Let The Right One In is the title of a Morrissey song. Let Me In is the title of a song by Jefferson Airplane.
Let The Right One In starts with a troubled young boy stabbing a tree with a penknife. Let Me In starts with a horrifically acid-burned man being rushed to hospital before killing himself. Let Me In gets to all that later.
Let The Right One In is a 2008 Swedish film about children & vampires. Let Me In is a 2010 American remake about vampires, and children.
And that’s about all there is, in terms of differences. Names may be changed to protect the (not so) innocent, bits are shuffled around, but they are almost exactly the same film. Startlingly so, in fact. Scenes are lifted without change, dialogue is spoken straight from the original subtitles, shots are duplicated with unerring precision. It is, in every sense, a remarkably faithful adaptation.
The film might, possibly, be an incredibly clever extension of the vampire metaphor. If you reanimate a corpse, perfectly, can it ever truly be the same person?
It stretches this into the very body (the attractive, if strange-smelling, body) of the film itself. If two films are made of the exact same material, are they really different films? Can they ever be the same film?
Annoyingly, I’m unsure. It’s easy to say ‘oh, it’s not as good as the original’. That’s the line I’m sure thousands of people will be muttering as they emerge from screenings this weekend; it’s the line thousands more have had pre-prepared for months. And it’s true – the addition of unnecessary special-effects and the few tiny tweaks to the plot make a slightly weaker film – but that’s all a bit too tidy, don’t you think?
It’s definitely true to say this is one of the most pointless remakes I’ve ever seen. It’s simultaneously true that it’s one of the best.
When it has the conviction to be a little different, the film begins to find itself. (A lesson we should all take from the last few years of adaptations, by my reckoning. See also: Scott Pilgrim, Watchmen, Kick Ass…) Two car-set murder scenes are, as far as I can remember, the biggest departure from the original. The second, especially, with its beautiful symmetry and all-mixed-up-tension is stylish, satisfying and smart. It contains the one intentional laugh in the film, shows some directorial flair, and opens up one the film’s big questions a bit: is it okay to sympathise with monsters? It is the film’s breakaway moment.
Memory is a key thing in all these judgements, so allow me to add a quick disclaimer: it has been over a year since I last watched Let The Right One In, and my perceptions of it are warped. A few conversations and a quick Youtube hunt prove that bits I thought were silly Hollywood add-ons were actually in the original, along with at least one other scene I have zero recollection of. Because all that matters, really, is that snowy courtyard and a frozen climbing frame area and two children, slightly too old for their surroundings, talking nervously. And Let Me In got that down, perfectly.
In my memories, at least, Let The Right One In is a masterpiece. Let Me In … isn’t a bad copy, actually.