Let Me In (US - BD RA)
Gabe does his best to open his heart to this remake of the Swedish classic...
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a miserable 12 year old. At school he’s plagued by violent bullies, and at home he suffers a newly divorced mother obsessed with Evangelical Christianity. One day, an older man with a girl Owen’s age moves into the apartment complex. Over a series of evening meetings, Owen and the girl, whose name is Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), develop a friendship. Meanwhile, Abby’s ‘father’ commits a series of murders, and saves the blood for his ‘daughter’. A local detective (Elias Koteas) takes notice, and begins to close in on the truth behind the killings, while Owen and Abby continue to grow closer.
I’ve defended remakes, especially horror remakes, because there are just too many cases of great films coming out of old material to make generalizations. However, Americanizations of foreign films, specifically foreign films that are less than a decade old at the time of remake, rarely do anything but inspire negative comparisons to the originals. Of the American remakes of foreign horror/thriller only Gore Verbinski’s The Ring managed to do anything particularly special with the source material. The American versions of The Vanishing, Insomnia, Abre Los Ojos, Night Watch, REC, and The Grudge are all decent-to-good movies, but it’s difficult to find a compelling reason not to just watch the originals. Let Me In fits snugly into the ‘it’s a good movie, but why did you bother’ category. Watching it is like experiencing the most vivid sense of déjà vu. Events are moved around, and the look of the film is definitively physically different than Tomas Alfredson’s masterpiece Let the Right One In, but it’s still very much the same indelible narrative experience. Director/writer Matt Reeves captures much of the danger, intrigue, melancholy, and even time period of the original film (and I’m assuming book, which I still haven’t gotten around to reading), but the question of purpose penetrates every frame.
One of the better pieces of Americanization is the more obvious era placement. Reeves uses footage of Ronald Regan, Culture Club’s music, and other key ‘80s sounds and images to key the audience in to the ‘80s time period without shoving it down the audience’s throat. The more oblique period placement worked well for the original film, but I believe there are expectations for American films of this type; it’s just the way we, as a country, experience period. Some of the more American culture specific changes don’t work as well, specifically Owen’s mother’s obsession with religion, which is a excessively obvious character trait (though Reeves’ insistence on keeping the actresses face out of frame at all times is kind of brilliant). Other areas of Reeves’ audio/visual experience improve slightly over the original due to a strong sense of style, and a budget increase (though $20 million is still a pretty modest price tag by American standards). Reeves clearly had his own vision for the story, and it doesn’t often mimic the eerie sterility of Alfredson’s film, at least not in terms of photography. The sets and locations are actually quite similar, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense considering the story’s relocation to New Mexico, where it certainly does snow, but from what I’ve seen looks almost nothing like Sweden.
The acting matches the visuals in terms of surface value, especially Kick-Ass star Chloë Grace Moretz, who genuinely encapsulates an adult trapped in a child’s body. She’s scary-good. The one major disadvantage to her performance is that it’s much more sinister than Lina Leandersson in the original. This sinister edge gives away too much of the story’s subtext, and makes the audience unnecessarily question the actions of Abby’s ‘guardian’ (played here by the consistently capable Richard Jenkins). This ends up being Let Me In’s biggest folly in comparison to Let the Right One In – the comparative lack of compassion (comparative is a key word, especially to those that haven’t seen the original film). I applaud Reeves for including sequences like the one where Abby and Owen share a bed, which could’ve easily been taken as exploitative to American audiences, but he never manages to capture the heartbreaking side of the tale, despite the cast’s better efforts.
This 2.40:1 transfer is dark, dark, dark, but thanks to the power of 1080p video the important details are not lost in shadow. Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser utilize a lot of shallow focus, so there are often only one or two sharp points in a frame. These sharp points aren’t quite as impressive as some of the discs on my shelf, but they definitely utilize the advanced definition of 1080p. Sometimes the heavily stylized focus creates a somewhat lumpy image, but I’m almost positive this is an unavoidable occurrence. Gold and blue quickly become the clear theme colours (occasionally mixing to create a sickly green), and (with the exception of those consistently rich blacks) many scenes are practically monochromatic, occasionally even flat out black and white. These frame encompassing hues are clean, and contrast effectively without any compression sound. The deep red of blood usually pops nicely against these simpler hues, but there’s nothing particularly vibrant sticks out on the entire transfer. Grain levels are a bit inconsistent throughout the production, but never overtake the image.
Like the original film, Let Me In plays with the extremes of sound and silence, creating an almost too self-serious aural atmosphere. The larger budget affords this version of the story a more impressive 5.1 mix, which is presented uncompressed here in the form of a Dolby TrueHD track. It would be easy to ignore the high points and more impressive surround movement. Most of these refer to Abby’s more supernatural moments, like her first feeding, or scenes where Owen eavesdrops on conversations through the wall. The car accident sequence is another of the track’s more outstanding moments, including swirling directional effects, and frighteningly bassy impact sounds. Michael Giacchino’s score is a hit and miss affair. Sometimes the more subdued moments play perfectly into the film’s palpable sense of dread, while flamboyant stings hit the nose a bit too hard, and occasional plucking moments are needlessly funny. When it works the score is often the only major sound on the track, and so long as there aren’t a lot of sound effects covering it up the music is warm and deftly mixed into the stereo and surround channels.
Special features begin with director Matt Reeves on a solo commentary track. Reeves is quiet and very serious about the process. He’s clearly come to the recording studio well prepared, and he really fills the entire track with information without defaulting to describing on-screen actions. The tone reeks a bit of false modesty, there’s an unfortunate lack of humour, and Reeves’ whisper voices draws comparisons to self help books, but there’s far too much information here for me to dismiss the track. This Blu-ray release augments the commentary with a PiP option that includes cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. I couldn’t get the sound to work correctly using this option, so for me it was just a series of images. I’d like to know if readers had the same problem, or if my player is having problems.
‘From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In’ (17:00, HD) runs on cast and crew interviews and raw set footage, and covers most of the behind the scenes story, including pre-production, locations, casting, direction, make-up and digital effects, inspiration, and final thoughts. Short and sweet, with all the important information, and little of the usual EPK advertisement edge, though I am disappointed with the near total lack of discussion concerning the rebirth of Hammer Studios. ‘The Art of Special Effects’ (6:30, HD) features a series of digital effects breakdowns of the more effects heavy sequences. This is followed by a step by step breakdown of the car crash sequence (6:30, HD) with literally phoned-in commentary from Reeves (who never mentions Fight Club). The extras end with three deleted scenes featuring optional commentary from Reeves, a trailer gallery, a poster and still gallery, and trailers for other Anchor Bay releases.
So long as Let the Right One In remains available on Blu-ray and DVD there’s really no good reason to bother with Let Me In. Matt Reeves’ second feature looks great, and features good performances, but simply pales in comparison to the Swedish original, and I’m simply not a good enough critic to not compare the two films. Reeves himself is two for two in the 21st Century as a technical director, however, and I’d love to see him take on a non-remake with a solid script the next time he’s available. There’s no reason to waste talent on great looking, but ultimately empty cinematic experiences. If I haven’t convinced you and you still want to experience the film for yourself, go forward with the knowledge that the people at Anchor Bay haven’t failed in bringing it to Blu-ray disc. The transfer is solid, if not perfect, the TrueHD soundtrack features a great dynamic range, and the extras cover a lot of the filmmaking process, including a Blu-ray exclusive PiP option that didn’t quite work for me.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release's image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 1st February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, Dissecting Let Me In PiP Option, From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In, The Art of Special Effects, Car Crash Sequence Step-by-Step, Deleted Scenes, Trailer Gallery, Poster and Still Gallery, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Elias Koteas, Richard Jenkins
Genre: Drama and Horror
Length: 115 minutes
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