SDCC 2010: Matt Reeves’ LET ME IN Panel

     July 24, 2010

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In the past, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about Let Me In, a remake/re-adaptation of the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In.  It just seemed like a story completely ill-suited to an American adaptation, and in retrospect, I think that I shortchanged that story by taking that view.  As director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) pointed out in today’s panel for the film, this is a story about the pain of adolescence and that transcends location.  And while the recently released trailer didn’t move me one way or another, I can say that after today’s panel and the footage they showed, I’m beginning to become enthusiastic.

Hit the jump to get the down low on today’s panel for Let Me In.

let_me_in_poster_iceThe panel kicks off with a new trailer.  Like the one that’s currently available online, it didn’t do much for me, but it didn’t sour me either.  It’s got some interesting visuals, but doesn’t feel daring enough and nowhere near as bold as Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film.  But it looked like an interesting horror-mystery-thriller and it did hint at something brutal and nasty.  So at this point, I’m willing to not write it off completely.

Then Reeves came on stage and explained how the film rested on its two child lead actors.  When casting the role of Owen (Oscar in the original), he was inspired by a scene in Rosemary’s Baby where Mia Farrow is having a breakdown over the phone.  He wrote a scene like that for Owen and when Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) read for the part, he got it in the room.  The same thing with Moretz — she was able to play the role of Abby (Eli in the original) but not play her as a vampire.  The movie doesn’t romanticize being a vampire and shows the isolation and terror of being that creature.  Finally, for Jenkins, who plays Abby’s “father”, Reeves met the actor at a party during the process of trying to cast the role.  After the party, Reeves’ wife said of Jenkins “Did you look in his eyes?” and at that moment, Reeves knew he had to cast Jenkins.

We were then treated to a clip from the film.  Reeves provides the background that Owen is being endlessly bullied at school, his parents are going through a divorce, and Abby is the first person he’s met who he thinks might understand him.  So they go on a date and play Ms. Pac-Man (the film is set in New Mexico in the early 1980s) and he asks her if she would like a piece of candy.  She tries it but ends up running outside and throwing up.  She meekly apologizes, and then Owen hugs her.  She asks if he would still like her if she wasn’t a girl.  He says he would.  It’s a tender scene and I was sold on the film a bit more after seeing it.

Reeves talked about wanting to set it in a “quintessential American community” but that was also snowy like the original since he likes the imagery of blood on snow.  But when Reeves talks about Let Me In, he’s clearly selling it as a re-adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel.  It’s a smart sell because Reeves wants to show he’s doing his own thing while respecting Alfredson’s movie.  He notes (correctly) that the original movie will always exist and think it’s a masterpiece and hopes that this new version will be as effective in its own way.

The second clip is a scene that’s radically different than the one in Alfredson’s film.  It has Abby’s “father” going out to kill for her and showing how his serial killer modus operandi completely fails on this outing for fresh blood.  The scene has the father in the back of a potential victim’s car.  I won’t lay out the process of how it goes wrong, other than to say it ends with a magnificent shot of a car crash from the perspective of the car’s back seat.  It was at this point that I became genuinely interested in Let Me In and left my resentment of the remake behind.  This movie looks nothing like Cloverfield or Let the Right One In.  It looks like its own beast and it looks good.

Let Me In hits theaters on October 1st.

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