Låt den rätte komma in (2008) vs Let Me In (2010)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 2:21 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
2008 RT Critics Rating: 9.8/10
2010 RT Critics Rating: 8.9/10

2008 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)
2010 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

LÅT DEN RÄTTE KOMMA IN (2008) - Tomas Alfredson
LET ME IN (2010) - Matt Reeves

Underneath the skin of the vampire genre, I have always longed for a film that will come along and take vampirism seriously and beautifully. For so many years, cinema has exhibited vampires as evil beings that we should oppose and kill. I have always desired for a film that questions this conventional idea. Then I realized that in 2008, the artistic filmmaking country of Sweden presented the most unorthodox and the most breathtaking vampire movie I have ever seen.

Based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) is a Swedish romantic horror film that tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) who develops a friendship with a vampire child named Eli (Lina Leandersson) in the early 1980s.

First, on a technicality basis, Låt den rätte komma in strives with breathtaking cinematography. Thanks to sets designed without roofs, the film's cinematography is strongly assisted with crisp lighting manipulated above the interacting characters. Despite the film's label being a "horror film," Låt den rätte komma in stands as the most beautiful horror film if not general film I have seen in years. Though the color is not vibrant, the shots take full advantage of manual focus, providing an aesthetic experience to shots that appear to be formulaic before.

Though the plot of Låt den rätte komma in is fairly simple, the narrative is intelligently crafted. Without a confident director, the film could have trailed off in an entirely different direction. Despite the actual film being different from the original novel, director Alfredson uses a combination of chilling music and magnificent storytelling. In spite of the actual pacing being slow at times, Låt den rätte komma in flows to the audience like a mystical painting. With the snowy winter of Sweden as its setting, the film effortlessly immerses us into Oskar and Eli's world. Alfredson's greatest talent as a director lies not in the vision of how the film looks, but how the film sounds. Apart from nearly every film director today who uses intense music to build crucial scenes, Alfredson uses the power of silence to deliver. Surprisingly, the latter method is much more powerful, giving a sense of reality to the scenes, making the emotional impacts both raw and compelling.

As touched on before, the music is phenomenal, scored by Johan Söderqvist. It incorporates hope with dismay, chill with warmth, evil with love, and darkness with light. Beginning with an elegant tune from a guitar, Söderqvist builds the gracefulness of the score to its musical climax with a spectacular symphony of strings. Wonderfully written, the original score to Alfredson's film stands in my book as one of the greatest foreign movie soundtracks of all time.

Out of all the horror movies I have seen, Låt den rätte komma in does not aim for  terror. Instead of scary images and sudden jump scenes, we are given great depth of characterization and emotion-defying atmosphere. Furthermore, Låt den rätte komma in is more than a vampire film. As mentioned before, the film tackles the subject of vampires seriously. Conceptually, it earns my respect already. If one removes all the elements of vampirism, Låt den rätte komma in is a humanism story of two lonely and desperate kids washed up in despair.

Although his appearance does not quite fit the character, Hedebrant delivers a quiet and unconfident Oskar, never standing up to himself from beginning to end, but eventually learns about self-courage as he connects with Eli. Regrettably, Hedebrant could have portrayed a far more emotionally charged character. His depiction of Oskar can be labeled as "too stiff," holding back feelings when he should have expressed them out to the audience. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that his "rigid" performance somehow successfully communicates to the audience about his newly found love as well as self-identity through the vampire Eli. 

Speaking of Eli, she is the heart of this artistic piece. Leandersson, unlike other vampire characters, conveys a contrasting vampire, one who is both mysterious and lovely. Her presence is innocent yet cunning, walking along the cold empty hallways by herself like a homeless child, waiting to attack an unfortunate victim. Out of all female characters in cinema, Leandersson's Eli drains the most passion out through her performance. She is the perfect anti-hero, a character whose literal context is negative, yet at the end of the day, we care over what their fate is. In the world of "cliche cinema," vampire characters never have reasons over their actions. They drink blood for the purpose of telling us that they are evil and should be dealt with the lethal way. Here, Leandersson's vampire Eli breaks the wall that obstructs the connection between being a vampire and being a human. She is a true vampire, a human-looking creature who "[needs] blood to live." For once, we are given a vampire who we do not desire to die, a vampire for us to care about and even, fall in love with.

Loaded with fantastic cinematography, acting, music, and storytelling, Låt den rätte komma in is rare enough to be a good horror movie. It is even rarer when it leaves an imprint in your mind as a work of art. It bears a haunting magnetism that will stay in your skin temporarily and in your mind indefinitely. It is as tender as it is eerie, with an atmosphere that engulfs the entire film from start to finish. 

From the words of film critic Tom Long, "An American remake seems inevitable." Although I do agree with his comment, I never expected a remake to arrive just two years later.

After his directorial success of Cloverfield, director Matt Reeves takes the reins with the 2010 American remake of Låt den rätte komma in, now simply titled Let Me In. The film follows 12-year old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he develops a friendship with the vampire girl Abby (Chloe Moretz), the same plot as the original Swedish film. However, a few adjustments were made here and there. Surprisingly, these "modifications" are what made Let Me In work as a remake.

In creating the film, Matt Reeves took a very clever step at American-izing the original context of Låt den rätte komma in. Instead of Sweden, the setting is now moved to a New Mexico town, astonishingly covered with snow. In addition, Reeves altered the time period of the narrative to the 1980s period, during the time of Ronald Reagan. To help the movie's narrative in convincing an American audience, Reeves used Reagan's "Evil Empire Speech" to explore American humanism at the time, a debatable conflict between good and evil. 

According to Reeves, this thematic background is central to the protagonist Owen, for he is conflicted daily over his dark feelings towards the bullies who terrorize him. Through Abby, he learns about not just love, but also revenge. Enhanced by a far more gripping performance by Smit-McPhee, and Let Me In's Owen stands as more superior over the original's Oskar. Unlike the original, Let Me In analyzes the quiet boy completely. With every scale of his personality fleshed out, the 2010 remake presents the true depiction of a 12-year old boy who encounters a vampire child.

In contrast to Owen, Let Me In's vampire Abby stands as also a complex character. Sadly and predictably, Abby pales in comparison to Eli. This is due to probably one simple thing: Chloe Moretz. Regardless of how one judges her, Moretz pulled off a sensational act. She was previously seen as the hard-headed foul-mouthed Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. I am astonished enough that she approached something completely on the other side of the scope, and did a marvelous job at it too. The unlucky element that leads to her character's downfall against Eli is utterly Moretz's appearance. Simply put, she is way too attractive as well as "modern." This leads to her performance being much more arduous to convince the audience. In its 2008 counterpart, Eli almost always wore no pants. In addition, her shirts are always short sleeved. With her hair cluttered up, face pale, and clothes utterly plain, Eli exhibits signs of being homeless, an intoxicating contrast to who she actually is deep inside. Here in Let Me In, Moretz is fully well-dressed throughout, despite that she does not wear shoes to follow Eli's design. Her hair is perfect, her facial texture is nearly pure, resembling the "average healthy neighbor" of a girl. In simplicity, she does not appear to be a vampire at all, though her performance covers this issue up nicely. I give Moretz respect for trying something new and succeeding. Critics called Kick-Ass as the movie that "[put Moretz] on the map." I on the other hand, believe that Let Me In is the true film that worked the magic.

Incredulously, I was blown away by something I never expected out of an American horror movie: the cinematography. Observant of the original, the creators of Let Me In kept the power of lighting and camerawork and applied it here fluently. In addition, Let Me In was also helped by a well-written musical score by Michael Giacchino. Although the music is not as stirring nor nostalgic as the original's, Giacchino pulled off a tough process to bring the emotions of the film to life. Despite the fact that Giacchino mostly worked on the soundtracks of Disney films, he has taken a great leap for this movie. On a technical and directing basis, Matt Reeves is nearly a filmmaking genius. In Roger Ebert's words, "Reeves understands what made the first film so eerie and effective, and here the same things work again." As engulfing as the original, Let Me In stands as another spellbinding work of art.

Ultimately, both films complete the storytelling arc of these two characters. However, each film offers certain elements in a more superior way. Låt den rätte komma in has better cinematography, stronger music, and a haunting Eli. Let Me In, on the other hand, has better pacing, visuals, and a captivating Owen. Though both screen duos are fascinating to watch, each film has a better character within the pair. Nevertheless, when viewed as a whole, there is no doubt that Låt den rätte komma in stands as the most artistic film of the two. It comes in as the biggest surprise for a horror film, one that chooses to take a different road and is confident in doing so. Though Let Me In did a fabulous job in adapting the original for American audiences, Låt den rätte komma in strives as the original "source material," the one that started it all. Certainly, author John Ajvide Lindqvist should be proud of both filmmakers as well as himself, for delivering a darkly romantic tale to the world. Steven King, eat your heart out.

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