Let Me In
That said Matt Reeves was set to direct it and having seen Cloverfield (Filmstalker review) I really wasn't sure about which way it would go. Would we see a film that took more from the novel and tell a different story? Would it just cover the same ground and end up being an English language version without a lot of imagination? Or would it go all Hollywood?
What is amazing and needs said upfront is that although it doesn't alter the story dramatically or take back sections from the book, it does it fantastically well and produces a different film from Let the Right One In. In fact it's hard not to say that this is the better film of the two.
One day a new arrival at the apartment block catches his attention, a girl and her father arrive and move into the flat next door. They meet in the courtyard and start to become friends. As they do Owen begins to discover some surprising things about Abby and what secret she harbours, a secret that will change his life forever.
One of the most important aspects of the film is the fact that it manages to leave so much unsaid, to deliver some surprising nuances and twists of the storyline, some pretty important messages too, without overplaying them or over explaining them.
There are some crucial story moments told through the lead character that are told through just watching others have a conversation, sometimes where he can't even hear them speaking, or where he just sees something happening, just a photograph, or simply even a look between characters.
There is a lot told in just a simple moment like this and if you aren't paying attention you could miss some important aspects of the film. This showcases the strong visual storytelling and the fact that everything in the film is focussing on the story of the children, a story which is terrifically sad and tragic for all involved.
The film does focus on their story but also on making us connect with and feel for all the characters involved, whether it is a sympathetic character about to die, the father figure despite what terrible things he does, or even the character of Abby who is essentially a monster. Some of these are real achievements, especially feeling something for the father character, for me that was quite a shock as to how well that character managed to connect, it's quite the testament to the script, the performance and the direction.
Matt Reeves' script adapted from the novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist is fantastic and it puts Cloverfield (Filmstalker review) far behind him, although that is by no means a bad film this is just streets ahead in depth and subtlety. He's managed to draw out characters humanity and get us to empathise and sympathise with them, characters who would normally struggle to come out of the screen and get near you. Reeves does this really well through the writing and many aspects of the direction, which he also performs fantastically.
Every single scene in the film looks fantastic, from the framing of each shot to the lighting, the film looks gorgeous from beginning to end. I would say that there's not a single scene that I can pick out that doesn't look gorgeous and carefully thought through, however that isn't the case, there are a few slip-ups, a few scenes that don't quite live up to the quality of the rest of the film. They are brief, and aren't the entire scene, just moments of CG where we see some events occur that aren't quite possible to recreate with a young actress. I just didn't feel that they looked real, and perhaps that is the point, but I just couldn't accept them visually in the shot.
Mind you, let's put that in context, the CG moments are small parts of an otherwise well shot scene, which are in turn a few throughout the whole film. A perfect example is the wide shot of the hospital as the nurse walks out to look for the girl she's just seen. The wide shot holds on the perfectly lit exterior and in a small part of the building a light goes out and you might just catch something tiny moving up the side of the building. It's small and the camera doesn't zoom into the action to highlight what's happening, you catch it if you're paying attention, you aren't guided in and pointed right to it there's just a small movement that attracts your attention.
While all this is superbly done the movement doesn't quite seem right and so while the whole of the scene looks great this small CG element doesn't quite flow as well. It's the same for the other CG human moments the flow of their moment just doesn't feel quite right but they are fleeting moments and the rest of the film soon takes over.
There is one non-CG scene that I didn't feel quite worked as well as the rest and that was the uninvited house entrance scene. There was something that just didn't convince me of the performance of the two characters and perhaps a little bit is down to the young actors but it can't all be placed at their feet because for the rest of the film they are excellent.
A perfect example of just how stylish and clever the film is can be seen through the car crash sequence. With the camera in the back of the car for the entirety, we watch as it reverses into traffic, is hit, falls into a ditch and rolls down a hill, all seemingly in one take and lit and framed just as well as the rest of the film.
You can see this throughout where choices have been made to take the less than obvious route and deliver a better, more engaging film. It feels that there's been a lot of care and attention paid to the story, the characters and the audience to try and deliver the best film and not just another remake, and it pays out in dividends.
Another great scene is the fire in the hospital room and how it builds to the key moment, or the way the entire story plays out with the events of the hospital beginning the film and later returning us to that same scene to play out the events with a rather different viewpoint. Again it shows that the film is way more intelligent than the Hollywood remake you might have expected.
Going back to the performances credit has to be given to all the actors there isn't a single poor performance in there. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Moretz are excellent, utterly convincing and give restrained and strongly motivated performances, managing to make you feel there's a real connection and warmth between the two. Then there's Richard Jenkins who gives a similar performance and his character is fantastic for him, just as his performance is. Elias Koteas, like all the actors, has been cast perfectly and feels just right for his role, a role where he manages to bring to life a character who hardly has any of the depth and back story as the rest.
However the issue of the remake comes up again and it has to be addressed. Having read the book and seen the original film I was surprised how this felt in comparison. It doesn't feel like a remake, a re-imagining or anything like that, it feels more like a homage to the book than anything else. I am usually set against remakes of foreign films, and not because it's a close minded stance, but because the remakes are almost always not as good as the original. Here though I really am torn for Let Me In is perhaps better than the original Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (Filmstalker review) and it does a clever, and I think correct job of selecting what to bring forward from the novel, standing separate from the original film and finding its own path.
The picture is gorgeous, not only is it filmed fantastically with strong cinematography but the lighting is excellent with strong tone and colouring for every shot even in the darker ones and there plenty of them. They transfer wonderfully to the home cinema screen and the Blu-ray transfer seems flawless.
Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Surprisingly for such a restrained and action light film there's a great deal of use made of the individual speakers. There are low ominous beats around you and the haunting melodies hover over the scenes. There are a lot of quiet moments though and often during these the score comes forward and compliments the scene but never takes it over. When the film requires it there is good use of the directional audio, for example in the simplest of scenes where the camera is in a car and the left door is closed, a man stretches in and moves something on the right hand side while all the time the audio tracks with him. The sound design is very strong and that comes through in the smallest of scenes.
From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In; The Art of Special Effects; Car Crash Sequence Step-By-Step; Picture in Picture Exclusive; TV Special; Deleted Scenes; Pictures
From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In
This is a good behind the scenes featurette that has a lot from the director, leads and the producers from the scripting through to the effects and post-production. It does give us a lot about the actors and director and their relationships and attitudes towards the film. It's a decent featurette to accompany the film.
The Art of Special Effects
A series of key sequences from throughout the film that require special effects where the shots are broken down piece by piece showing the completed sequence, going back to the original non-effects shot, and then building on that showing the different stages in building the final shot. Very interesting to watch the different scenes and styles of effects as well as what was actually real in the shot to begin with.
Car Crash Sequence Step-By-Step
As with the above, we get Matt Reeves talking us through the car crash sequence and how that was put together with practical stunt work and CG with footage behind the scenes to take is through the process, as the title says, step-by-step. It proves to be another interesting short featurette.
Picture in Picture Exclusive
I felt rather let down by this, although it forced me to watch the film again and discover some subtler moments I missed first time round, there wasn't much new in the picture-in-picture moments that we hadn't seen in the other featurettes. I would have liked to have seen much more new content and perhaps more storyboarding. As it is there's not that much to gained from watching it again and it feels a real wasted opportunity.
A UK red carpet short marketing piece where footage from the film and behind the scenes shots are mixed with red carpet interviews with the leading cast members and the director, all narrated by Edith Bowman. This is the usual promotional red carpet short.
A number of deleted scenes all with the option to have Matt Reeves talk about why they weren't included in the final cut. The last one is the best and you can see the dichotomy that faced Reeves on whether to put it in or not.
Various stills from the marketing through the filming, the best part of this is the theme playing as you look at the gallery, the worst thing was finding a back button from a PC interface which is how I watched the extras.
Matt Reeves has delivered a fantastic film, beautifully shot, wonderfully written and brought to the screen and above all it looks gorgeous. Reeves has really leapt forward with this film and has delivered something far in excess of what was expected. He's created a powerful and engaging film with equally convincing and engaging performances from the superb cast involved.
Both Smit-McPhee and Moretz are fantastic in their roles and are backed fantastically by Jenkins and Koteas. Reeves has selected the cast perfectly for his film and it adds another positive layer to elevate it that bit more.
Let Me In is perhaps better than the original film and has more to offer audiences than the book and the first film, Reeves has made a sequel comparable and perhaps more worthy to the original.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, but I do wish we had an audio commentary and some stronger extras. Other than that it is a recommended film to watch whether you've seen the original or not, if remakes must be done, this is how they should be.