Blue Corner: Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) – Sweden 2008 (8.0 imdb)
Red Corner: Let Me In – USA 2010 (7.2 imdb)
Verdict: Technical Knockout
Winner: Let the Right One In
As much as I’ve tried to find a way to write about these two films without simply gushing about Let the Right One In, I’ve failed. Their ratings on imdb.com are within one point out of ten, and yet they are such a different experience to each other, that small difference seems ridiculous.
It is best if not too much is revealed about the plot of the movies. They tell, in general, the same story, although specifics vary. Depending on which version of the film you watch, that story is either a rather sweet coming of age tale, or a creature feature. The leads play 12 year olds, both outsiders, who become unlikely friends. To some extent, the difference in the films may be seen in the difference in emphasis on either the friendship, or the individuals in that relationship.
The screenplay of Let the Right One In was written by the author of the novel they are both based on, John Ajvide Lindqvist. It was directed by Tomas Alfredson, who also directed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The muted palette with occasional colour (usually red, for reasons that soon become obvious) reflects the quietly growing bond between Oskar and Eli, and the interludes of violence in both their lives. Oscar is bullied at school and Eli is not your normal 12 year old, however the film focuses on the similarities between the two rather than the differences. This isn’t the case with Let Me In.
Matt Reeves, writer and director of Let Me In, is certainly no hack. He is at the reins of the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and its threequel, and also directed Cloverfield, a cult favourite. Cloverfield is a creature movie, where the monster is a key part of the story, and that seems to be his emphasis in Let Me In. Several of the moments of joy in Let the Right One In are missing. Reeves has the main writing credit for the film, also crediting Lindqvist’s novel and film. Some of the changes Reeves made blatantly telegraph components of the film, such as the references to Romeo and Juliet. They are so significant, yet it seemed Reeves doubted his own ability as a director to communicate those ideas.
Much of the original is reproduced scene for scene in Let Me In; the question is why you would change it at all. Certainly the changes all help shift the emphasis in the film, so Reeves may have been setting out to make his personal mark on the story from the novel rather than the film. Given the amount of material copied however, the changes only make Let Me In a workmanlike copy of the original. Let Me In is not a bad movie; it is just that Let the Right One In is better.
In a head to head matchup Let the Right One In comes out on top. It is a beautifully filmed, heartwarming, and heart breaking story about star crossed young lovers with more than a lifetime of happiness and pain in front of them. You see the love and loss they inevitably face in the story arc of Eli’s “father”. Let Me In is a well told, if rather more plodding, story about a monster that befriends a lonely and isolated boy. While they have a future, the implied intimacy and heartbreak of the original is extremely diluted, if not totally lost.
See the original.