As a great fan of the melancholy, Swedish, lonely-boy-meets-vampire-girlfriend film Let the Right One In, I was apprehensive when an American remake was announced. Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 original is so essentially Scandinavian in landscape and temperament that I couldn’t imagine how the tone (let alone the topography) could be exported without damage to the film’s sunless delicacy. Good news out of the Toronto Film Festival: As written and directed by Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves, Let Me In — that’s the remade title of the remake — manages to be both satisfyingly gloomy and American gothic. In fact, devotees of Alfredson’s movie may be rattled by the eerie visual similarities in the English-language version. We’re in a sad apartment complex in early 1980s Los Alamos now (Los Alamos, with the area’s nuclear and scientific associations, is a nice touch, as are glimpses of President Reagan on the TV). But it’s still cold, dark, depressing, and confusing to be a vulnerable adolescent who can’t rely on adult support. And a bullied 12-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) still meets his unlikely, bloodsucking soulmate (Chloe Grace Moretz) when she is perched, barefoot, on monkeybars in a crummy outdoor playground. And it’s still a heartbreaking thrill when boy asks vampire-girl to go steady.
Young Moretz from Kick-Ass and Smit-McPhee from The Road carry their scenes with tremendous poise. And Richard Jenkins, playing the girl’s guardian/blood procurer, is terrific. For a movie that, in its singularity, had no need to be remade, this one has been (whew) remade with elegance. Incidentally, in the original, the kids were named Eli and Oskar. Now they’re called Abby and Owen. Is it way far-fetched to think that the boy’s name is a twisted wave to my colleague, Owen Gleiberman, in recognition of his own controversial pan of Let the Right One In? Oooh, eerie.