters and the story of the romance, Let Me In hit the mark extremely well. However, Let the Right One In did an amazing job of creating an isolating atmosphere, and creating an eerie feel to the film.
The two films share the same story, but the plot differs for the two of them. Let the Right One In very much follows a chronological telling of the events, which on all accounts is great. I think with this simple telling it leaves the audiences to wonder what is going to happen, and to be surprised for the ending. Let Me In starts the film during about the first third of the story, showing us something dramatic, and then cutting to sometime earlier. This is also effective because it makes the audience want to know how point A got to point B.
One thing I really enjoyed about Let the Right One In as far as editing is concerned goes hand in hand with cinematography. A lot of the long shots are completely still, and there is often very little camera movement. Therefore, there is very little editing. You may see Oskar standing alone, and instead of the camera panning over to the bullies approaching or an over-the-shoulder edit cut of them, we merely see them walk into the frame. I just really enjoyed all the long takes this film utilizes, a lot of films don’t do this, and because of it, it made the film feel a lot more uncomfortable, which I thought fit the story.
Because Let Me In didn’t do as much as far as editing goes that stands out in my mind, I think Let the Right One In was much better as far as editing goes. It was different, and a lot of the time, when a movie makes me think “wow, that’s really different”, I usually like it better.
I just want to say that I really enjoyed both of these films a lot. I know some people out there are automatically going to bitch about Hollywood remakes, I know I have in the past, but Let Me In is a very well made remake of an already well done film. The way I look at it, it’s like two different people telling the same story – they’re similar, but not always the same, there’s always a different take on it. I would recommend both of these films, and I just want to say that I don’t consider either of them to be “horror” films. I considered them to be a dark romance. There wasn’t anything particularly scary in either of them, perhaps a moment where I might have jumped from being startled, but other than that they weren’t scary. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this love story, considering how Twilight has ruined vampires for me. But after seeing them, I have hope.
If you see both, yes, you will notice that Let Me In is a remake. But it is not a frame by frame remake; it takes quite a different approach to the story, and keeps it fresh and new. I would definitely recommend watching both of them, if not just to appreciate two different, but very great, styles of filmmaking and story telling.
If I had to pick which one I liked better, I suppose I would lean more towards Let Me In. Overall I just enjoyed the characterizations better, and found that I was more moved by the characters. That’s not to say that Let the Right One In isn’t moving, because it is, and as far as film making techniques, I think it’s very well done. I know there are a lot of people whoa ready to judge it instantly, and already have, but seriously: don’t be a dick. I’ve definitely been one in the past, judging films before I see them. Example: Star Trek. I thought it was going to be a piss-poor remake of one of my favourite TV shows, and decided to not see it. My friend took me, and man, was I wrong. Don’t be a douchey fanboy ready to hate something because you think it will never meet your expectations of how “awesome” something is. Look at things with a clean slate, and make judgements based on their own merit rather than their predecessor.
Let the Right One In
ScareMeter: 2/5 “It’s got some jumpy, startling moments, but my underpants are still clean”.
Overall Movie Rating: 4.5/5
Let Me In
ScareMeter: 3/5 “Gorier than the original, if you have a moderately strong stomach you probably won’t throw up”.
Overall Movie Rating: 5/5