Let Me In : A strikingly personal vision of horror
Let Me In
Directed by Matt Reeves
In many ways very similar to the original Swedish film, Matt Reeves’ Let Me In differentiates itself through its invigorating visual style, and by contextualizing the narrative through the troubled moral atmosphere of Reaganite America. The comments that this film is “too much” like Alfredson’s film are not unfounded; Reeves’ film could not exist without the foundation established by the original. That being said, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Reeves’ pays homage to how brilliant a film Let the Right One In was, while also incorporating his experience and aesthetic to a story he quite obviously has great passion for.
Crucially, it is re-contextualized from 1980s Sweden to 1980s America; incorporating both Cold War fears, and the dangerously conservative Reagan America. The opening scene (which is spectacular) ends with Reagan’s famous ‘Evil Empire’ speech; he discusses God, America’s moral ground, and the evil of the outside world. The speech suggests that the American people have somehow evolved beyond evil, and it is only the outsiders who are primitive, cruel and immoral. This foundation raises a new level of insecurity within Oscar. His thoughts and feelings, which are often angry and violent, inspire an incredible amount of self-doubt and even spur him to act on his impulses because there is no venue where he can comfortably discuss these fears. Furthermore, the bullying seen through this context seems to suggest to Oscar that their actions may be ‘good’, and that if he was not an “other”, he would have been spared. Shortly after watching Abby attack a woman, Oscar makes a phone call to his absentee father, questioning him on the existence of evil. On a superficial level, it’s easy to correlate the attack with Oscar’s fear, but Oscar had already faced “evils” day in and day out up until this moment… he is not really asking about Abby, as much as he is asking about himself. His father’s response is chilling in its ineptitude.
The ambiguity of ‘Abby’s’ gender is less prominent in this film (most notably in the exclusion of the very conveniently placed scar), but ‘she’ is often displayed as androgynous. There are often times when one could believe her to be a boy, albeit a somewhat feminized one. There is not much that is added to this storyline; however, it does contain some disturbingly touching scenes. Most notably, there is an interaction between Abby and her “father” (Richard Jenkins) that will raise hairs. It’s incredibly uncomfortable in how sexualized it is, but it is also vulnerable – almost sweet.
Both films explore vulnerability with a lot of depth. Most of the characters are less innocent than they are vulnerable. Even Abby can barely hunt for herself and faces death on numerous occasions. The film points to the innate susceptibility of the vampire: they may be difficult to kill, but they are also so sensitive to the most inane things. On numerous occasions, Abby exposes herself willfully to these dangers.
As with the original, there remains a huge amount of ambiguity as to whether or not she actually has feelings for Oscar or any of her other mates, or if it’s simply a matter of survival. She seems to specialize in young boys, a preference that suggests some kind of sexual fetishism but perhaps is more conveniently a means of using an impressionable child with the promise that they will grow up big and strong enough to sustain her diet. She, after all, keeps them alive: they are more useful to her as humans, so they remain that way.
An interesting contrast between this film and the original is that the color palette is relatively warm. Instead of the cool hues of winter used in Alfredson’s film, Reeves decides to use warmer colors despite dealing with very similar climates and locations. It’s an interesting choice, and actually lends to the discomfort of the film. It is almost contradictory; however, it remains incredibly sterile and cold. It is not an unconscious choice, nor is it meaningless; it suggests a moral discrepancy between the world and its characters, while also (though perhaps a stretch) a kind of chemical force: one that might be alluding to the fear of nuclear annihilation that held the nation at its throat at during the earlier part of that decade.
This film will divide people (though I don’t really see how you can love Let the Right One In and hate this one, except maybe if you find it somehow artistically disingenuous, which is absurd), though most will certainly that there is at least one aspect in which this film eclipses the original completely: the score. Michael Giacchino creates something remarkable and it is incorporates beautifully within the film. It is consistently ominous; however it is also fragile, almost weak… it reaches moments of crescendo, but often times seems to be at the brink of non-existence.
There are few obvious faults to be found in this film, and it is a strikingly personal vision of horror. The film is incredibly intimate, restricted to few locales and told through a copious amount of close-ups. Even the deaths are “close”; there is something incredibly personal about the relationships between the victim and aggressor in this film, especially when it is the Father who is enacting the crimes. There is a sense of guarded sobriety and melancholy in his methods because ultimately he does not enjoy murder. As difficult it may be to come to terms with, this film is about love: how far we are willing to push ourselves away from morality, identity and even happiness, in order to feel wanted.