As many of you know, this is an American remake of a Swedish film. And, as many of you may also know, that Swedish film is really fucking good. It’s called Let the Right One In, you should see it.
So, needless to say, I was leery when I heard that they were planning an American remake. Mentally–and I’m not entirely sure there’s a lot of evidence to back this up–this means that they take something done really well and then attract the lowest common denominators. Amp up the gore, deplete the story in favor of sight gags (ie, woman getting eaten by an elevator).
Aside from this, my lack from confidence in this project really stemmed from the fact that the original was able to get incredible performances from the child actors. I really hope that Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson go on to have huge careers in Sweden.
When I heard that they had cast Chloe Grace Moretz as the lead, I began to get a bit worried simply because I only knew her as the cheeky voice of reason in (500) Days of Summer and the girl who wears a purple wig and gets to say “cunt” in Kick-Ass.
I had only know of Kodi Smit-McPhee from last year’s The Road which was such a depression fest that I don’t really remember much else aside from all the grey and Viggo Mortenson’s kickass beard.
So that’s where it started.
Then they announced the director: Matt Reeves. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Cloverfield, it’s easily one of my favorite horror films, but I didn’t know if he could hold his own in a basic, non-found-footage, film. And, when I went to his IMDB page, it turns out he created that god awful show Felicity. Had I known that going in, I would’ve been even more worried.
But JJ Abrams gave Matt Reeves a vote of confidence. Michael Giacchino was doing the score. It had potential.
Then the reviews came in, and suddenly, it seemed like it actually had potential to be really good.
Turns out it was.
Let’s keep the synopsis simple: It’s a vampire love story completely antithetical to the Twilight Saga. First, it’s not a saga, it’s a single film. Second, there’s no werewolves. Third, it’s actually worth your time and money.
Instead of turning this into a cash grab based on the underground/festival success of the original, they decided to make a movie that held true to the original.
Before we get to the acting, and the story, I want to talk about the cinematography that Greig Fraser pulls off. He and Reeves chose to play against common law a lot of the time by inversing the depth of field to great effect. Towards the beginning of the film there is a scene where Owen and his mother are eating dinner and talking to one another. The scene remains static, facing his mother, but focused instead on the back of Owen’s head, keeping her completely out of focus. There is no reverse shot, no racking of focus to show her face. Just the static shot to show how far away the two really are.
And a lot of this wouldn’t be possible without the use of anamorphic lenses because they allow for such shallowness that you can stand in front of a window, have the window out of focus, your nose in focus, and your eyes out of focus again. The optics were used in this way, and it’s weird. It’s fucking weird. But I cannot tell you how well it works for this film. (Also, there’s a few Star Trek 2009 lens flares going on, which I love). Because, yea, at the end of it all, it’s still a horror film, and when you have a DP who’s so in tune with how to creep an audience out just by lens choice, you’re gonna piss your pants at times.
Now to the acting. Holy fucking shit. These kids tore the fucking roof off. This movie convinces me that, if Moretz doesn’t go the Drew Barrymore blow-and-booze route, she can be a definite force in acting for a long time to come. Same with Smit-Mcphee. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to cull emotions really really well.
The veteran adult actors–Elias Koteas (The Killer Inside Me, et al) and Richard Jenkins (the dad from Step Brothers, no less)–hold their own as well, especially Jenkins as Moretz’s caretaker and food provider (that’s as far as we’ll go with that plotline).
Look, I could write another 750 words about this film, going deep into spoilers comparing the two and whatever whatever, but, at the end of the day, you have to see this shit. Now, or at least on home video. Seriously. Even if you don’t like horror movies, this is a film that is a must-see.
Let me put it this way: I saw this film with seven very noisy folks. They were talking loudly up until about 15 minutes into the film. And then, dead silence throughout. There were moments where I was anticipating laughter from those disconnected from the story, but there were none. And to get the attention of my generation of ennui-ridden 20-somethings with a story of 12 year olds and vampires, it says something.
It says you might enjoy this.