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Many fans are arguing that a remake of the Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In” is unneeded, unwanted and unnecessary.
The people behind the U.S. version apparently have been reading those online posts, as they came to Comic-Con International prepared to defend the need for “Let Me In,” due in theaters in October.
Their argument? They’re as big of fans of the original as everyone else is. They just want to make another compelling film with the same source material.
“The truth of the matter is, a lot of people are cynical,” said director Matt Reeves. “Hey, (‘Let the Right One In’) is a masterpiece. The movie will always exist, and so will the novel. … This will be another interpretation.”
Comic-Con has become known as a place that can make or break a movie. With that in mind, Reeves and Hammer Films’ Simon Oakes arrived in Hall H with their hearts on their sleeves — or, perhaps, with their necks exposed — asking the crowd for a fair chance to impress them.
“I can’t think of a film and a filmmaker and a cast that I could be more proud of, for the first movie from Hammer in 35 years,” Oakes declared.
“Let Me In” stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Road”) as the boy next door, Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass”) as an ever-adolescent vampire and Richard Jenkins (“Burn After Reading”) as her father figure. The film, set in 1980s Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a coming-of-age story mixed with vampire horror.
Reeves saw the original film shortly after he completed 2008’s “Cloverfield.” He met with Overture Studios, which was working to obtain the rights to “Let the Right One In,” to discuss a script he’d written. Studio executives told him his original script was too dark, but wanted to know whether he would be interested in remaking “Right One.”
“They told me if I did [‘Right One’], to maybe age the kids up, that’d be better for an American audience,” Reeves said. “I went home and watched it, and I was blown away. I called Overture and I told them, one, great film, I don’t know that you should remake it, and two, if you do, don’t age the kids, that’s what it’s all about. [It’s] about the pain of adolescence.”
It turns out Overture didn’t get the rights to the film, but Reeves still ended up as director with its new studio.
“I read the book, it reminded me of my childhood so much, it really got under my skin,” he said. “I was so taken with the way [author John Ajvide] Lindqvist had taken a vampire story and found a way to make it about adolescence. It’s a genre story — a great vampire story — but it really reminds me of my childhood in the ‘80s.”
“I thought, maybe I can make it for how I felt growing up, that that would be a really interesting thing to do,” he said.
Reeves said that there was one main obstacle to doing a proper remake: finding child actors who could pull off the script. Without the right cast, he felt the movie would be over before shooting even began.
“The thing about it is that the original film is such a beautiful film, it’s got an extraordinary story about these people. In doing the research, I felt if we didn’t find the right kids we were lost,” he said. “Owen, as he’s known in our film, Oskar in the original, he would essentially react to discovering Ellie is a vampire. I thought, ‘Who am I going to find to do that?’ Different actors came in, I hadn’t seen ‘The Road’ … (Smit-McPhee) was so amazing in that scene, I said ‘Oh, we have to stop, this is who we need,’ and I knew then that we could do this movie. And I knew Chloe could come in and not play a vampire.”
The movie takes place in the early ‘80s, replete with an arcade scene where the two main characters go on a date and play old games like Pac-Man.
“The original film was set in the ‘80s, because it was about Lindqvist’s childhood,” Reeves said. “The ‘80s in Sweden were a specific cultural period, and I wanted to set it in America in ‘80s, during the Reagan years — the evil empire, the Soviets.”
Another scene from the movie was then shown. In this scene, Richard Jenkins hides in the backseat of a high school kid’s car so he can kill him and feed Abby his blood. But the crime doesn’t go off as Jenkins’ character plans it when the kid unexpectedly gives another boy a ride. After the driver stops for gas, Jenkins is discovered, and a desperate struggle ensues. Eventually Jenkins wins and speeds off in the car, wrecking it and trapping himself.
“In the story, Richard is her caretaker and he’s devoted to her and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to allow her to survive, which is get blood,” Reeves explained. “You meet Richard, and as kind as he is … he looks like a serial killer.”
Reeves said he wanted to formulate a process in which Jenkins gets Abby the blood, so he researched serial killers.
“He hangs them upside down and drains the blood — they have to be alive because she needs living blood. How would you do this?” Reeves said. He came across a story where a man hid in the back seat while a person went shopping inside Wal-Mart. “That put chills down my spine,” he said.
Reeves also noted he was reassured after he wrote an email to Lindqvist.
“He said he loved ‘Cloverfield,’ felt it was something new,” Reeves said. “And he was pleased [his novel] touched [me].”
Reeves asked the cast not to watch the original until they were done shooting so that all the actors could come to the set fresh, with no prior vision of how the movie should look. Everyone on the panel have since watched the Swedish film (with the exception of Moretz, whose mother won’t let her watch the whole movie), and loved what they saw.
Moretz also mentioned that her mother reads all of her scripts first, and passes on the ones she likes to Moretz and her brother to review.
“I like to try to choose very diverse roles from what I’ve done before,” she said. “Hit Girl and Abby are similar in a twisted way. They’re both very strong girls. … One is about 200 years older than the other, but very strong. I like diverse roles and trying to get involved and thinking about the back-story of my characters.”
Jenkins joked – one of the few jokes of the panel – that he also lets his mother read his scripts first.
Reeves talked about working with child actors, a first for him. He found some advice from an authority on the topic: Steven Spielberg.
“J.J. [Abrams] said Spielberg loved ‘Cloverfield,’ I said ‘J.J., do you think I could talk to Spielberg about working with the kids?’” Reeves said. “Spielberg was very generous with his time. … One of the things he told me was to let them come up with their own stuff, that they can do that because they are 12. … And one thing he told me was to have them keep a journal, in character, but they had to share it with me.”
Part of the script was written from those journals, Reeves and Moretz said.
Although this is a reimagining of “Let the Right One In,” Reeves reminded the audience that his movie had borrowed not just from the first film, but from multiple new sources – like the kids’ journals.
“I wanted to add some of my own personal experiences growing up, so it’s a weird amalgam — stuff from the first film, the book, my life and what the U.S. was like at the time,” Reeves said. “It’s a weird amalgam of things. I’m excited to see what people think.”
“Let Me In” opens on Oct. 1.
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