How to scare the cashier at Target: When she glances at the Blu-Ray of “Let Me In” you’re purchasing and comments “that looks scary”, reply “It’s a tender, touching story of two young outcasts finding true love.”
The funny thing is, when compared to the film’s original Swedish version “Let the Right One In” (“LTROI”), “Let Me In” (“LMI”) is “warmer” (ie: more “tender and touching”) and the main characters are more sympathetic.
It’s a pleasure to see a foreign film “Americanized” without being completely screwed up in the process. “Let Me In” is a different interpretation of the story, not a bastardization of it.
The most important difference between the two versions is how the two main characters are portrayed. In the chilling atmosphere of “LTROI”, Oskar (as portrayed by Kåre Hedebrant in a standout performance) is truly malevolent. Oskar would have been a prime candidate to massacre his entire high school several years in the future had he not run away with Eli (portrayed in a deliciously cold and creepy Gothic style by Lina Leandersson).
Compared to Oskar and Eli, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloë Moretz) are as endearing as your next-door neighbor’s kids knocking at your door asking you if you can spare any chocolate chips for the cookies they’re baking with Mom. In contrast, many people would lock their door and hide if the creepy Oskar and Eli showed up at their doorstep, even if they didn’t know Eli was a vampire.
When Oskar hits the bully with the stick, you really feel Oskar’s barely restrained urge to kill. Owen comes off as simply defending himself in the same scene. The first time I saw “LTROI” in the theater, I was becoming seriously concerned about how safe Eli would be in the long term with Oskar as her caretaker (ha ha ha… ?).
Some would say that the more sympathetic rendition of the two main characters detracts from the story. They enjoy the chilling (in all senses of the word!) atmosphere, the cold, distant Eli and the brutal Oskar. I know I did! “LTROI” is a beautiful piece of film-making art.
That said, I also hold that the scariest vampires are the kind that don’t appear to average humans as threatening, emotionally distant monsters. The truly scary vampires are the friendly, empathetic kind where you can’t detect the beast within them until your existence is transformed (one way or another) and it’s “too late”.
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