Every now and then, while perusing through the film section of a local media boutique, or hanging out at a hole-in-the-wall art hause coffee shop, a little known foreign film is recommended by the employees or a management attempting to appear trendy or hip. Sometimes those films are horrifically bad (like 2002's “Pinocchio”, written, directed, and starring Roberto Benigni) while others are unexpected cinematic journey's just waiting to be experienced.
Such is the case with “Let The Right One In”, a 2008 Swedish soul (and blood) sucking “romantic” horror film that leaves you breathless, wondering, and wanting more. Based on John Aivide Lindqvist's novel of the same name, it recounts the relationship of Oskar, a 12-year-old boy bullied by schoolmates and stuck in the middle of his divorced parents, who develops a dark friendship with Eli, a child-of indeterminate gender in a Stockholm Suburb.
Unbeknownst to Oskar in the beginning, Eli is a vampire and is protected by Håkan – a sort of guardian for the under-age appearing Eli. It is Håkan who is responsible for procuring nourishment for the reclusive Eli, who like Oskar, is very lonely. The entire gritty and dark photography in the film plays off of that sense of a foreboding loneliness that both Oskar and Eli share, though Eli moreso than Oskar.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, one failed attempt at bringing Eli's dinner begins a chain reaction of events that culminates in a very open-to-a-sequel ending.
The 2010 American remake of “Let The Right One In”, renamed to “Let Me In”, and starred Chloë Grace Moretz of “Kick-Ass” fame. While it follows the majority of the same story, there are a few key elements that were changed to make it more accessible to it's American audience: the Swedish names were changed to English ones, the location moved from a suburb of Stockholm to Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the lingering mystery of Eli's gender is thrown out entirely as Eli is now a more decidedly feminine sounding “Abby”.
But which is better: the original or the remake? It's so easy to hold the original as the gold-standard to compare all others against, but at the same time, you really can't. Especially not when both are merely interpretations of the same source material.
Both films are have great heart-caught-in-your-throat moments, often of the same scene, but the directors and the young actors involved in both the Swedish film and the American remake each bring their own interpretation to an intensely dark film, so much to the point that they need to be viewed as two separate entities rather than an original and a remake.
It is very rare to encounter two films like these that can stand side by side and not be entirely dwarfed by one or the other, and these two fine examples of macabre cinema do just that without sacrificing quality or story.
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