For fans of the 2008 Swedish import Let the Right One In who have angrily littered the Internet with cries of blasphemous imitation, Chloë Moretz, the 13-year-old star of Let Me In, opening Friday, has a simple request: Give Matt Reeves’ remake a chance.
“Put aside the controversy and watch the movie,” says Moretz, who plays Abby, a centuries-old vampire trapped in the pale, deceptively frail-looking body of a 12-year-old. “See if you take something new from it.”
Though the roar of fanboy discontent stirred by the first announcement of an American remake has since died to a murmur, those haunted by Tomas Alfredson’s Right One, which won the San Francisco Film Critics Circle’s Best Foreign Film award, remain wary of Hollywood tampering. Co-star Richard Jenkins understands.
“There’s nothing wrong with the original,” says Jenkins, 63, the 2009 Oscar nominee (for The Visitor) who plays The Father, Abby’s mysterious guardian in Let Me In. “It’s brilliant.” In fact, the best reason for doing a remake, he says, isn’t to correct someone else’s mistakes. “It’s usually because you love the original, and you have something else you want to say.
“Something about the relationship between Abby and [Owen, the lonely 12-year-old played by Kodi Smit-McPhee] spoke to Matt. I asked him if he understood how big a risk he was taking, remaking this much-beloved movie, but Let Me In was something he needed to do.”
Reeves, co-creator of TV’s Felicity and director of the 2008 creature feature Cloverfield, makes no secret of his admiration for the original, and notes that the striking similarities between his film and Alfredson’s can be attributed to a common inspiration – John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel.
“The screenplay for the original was Lindqvist’s, and he did an amazing job,” says Reeves, 44, who wrote Let Me In and never hesitated to add his own ideas. “A lot of the scenes in both films are taken verbatim from the book. I wasn’t going to change them just for the sake of being different.”
Despite his respect for Alfredson’s version, Reeves told his cast and crew not to watch Let the Right One In – a sensible request, really, considering that the original, still fresh in the minds of audiences worldwide, already cast a long enough shadow without the remake actors allowing it to inform their own choices.
“That’s the death blow,” says Jenkins. “You can’t do it, and Matt asked us not to, because you can’t help it – it affects you. It’s almost like adapting a novel into a screenplay. If you read the novel, you have certain expectations, and if you’ve seen the original, it influences your performance. It’s hard to do, so I just didn’t do it.”
Reeves followed his own advice as best he could, initially watching the original just twice, then reading the book several times, hoping to divorce himself from his impressions of Alfredson’s take.
“I knew what was important was that we make our own version of the story,” he says. “You don’t want to Xerox the film, you want to take what’s most important – the emotional impact of using a vampire story to talk about adolescence – and capture the spirit of that. The way to do that is to commit to the ideas. And when we watched the original after shooting, Kodi noticed some similarities between his performance and [Kâre Hedebrant’s], which was funny because he’d never seen it before.
“What I really love about movies is point of view. With Kodi’s character, I wanted you to see things from his perspective, like you do with the Jimmy Stewart character in Rear Window. But I also wanted you to feel The Father’s pain. We see him as a sort of serial killer, and we know he’s going to do horrible things, but as we watch his life unravel, we start rooting for him. That was why I needed to make Let Me In – to explore these rich, relatable characters, to portray the world as they see it.”