31 Days of Hell: Skip the American Remake and Go Straight for the Swedish "Let The Right One In" for Vampiric Horror


Oskar and Eli In the Swedish "Let The Right One In"
Image Courtesy of Indiewire

When a friend recommended that I watch Let Me In (2010), I thought the plot sounded strangely familiar. As it turned out, Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish movie Let The Right One In (2010). In fact, the reason Let Me In felt so familiar was because it is an almost shot-for-shot remake of the Swedish movie, changed in some ways for American audiences. Despite having the same source material, and almost all the same shots, the American version is a much weaker film than its Swedish predecessor. Let Me In is attempting a remake of an incredible horror movie, so I was not surprised when it fell short. The external similarities between the two films reminded me constantly what the American remake lacked that the Swedish film accomplished so well.

Let Me In follows Owen (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee in the remake; Oskar, the same character in the original film, is played by Kåre Hedebrant) a young boy who dreams of taking brutal revenge on the bullies at school who constantly pick on him. One day, a young girl and her father move into the same building as Owen, who makes friends with the girl (Eli in the original played by Lina Leandersson, Abby in the remake played by Cloë Grace Mortez). The film quickly turns bloody, as it is revealed the young girl is a vampire, whose father heads out to find victims to bleed for her. Owen and Abby start a romance as the situation heats up around them.

One character who was changed for the worse in the remake was the father figure who takes care of Eli/Abby. In the original film Håkan (Per Ragnar), the father figure is aging, and less able to provide blood for Eli. He is deeply troubled by his waning strength, and afraid that one day he may be unable to provide for her. Early in the film we see that Håkan and Eli do not have a close relationship despite attempts on both sides. In Let Me In, however, the father figure (Richard Jenkins) is unnamed, and is depicted as unwilling to help Abby. He is a reluctant killer, which begs the question: why is he helping her? He has no better relationship with Abby than Håkan does with Eli, and his clear reluctance to kill for her is jarring. He seems to only help Abby because she manipulates him into it. The story changes from the original, where Eli is trying to find not only someone who helps her feed, but a companion to the new version where Abby manipulates people into doing her bidding. In the first film we have a father distressed by his failure, and in the second an unwilling servant with no apparent motivation for his actions.

Owen and Ali, from the American "Let Me In"
Image Courtesy of Overture Films

Oskar is another character that was fundamentally changed in the remake. In the original, his violence is a sign of growing malice and even psychopathy. He revels in his violent fantasies, and when confronted with real violence through Eli, it does not scare him. This is the story about Oskar becoming closer to a monster while Eli tries to maintain her humanity while needing violence to stay alive. The violence draws Oskar closer to Eli through the course of the film. Owen, on the other hand, is clearly scared of Abby’s violent nature. His fantasies are one thing, but when he is confronted in the same way with Abby’s violence he looks terrified and tries to hide from it. It’s unclear as to why he wants to be around Abby when he is clearly repulsed by the violence.

This brings us to the main difference between the two films. Critic Mark Kermode said Let The Right One In is a film about kids that happens to feature vampires. Let Me In is a film about vampires that just happens to feature kids.” The first film trusts the story to resonate with the audience, while the second one does not. It’s a story about two lonely children who find comfort in each other. Eli’s vampirism is second to her human nature, as she clearly regrets her uncontrollable bloodlust. The vampire elements are more prominent in Let Me In because the film does not trust the audience to understand the subtleties in the story. When Abby goes to eat, she almost transforms into a yellow-eyed monster. Her voice changes and she shows no regrets about her actions. Abby is a flat character while Eli is rounded, developed and emotional. Abby’s goal is to find another person to provide for her, while Eli is also looking for emotional attachment. Let Me In removes the nuances in Abby’s character that contributes to weakening the story.

Despite all the drawbacks, I feel that Let Me In could have been more successful if it wasn’t so close to the original film. It feels so derivative that any element that may have worked in another film feels lacking in comparison. Overall, it is not a bad film in itself, but when compared it to its predecessor (a comparison that is nearly impossible not to make given the similarities) the flaws become much more apparent.  

-Patrick Bernas