Check the Right One Out

By: Matthew Battles
July 5, 2010

With the nation still in the grip of undead mania, Let Me In, a new vampire movie dubbed by some as the “anti-Twilight,” is set to hit megaplexes in the Fall. Here’s the trailer:

The trouble is, the film was already made. Let Me In is a remake of last year’s astonishing Let the Right One In, by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. The most innovative vampire flick since Nosferatu, Let the Right One In tells the story of an awkward and alienated boy and his friendship with a girl who never goes out in the daytime and never grows old. Alfredson’s film effortlessly embodies the themes of vampirism — transformation, desire, the nature of evil — all crudely name-checked in the trailer for the Hollywood remake. With its flash-cut intimations of hot-button American “issues” like school violence and child molestation, the American version promises an urgent update of a film released… all of two years ago. Of course, it will be in English — not Swedish, or Esperanto, or whatever incomprehensible foreign tongue that other movie was in.

I want to go out on a limb here and say that the remake — which of course I have not seen — literally and categorically sucks. Categorically because the original is freshly unsettling and worthy of every consideration; literally because it’s the cinematic equivalent of vampirism, sucking the blood from a spirited original and turning it into the deathless horror of a “brand.”

Alfredson’s movie was based on a 2004 novel of the same name by Swedish author John Lindqvist. The title references not only vampire lore, but a Morrissey song with lyrics that prescribe the critical reaction the remake deserves:

Let the right one in
Let the old dreams die
Let the wrong ones go
They cannot
They cannot
They cannot do what you want them to do

Below is the trailer for Alfredson’s film. It can be streamed on Netflix. Watch it on a hot July day, and bathe yourself in the welcome chill of a nameless Scandinavian apartment complex stalked by a horror that yearns.


Browbeating, Kudos

What do you think?

  1. “Let the right one” in is awesome. We came across this one in our quest to watch the IMDB top 250. I’ll be surprised if the American version touches it.

  2. I also love this movie, and I’m also inclined to agree that the remake is going to suck, but I really don’t want it to.

    At SxSW I saw a panel that included Matt Reeves (the director in charge of the remake). What gives me a small hope is that on the “need” for a remake he mostly talked about the necessity of translating the references… for example the original book is set in a prefab town and on the opening page sets the scene by explaining how by the end of the story the citizens would have wished they had a church (they don’t because the town was purpose built in secular times, the town has no history, a necessity to deal with the story and something that doesn’t come across well to US audiences).

    On the other hand I can’t imagine such subtleties making it into any movie. It’s my understanding they cut the androgony of the vampire character entirely (in the book he’s a castrated boy (very obliquely hinted at in the Swedish film) and the older man who does his bidding is a paedophile, a bit of high-drama twisted weirdness that didn’t even make it into the Swedish version).

    So when it does suck, it will be suck really really badly, because the director apparently knows better.

  3. I know I’m being more than a bit categorical in this case. And it’s worth pointing out that something must have been lost or changed in the first adaptation (from SWE book to SWE film). Also, Oliver Laric’s film about copying, which I a href=””>posted about today, is making me take another look at this altogether. So I shouldn’t let it become a question of authenticity, or fealty to prior sources, or anything sort of reactionary like that—although it’s probably mixed in there somewhere.

    I guess at bottom I just don’t understand the impulse behind remaking the movie, except as a way of laying claim to its energies. I’m not convinced it needed translation (the setting’s lack of soul and neighborliness and grain—and even the absence of a church, given the conventions of the genre—were apparent to this American viewer). And if it effaces what is a feral and altering movie, that would be a shame!

  4. Ultimately I agree – there has never been a American remake of a movie that I liked better than the original. I also think in this case, the lack of understanding and detailed translation ADDS to the horror. My sample size (two) is extremely small, but I haven’t met any Swedish people yet who actually like this film as much as I did.

    As for copies in general, for me it’s less a slavish devotion to authenticity and more suspicion… you are translating this because:

    1. You think I’m too dumb to grok the original (I hate this. Let me decide when I want help)

    2. You are super impressed but also think you can do better (fine, but I doubt it)

    3. You are so enamored you want to try it yourself (Ok, but try making your own work in the same vein, like The Game (Sure it’s Michael Douglas, but also a great homage to The Magus).

    4. In the case of US remakes of foreign films, it’s a crassly simple appeal to the bottom line that is both true and embarrassing. More people will see a movie in English with tropes they understand. Ultimately for me _this_ is the horror of most of my cultural consumption – a creepy reminder that my own love does not translate. The things that I value are not valued by the culture at large that I am embedded in and while I can rail and shake my fist in the end I do not understand why.

    It’s easy to plead superiority and bask in the hibrow, but perhaps it’s not that… perhaps I just let the wrong one in.

  5. I absolutely adored Let the Right One In, regardless of the language.. I don’t speak a word os Swedish but that didn’t detract from the experience at all. This film looks watchable from the trailer, a similar visual style I guess.

    However just as I expected before I watched it, some dramatic sounding heavy song is playing, completely destroying the subtlety of the story. Sure, maybe the film itself is without this but somehow I doubt that. But why? The original was absolutely beautiful, it was a dear film to me and it was so full of subtlety. Why Americanize it? It’s just such a tired movie style these days yet everyone seems to be all over the “insert captivating line”… BANG music enters everything speeds up bam bam, I hope this film isn’t that. But it will be I’m sure… maybe I’m just wrong, I think I’ll want to see it either way, I hate bashing things before I see them. I just liked the original far too much to be happy with the idea of an American remake, it angers me more to have to question the reason why they did this??

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