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TIFF ’10: Sinking my teeth into ‘Let Me In’

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Matt Reeves’ “Let Me In” will divide audiences. Not between the “haves” and the “have nots,” but the “seen” and the “not yet seen.”

Even this morning, Reeves’ remake of “Let the Right One In” sparked a fierce debate in the press lounge of the Park Hyatt as reporters waited to interview talent for a completely different film.

As I kind of anticipated, the debate was being held between one group of journalists who had screened Tomas Alfredson’s original film and a contingent who had not. Both agreed Reeves had made an excellent film, but those who were unfamiliar with John Ajvide Lindqvist’s story going in appreciated Reeves’ take more than those who knew what to expect around every shadowy corner.

That’s where I fall. “Let Me In” will act as a fantastic portal to Lindqvist’s eerie vampire story. It’s nothing like his “Cloverfield,” eschewing that film’s intensity for a smoldering tension. It’s quiet, as if Reeves feared making too loud of a sound would scare his audience away.

But having seen “Right One” recently, I found that Reeves’ picture was robbed a little of its suspense. He has not made a shot-for-shot remake. This is not Gus Van Sant reimagining “Psycho,” by any means. In fact, Reeves announces almost immediately that he’s telling a different story by choosing a new start point and placing different emphasis on a key character (a smart decision, in my opinion).

Lindqvist’s source story instead has become a campfire tale that’s capable of being told in different ways. Imagine a camp counselor goosing his scouts sitting around a blazing fire with a ghoulish account of a serial killer stalking residents of a summer getaway. The components might be familiar in each new telling, but the approach will be fresh and new.

Still, that means it will work better for those who have not seen the original film, for while Reeves’ picture is a faithful retelling, Alfredson’s moody masterpiece is still so fresh in my mind that images like the swimming pool, the burning bed, or a “child” crouched in a bathtub waiting to attack are burned in my memory, and so when I see them on Reeves’ screen, they are anticipated. Beautifully shot … but anticipated.

The good news? If you haven’t see “Let the Right One In,” you will ADORE “Let Me In.” It’s subtle, but far from slow. It’s artistic, yet not artsy. Reeves lets newcomers in, which is a very good thing. Ironically, if his telling sends curious filmgoers to Alfredson’s original, they’ll likely find plenty to appreciate. But they might find that Reeves has stolen some of the Swedish film’s suspense. Funny how these things work out.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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One Comment

  • September 11, 2010 | Permalink |

    So making “the father” another boy Abbey knew as a little kid that used to be like Owen, doesn’t take anything away from the special and unique relationship Abbey and Owen are supposed to have?

    I’ll watch the film. I’ve only seen the clips, so it’s hard to judge on all of it. The music is often out of place in scenes I saw. Chloe seemed rather lost and wooden, but again need to see the entire film, in order to judge really.

    With that said, if Abbey is taking boys and grooming them to take care of her until they are too old, and a new one comes along. Where exactly is the tender love story? The unique tender love story between Abbey and Owen, like the Oskar and Eli one.

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