It probably goes without saying that Let Me In, the upcoming vampire romance/thriller from writer/director Matt Reeves, has a tough row to hoe. After all, it’s an adaptation — don’t use the dreaded R-word (“remake”) — of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s bestselling 2004 novel Let the Right One In and the acclaimed 2007 film of the same name.
Fans of the Swedish version cringed when Reeves’ adaptation was announced, all but certain the snow and gloom of the Stockholm suburbs would be replaced with the sun and smog of Los Angeles and, worse, that cast would be populated by Disney tween automatons. In other words, a stereotypical “Americanized” movie.
However, Reeves cast Chloë Moretz (Kick-Ass) as the centuries-old vampire girl, renamed Abby, Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) as the bullied 12-year-old Owen, and veteran actor Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Six Feet Under) as Abby’s “father,” and set the story not in sunny L.A. but in a snowy small town in New Mexico. Then came the first teaser, followed by the extended Comic-Con International trailer, both of which went a long way to ease concerns and melt the icy hearts of the film’s skeptics. Dread began to give way to (gasp) anticipation, with online voices describing the footage from Let Me In as “frenetic and creepy” and, perhaps just as importantly, “reverential of its source material.” With the subsequent release of more images and the first clip — a chilling scene depicting Jenkins’ character hunting from the backseat of a car — the case for Reeves’ vision grew that much stronger.
But then on Monday, Hammer Films and Overture Films released the first U.S. television spot, which employs the kind of forced narration generally reserved for the blandest summer-movie fare, possibly losing some of the credibility Let Me In gained over the past few months.
“An ancient force … has survived for 200 years … by living … as a child. … From the director of Cloverfield. … How do you protect a bond … when you’re cursed to destroy?” I’m almost disappointed the marketing department didn’t go all the way and whip out “In a world …” Almost.
Although I’m a great fan of Lindqvist’s novel, I was a bit underwhelmed by director Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation, despite the fact that Lindqvist also wrote the screenplay. I chalk that up to the ambiguity about the identity of Eli (Abby in the U.S. version) — I’m trying to avoid spoilers — and the relegation of the secondary characters to little more than cardboard cutouts, both of which were unfortunate side effects of the filmmaking process. (An aside: Lindqvist’s second novel, the zombie tale Handling the Undead, will be released in the U.S. on Sept. 28.)
In any case, I don’t have an overwhelming attachment to the original movie, making it easier for me to get excited about the possibilities of Reeves’ version. But TV spots like this one make it difficult to remain optimistic about Let Me In, let alone to champion it, even when the theatrical trailers and the Comic-Con presentation give every indication that the director gets, and even reveres, the source material.
I like to think I appreciate the economics of marketing a movie like this: Hammer/Overture can’t afford for Let Me In simply to be a successful “art house film.” But if the solution is to take a touching and chilling love story and sell it as a generic horror film — “An ancient force …” — for the teen-age multiplex crowd, the studio is likely inviting disappointment.
Let Me In opens nationwide on Oct. 1.
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