Saturday, 27 November 2010

SUDDENLY


Lewis Allen - 1954 - US




In a little, sleepy, Republican town of Suddenly, a officer pauses to share a joke with someone passing through that “things happen so slow now, the town councillor’s figuring to change the town’s name to Gradually.” But it’s name comes from a time when it was a wilder place of gamblers, road agents, gunfighters, probably prostitutes, that kind of thing; the kind of people that make things happen ‘suddenly’. It shouldn’t be forgotten what kind of wildness built the town.


It’s a regular ol’ day in Suddenly. The most conflict seems to be when Sheriff Tod Shaw has a little tiff with the female that he is after, Ellen Benson, because he buys her son “Pidge” a cap gun when she has expressly forbid it. She is still grieving for the loss of her husband in the war, you see, and abhors symbols of violence. Oh, he explains that it’s not the weapon and it’s the man, et cetera, et cetera, but she isn’t having any of it. The Sheriff’s affinity with violence seems also to be one of the reasons she is playing hard to get. Her father-in-law is also tired of Ellen’s anti-violence moaning. She is, after all, just a woman and doesn’t understand that there is horror and Evil in the world that can only be resolved and fended off with counter-violence. But not to worry: her silly, womanly anxieties and philosophies will soon be shown up for the bunk they are when three hoodlums take over the family house for a plot to assassinate the President of the United States who is apparently - or suddenly as it may be - passing through. What follows is a little chamber piece in which decent people and hoodlums argue it all out whilst they wait for the assassination attempt.



Conversely, Ellen Benson (Nancy Gates) would be better off without Sheriff Shaw because he’s an asshole, and as performed by Sterling Hayden, a wooden chunk of an asshole. He is belligerent and bolshy with the life-long ease of a born bully; juvenile in his responses to Ellen, swaggering with the unintentional humour that posturing machismo always brings. On the other hand, if she wasn’t such weak tea, she ought to notice that assassin John Baron is played by Frank Sinatra and is a far more interesting man. Sure, he’s a murderer, but so is her beau and her father-in-law because they were all soldiers: Baron brings with him an interesting questioning of what it means when a Nation trains its men to kill. This grey area is quickly resolved by the Sheriff distinguishing between good and bad soldiers, those that come home to take on authorities roles such as cops and secret agents and those that liked it too much: Baron was born a killer, even if, as he says, “They” taught him how to kill. His mental health is probably more a result of this innate psychothic nature, the fact that he was left in an orphanage, that kind of thing, rather than a result of war trauma, of course. He’s a bad seed, see?



We are a long way from the home invasion scenarios of “Funny Games” and the like, but nevertheless there is a fair hard edge to the proceedings. The film implies Baron’s sadism and instability as much as possible, whilst never losing his hoodlum hat, and it’s fairly zesty with the expendable cast. Thanks to Sinatra’s performance, both mean and vulnerable with eyes full of uncertainty and a gutted sense of his own emotions, we have no doubt that he is capable of carrying out his threats against “Pidge” and the President. Sinatra brings the whole set-up alive in a community of otherwise stock types and rote performances. The film may try to side-step the issue of what turning men into killers might do to a generation, but he is far from a whiner about his lot and he does help to puncture the posturing of the ex-servicemen around him just by being there. He is also living the American dream of Capitalism and firearms: he doesn’t have any feelings about his job, he is just doing it for the money and marking his place in the world by killing when told and paid to. It’s just business. Baron may be wrong, but that doesn’t make the little conservative enclave he invades right just because of their pretences at patriotism and overall recourse to violence which is just as quick as his, although arguabloy justified as self-defence. Writer Richard Sale also can’t help but give Baron the best dialogue either. The irony is simple: the bad guy bring with him the dark edges of noir and is the only point of fascination in the film, the near only thing with blood running through it’s veins. Sinatra is good casting: he is tiny compared to the hulking Hayden, but Sinatra holds his own by doing and not swaggering. Only with the TV repairman - who may as well wear a target on his chest when he turns up late in the proceedings - played by James Lilburn do we get another actor actually awake and complex, simultaneously confused, outraged, bemused and shocked.

It is all highly implausible, of course, with the feel of an expanded play. The play with the cap gun and the television set is quite neatly handled, right under the assassins’ noses, and the ending - and we’re never in doubt as to the how things will turn out - gives both “Pidge” and Ellen a chance to resolve issues with a firearm. That’ll learn’em. And later, it will be the Sheriff playing hard to get and Ellen doing the chasing. That’ll teach her.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

PIRANHA 3D


Alexandre Aja
2010- US - 88m

Alexandre Aja’s gore-and-soft-core 2010 “Piranha” remake is so unapologetic in its apparent disdain for audience and cursory intellect that that it is thoroughly critic-proof. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour to outline some key reasons why this piece of shit doesn’t work.

It’s horror for hecklers, for what they call trolls, for those that really have no interest in any investment in character or story. What they want, and what they get, is tits and ass, blood and dismemberment. So gratuitous is it in its misogyny that it ought to be parody. This outrageous misogyny is the film’s chief joke, extreme gag-gore it’s second. All this is explained by a spring break festival of hedonism based around Wild Wild Girls with constant gyration on boat decks. Girls shake booty; boys ogle. But “Piranha” offers no commentary: what happens is that this perpetually dancing and lusting cast of extras are so loathsome and vapid that we don’t give one toss whether they live or die. The nastiness of the piranha attacks are an end in themselves, and so cartoonish and CGI-buffered that they are empty of identity and really give nothing up for the audience. There is some cursory suspense wherein our key protagonists are stuck on a boat and need rescuing, but the fact that it all ends with an explosion only feels like one more condescension - because isn’t blowing up everything how endings work? - and then this is topped off with a stupid, stupid coda.

How odd that Aja, having staked a reputation with the flawed but full-on horror “Haut Tension”, seems to have fallen into America by way of remakes that no one really wants. I myself warmed to his updating of “The Hills Has Eyes”, but in “Piranha”, his capacity for outright nastiness is anchored to nothing and his sense of atmosphere nonexistent. It is as if the Weinstein brothers, producing, and director Aja know the film was worthless at worst and slim at best and simply threw in more and more tits. Guys will pay to see that, right? Twentysomethings - that key demographic - love to see their own kind acting like assholes and then slaughtered en masse, right? Ever since “Friday the 13th”, we know this. Setting up an appalling spring break community (which need not be appalling) and then slaughtering the lot isn’t criticism of that culture: it’s just setting up the skills to knock down. When we get to see a piranha cough up a half-chewed penis, you know horror has reached quite a nadir and the filmmakers don’t care. The audience laughs both with and at the fact that the film has no care.

You may or may not agree that it’s insulting. The audience I saw it with treated it as a comedy, and sure enough it is, but it is the bassist, crassest humour. It has more in common with the “Scary Movie” franchise than, say, the Joe Dante original. It doesn’t even have the breezy inventiveness and anarchy of Troma Studio’s bad taste films: it’s much, much better made, but aside from the boundary-breaking breast bonanza and general, silly nastiness, it’s really a tidy little package. Inventiveness and anarchy, you see, are not condescending to an audience; simply amping up the lesser qualities of b-horror is. And no, it is not satire either.

As the lead teenager being teased into the spring break craziness by Kelly Brook - rather than, you know, being tied down to the responsibility of baby-sitting and browsing porn on his laptop for light relief - Stephen R McQueen seems to try his best to be a convincing and charming every-guy just about to learn the joys of adult indulgence, but his efforts dissolve into stock scenarios. Interestingly, it is Kelly Brook who, in the brief time she gets, manages to evoke something like an real interesting character: playful, gorgeous, unapologetic, independent, plus mature. Now, if Kelly Brook had been the one to cut through the bullshit and save the kids on the piranha-besieged boat - all without changing her bikini - then maybe there might have been something interesting here, something a little critical of gender types in horror films. That would have been a whole lot sexier and more interesting to debate. But, alas, no: Kelly must go the way of any hot girl who indulges in naughtiness. She has the best and most genuinely amusing joke - the opera-scored nude swimming duet - and seems a wasted opportunity.

Dante’s original is a cult favourite, and no one thinks it’s a masterpiece, but it is mischievous, fun, engaging, satirical, nasty and witty. “Piranha” 2010 has mostly tedious American cookie-cutter acting, thin characters, a bunch of non-starter cameos (Eli Roth, for one, which might clue you in to the standard), and all the piranha and gore generated by CGI you could want. Oh, and it has 3D. Tits and 3D: that should bring them in. The 3D enhances nothing. The technology may have improved, but 3D still won’t improve a film. It works best with beams of light shining underwater (the underwater lake sequence is the best scene because, for a moment, the films looks real pretty and there is a real, fleeting sense of dread and otherworldliness). Otherwise, it often looks just like bad Photoshop work (the opening whirlpool sequence is especially bad). What we are left with is a horribly cynical horror film cashing in on a relatively respected cult item, puked up over the frat boy horror fan who likes being puked on - because that’s funny; a film with no real shelf-life due to its artlessness. A film that casts American culture as a wasteland of self-absorbed decadence, vapidity, and one that thinks that the tits and cocks of this culture being eaten is the stuff of great sight gags. It’s junk, but not in a good way.

*


Friday, 19 November 2010

ADVENTURES IN FILM #1

FAVOURITE SCENES: “LET THE RIGHT ONE IN”: the pool scene.

++

Occasionally, a film makes you say something aloud, or shout something at the screen. Oh, I have seen people calling advice and names at “EastEnders”, cursing the news, but that’s not what I mean. I have heard stories of audiences shouting at screens things such as “I would kill that guy!” and so on, but that’s not what I mean. I am talking about something even more primal. I am talking about when the film you are watching and all the elements - sound, vision, mis-e-scene, pacing, atmosphere, characterisation, etc - coalesces into pure story and all the elements hit the right note suddenly you realise how film reaches places you maybe never quite knew were there in a film. And you say something out loud because you are delighted and in awe.

I was watching “Let The Right One In”, with love, soaking it all in, thinking what a brilliant horror and brilliant bildungsroman it was… I was totally invested in Oskar’s situation, fearful for him as a victim of bullying, as a somewhat naïve and sweet soul, fearful of him as his unresolved need for revenge seemed to tap into the latent psychopath squirming in his gut and the hand that held the pen-knife. His relationship and investment in Eli, who remains impregnably enigmatic, was fraught with danger and gore and alive with affection and loyalty. But how were they going to resolve it?

Horror endings, especially, are notoriously weak, disappointing, stupid. I am a horror fan, but it’s the truth. But I had not read Lindqvist's novel, so I had no idea how it would sort itself out, or not.

And then: the pool scene.

The bullies have contrived to corner unsuspecting Oskar in the pool, where he is trying to do something for himself (now that Eli has gone) by learning to swim. They, on the other hand, have come to punish him for whacking the chief bully about the head with a stick, costing him his ear. Chief bully has brought along older brother, who is evidently of a more murderous nature. Chief bully’s henchmen don’t seem so sure, seemingly equally scared of carrying out the increasing cruelty and scared of not doing as they are told and losing … status? Power? Comradeship?

Then there is only Oskar and the four bullies, no one else, and the brother is holding his head underwater. Eli the vampire is conspicuous by absence.

Oskar is in slowed-motion underwater, drowning in dull pool blue. All is quiet. The brother has discovered his capacity for doing the unspeakable. The bully henchmen are slowly being traumatised by their complicity, not really having that same capacity, but in too deep. Oskar is drowning and we are underwater with him, watching. Bubbles float. And…

Wait. What was that noise? Huh? Wait!..? Is that… is that screaming? We are still underwater so all other sounds are muffled. The brother’s hand still grips Oskar’s hair, pushing him under. Then a foot flies past the screen…!! Two feet are flying across the pool, just under the surface of the water, kicking!!

And it was at this point that I said to the screen, out loud and clearly: “Oh my God.”

Because my jaw my dropped, my heart in my throat, my sense of drama, film, story and horror in my throat too. Oh wow. It seemed to me that, rarely, does a film find the totally right way to film a moment, that it was rare to see such a horror scene – a vengeance scene, a slaughtering, the horror money-shot – filmed in such a way.

So: trying to disentangle the sounds that are muffled to work it out. Oskar still floats, half-dead perhaps. Oh, what a perfectly pitched scene: pure cinema, pure horror – all about what you don’t see, triggering the imagination, trusting the audience, focusing on what matters – Oskar’s life! – whilst not skimping on the horror. A decapitated head falls into the pool distance. Jesus. Crunch! The hand holding Oskar down becomes detached and falls away with its disembodied arm. Oskar hasn’t even seen, his eyes closed. It is like he is dreaming all the vengeance, or like he has summoned it. Perhaps he has.

Now a hand reaches in and gently lifts him out. He drifts to the surface.

Above the surface comes Oskar’s head. He opens his eyes and he is looking into those of Eli. He smiles. Yes.

And then: a wide-shot of the pool: in the distance, the headless body draped over the side of the pool: the body of the bully henchman who, really, had he taken time and listened to conscience, could have been a friend to Oskar and saved them all a lot of grief… perhaps. Perhaps he really was that mean and treacherous. Hard to tell. Another of the film’s perfectly maintained ambiguities and mysteries. In the foreground, the ravaged corpses of the chief bully and his brother and, to the side, the other henchman, still sitting where he had sat earlier in terror when realising they were going to drown Oskar, and he is quietly sobbing.

Chills, thrills, drama; horror through sounds and hints but never holding back on the gore either. Such a fine balance. A scene bringing Oskar’s vulnerability to breaking point, never losing sight of him, and in that, never trivialising the albeit mostly off-screen slaughter as merely a shock-piece either.

And when he smiles at Eli, that is it. It is the best and the worst thing ever for him. He is simultaneously found, safe, lost and salvaged by horror. Should you care about such things, it is a cinematic moment transcending genres, one that proves that horror can be rife with both gore and humanity. A film that keeps me rooting for horror as a genre capable of reaching places unlike any other. And one of my favourite scenes.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Notes on why "Let Me In" is not "Let The Right One In"


Notes on why "Let Me In" is not "Let The Right One in"

When I was a boy, I would buy comics, read them and then, with my collection of felt tips, I would colour them in. It didn’t matter if they were black or white: if they were colour pictures, I would simply go over their red with my red, etc. What a hideous act of destruction, I think to myself in retrospect (those comics could have been worth loads now!). But it also appears to me that my act of vandalism was a side effect of coveting the artwork and stories I so enjoyed. With ruinous tools, I attempted to claim them for my own and, yes, perhaps even improve them. It also occurs to me now that this is much like the art of the remake.

There is no getting around comparisons with the original, and that’s why these words are going to be about why “Let Me In” is not “Let The Right One In”. This is only marginally different from damning one with contrast with the other, but I do want to distinguish that this is my agenda from the start. What we have is Thomas Alredson’s “Let The Right One In” being a masterpiece, the superior adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, and Matt Reeves’ decent version called “Let Me In” being an American remake of the Swedish film. In fact, the original’s instant classic reputation was/is still warm and spreading when “Let Me In” was made. I shall agree to a large extent with Victoria Large that “'Let Me In’ may be a song that you’ve heard before, but it still sounds great.” If “Let Me In” is a lesser version cashing in, it has only itself to blame, for that is predominantly the domain of the remake and the nature of the beast. Let this be less a straightforward takedown of a remake for not being the original, and more a exploration of why it isn’t. Reeves' film may be a different take on the novel, but it seems likely that it would never have been made if the Swedish film had not become such a cult success. Reeve’s film should not be condemned for any perceived lack of thorough fidelity to the source; making alterations and taking liberties does not automatically flaw an adaptation ~ Alfredson and Lindqvist left out entire chunks in their translation onto screen, after all. In fact, variations and liberties should be encouraged in the hope that they illuminate the original text. It is all about which choices and variations are made: will they illuminate, strengthen or sabotage and weaken?

The title: somehow, the abbreviation, or truncation, of the title is a big clue as to how “Let Me In” compares with its predecessor. “Let The Right One in” - thank you, Morrissey - as a phrase is full of ambiguity, suggestion and scope that “Let Me In”, as a title and film, does not possess. Once the remake was annouced, its pending inferiority was predicted, for the majority of sequels are anticipated to be so, and it does not disappoint on that score. “Let Me in” is certainly not a bad film, being engaging enough and a decent variation on the original tale, carrying a lot of atmosphere and seriousness; but anyone suspecting that a translation to American cinema would neuter much of its resonant detail will have their conjectures confirmed. “Let Me In” does little to dispel a widespread view that any Americanisation (i.e., Hollywoodisation) of a foreign film will simplify if not “dumb down” a more layered and intelligent original. Indeed, there is the infamous case of the terrible subtitling of "Let The Right One In" with the first Ameican DVD release, prime evidence that American translations tend towards "dumbing down" (and you should definitely look here at Fright to see how appallingly a non-English language film can be treated in translation).

And arguably, “Let Me In” does suffer from a neutering, a simplification of all the fascinating and discomforting elements of the Swedish originals, book and film. It is poorer because it is more average, in its adherence to a more traditional genre template, to the very tropes that the originals managed to a large extent to refresh. “Let Me In” is inferior in its persistent obviousness, in making much of the primary mystery explicit, in its more mediocre dialogue and black humour. It is lesser in the obviousness of its vampire make-up, in its recourse to CGI to assist in creating a more inhuman monster (and no, I am not letting “Let The Right One In" cat scene off the hook). Anyone immersed in both the horror and the coming-of-age genre will find things simply more conventional in a way that Alfredson’s film avoided. Reeves’ film is enjoyable, but often uncertain, often copying the Swedish predecessor, ditching the tricky stuff, lacking the challenges and true poignancy of the earlier film. “Let Me In” is more than passable as a remake, but it simply misses so much. Remakes have the difficult goals of both being faithful ~ which usually mean duplicating original material ~ and staking their own identity. One could look to the American remake of “The Ring” to see a remake that actually amplifies and successfully varies the scary tension of the original. Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”, for all its flaws, definitely justifies its alternative take on the original story and commands its own individuality. “Let Me In” simply does not diverge enough, or in an original fashion, and even on its own terms it comes over as too obvious. Everything is sign-posted and tagged. Michael Giacchino cues every response he thinks we ought to be experiencing as if scoring a more needy drama in need of emotional overstatement.

“Let Me In” includes nods to all the major points and characters of the original story ~ many crucial secondary characters are name-checked and pass by (listen for a mention of Tommy, a key character in the novel otherwise absent in both films) ~ but they are all swept away to focus on the young romance. Groan as Owen (previously Oskar) is reading “Romeo and Juliette” for school. But this narrowing down does not cause sharp focus: again simplification occurs. This means that Owen’s dyfunctional family is reduced to brief banal ‘they’re separated’ dialogue and squabbles. When Owen’s mother is propped next to a finished bottle of something ~ alcoholism playing a major part in “Let The Right One In” ~ here it looks like crass shorthand. Whereas “Let The Right One In” comes with a fine catalogue of side characters, the adult support in “Let Me In” mostly evaporate. So a woman goes up in flames (and in keeping with the film’s add more ethos, takes a nurse with her), but it’s simply a set-piece shocker, for we do not know her at all and we don’t care, we’re just suitably horrified. More shorthand: curious and investigative locals are replaced by a single generic Detective - gone is the sense that Oskar’s community has been left to rot, to fend for itself, that there is no protection from or effective law, that any horror can hide there.

In the original, the whole of Oskar’s frozen community seemed sodden with the scourge of alcoholism, an epidemic numbing all human affections, leaving them reeking of despair and dead ends ~ and that being the promise of Oskar’s future. I do not agree with David Jenkins that, in “Let The Right One In”, “eccentric characters are thrown in as story padding” (1): the stir crazy locals are crucial to Oskar’s alienation, his circumstances. In “Let Me In”, this is absent and loneliness and alienation is created by the sense that Owen barely even meets anyone. The backdrop somehow possesses none of the winter-chill eeriness of the original either: rather, the courtyard is bathed in light that is something between bright warm oranges and piss-yellows. This, although apparently caused by the courtyard lighting, seems an odd choice as it robs the story and film of its natural temperature. The one time the film really makes use of Winter is the remarkable image of a corpse in an ice block being pulled out of the lake. Otherwise it’s just footprints in snow.

All this, one can argue, is simply a shift in emphasis for a different market; others may see these details as evidence of “dumbing down”, the occasional uncertainty of tone I earlier accused “Let Me In” of.

More:

When we first meet Oskar in “Let The Right One In”, he is toying with a penknife and, unforgettably, mimicking his tormentors at school ordering him to squeal, little piggy. When we find Owen indulging in this, he is emulating how his persecutors call him a girl. The shift is striking: it evokes homophobia and the denigration of the feminine: they try to verbally castrate him. How very American a translation. Less abstract, primal, and less evocative. This Are you a girl? insult and provocation ends up carrying all the gender confusion that the original novel finds so crucial. (2) In the novel, it is as if Lyndquist wants to push his young loners beyond gender, so that their friendship transcends the problems of gender and social relations. The novel also has a more difficult and distressing portrayal of sexual monsters that could never be fully moved onto the screen. Consequently, for example, Hakan ~ Eli’s adult protector and the most problematic character who, in prose, carries a horror that outdoes Eli’s vampirism ~ is almost entirely devoid of complexity or character in “Let Me In”. All the ickiness has been carefully, surgically removed. Eli is now simply a vampire girl. Hell, Owen even keeps his pyjama top on when Eli comes to seek chaste comfort from him in bed.

If it was not for Chloe Moretz ~ still fully hyped from "Kick Ass" ~ it is easy to imagine that Abby (previously Eli) would also become very vapid by comparison. (3) There is good stuff between her and Kodi Smitt-McPhee as Owen (still hyped from his turn in "The Road") ~ a nice retro-moment in an '80s arcade ~ but as competent as these young actors are, they are left a little stranded with mostly unchallenging dialogue and an unevenness of tone. They don’t feel as iconic and a right as Hadebrant and Leandersson. Their playfulness is lost. They have the loneliness, but not the tangible fury and despair of the original, because “Let Me In” is missing that breadth of context; it is afraid to allow Abby and Owen the full range of what and who they truly are, and the film simply lets them drift through, actors struggling for bearing, plot dragging them towards the conclusion when so much of it should be guided by their characters. When Owen discovers the truth about Abby, it comes as a total shock to him, for beforehand he has not really been shown to have suspicions about his new friend; the element of an impending Faustian pact of sorts that must be made just to gain friendship, that too is vague. Trampled apparently by the romanticism of “Romeo and Juliette”, their relationship has the gore but lacks the chilling revelation that the need for friendship can be a horrifying force.

We are never afraid of Owen, but this is less due to Smitt-McPhee’s abilities than this reduction of the key relationship being put down to simple adolescent loneliness. With Oskar, as played by Kare Hedebrant and his terrible hair in the Swedish adaptation, we felt that his consummate alienation and torment at the hands of others make him a potential psychopath in the making. It is that piggy stuff: he mimics his tormenters so furiously and bitterly. When he hits his bully across the head with a branch, we might feel he has crossed a dangerous line, but one that was always a part of him. He got a kick from it and we feel he wants more. Oskar relishes. He is, we feel, reaching his full potential. When Owen does it, it is simply self-defence: no real moral complexities are evident; his soul is barely at stake. Even providing Owen with a little “Rear Window” voyeurism early on doesn’t ultimately trouble his character. It is worth quoting Matt Reeves himself (still respected from Cloverfield) to demostrate that he gets so much of what Oskar is about, and yet cannot carry this over so very clearly and starkly in Owen, who is a far more pacif, rudderless character:

"...there's something very interesting about a 12 year old boy growing up in a world where he's bullied so mercilessly that he deserves revenge but he does not know what to do about it. He's so helpless, and how could he not be? He's only human. He has those feelings. And yet the world around him is telling him those are evil thoughts and that they mean he is evil.Because there's none of that within us, we are fundamentally good. And wouldn't he not understand any of that and feel lost?" (4)


This sounds interesting, a summary of a fully formed character and context. But this is not particularly the character of Owen that we meet. We do not really see him being told that his thoughts of revenge are evil. Keeping this quote in mind, when Owen calls his father and asks if he believes in evil (neatly, the father is so self-obsesses he thinks this is just Owen's mother poisoning the boy against him), perhaps we are meant to sense Owen's confusion about his own desire for violent revenge, although it is all so vague that we might feel he is simply referring to Abby, who he has discovered to be inhuman. This reference to "evil" also seems paricularly American, as if American horror can only see monsters and violence in terms of an abstract, religious context, which the original sources are very particular about side-stepping. But Owen's reference to "evil" is a non-starter and barely contributes to what comes after.

What Reeves does offer that is new is something not found in either the novel or the Swedish adaptation: in place of an eerie, distressing locker room scene, a botched murder attempt, we get an action set-piece: it is a fairly breath-taking and scary car crash as viewed from within the vehicle, and it is probably the only truly original and virtuoso set-piece “Let Me In” has. The other set-pieces mostly copy, paste and add more gore. In his “Little White Lies” review, Adam Woodward waxes that “Let Me In” is “bloody and unabashed”; that the “eerie quietude so deftly composed by its predecessor is here ousted by bloodcurdling screams and eye-watering violence” (5). Perhaps I am jaded from too many modern European and Asian ‘extreme’ horrors, but I cannot say I saw much of the bloodcurdling, the screaming and eye-watering violence, or no more than the average modern horror. Nevertheless, “Let Me In” is probably bloodier than "Let The Right One In". By the time we get to the pool scene, wondering if perhaps this version will be able to pull out a different angle, what we get instead are a thick wodge of horror orchestra and simply more limbs and blood in the pool, and therefore none of the sheer originality of Alfredson’s careful use of sound, angle and hints. So of course it would be possibly impossible to out-do the original pool scene ~ a total, horror classic ~ but to simply trace over the original and add more bloodiness… was that even trying? Sometimes more blood simply seems desperate. And here, again, Reeves misses the tiny details that mean everything: the apparent and increasing confusion of cruelty and conscience of the main bully’s henchmen; the way Eli leaves just one alive, traumatised. And then, in closing somehow, someway, the brilliant openness and ambiguity of the original ending feels narrowed, somehow explained and less troubling (and Hakan’s birthmark is another groan-worthy cue that undoes much of the mystery once it appears in some old photos Owen sees). It has less resonance because the rest is a more confirming, more straightforward telling of a modern classic. And then the strings swell.

It has to be said that Giacchino’s score is a terrible offender. It cues in every emotion, every horror as if worried we just aren’t getting the undercurrents. And in that score, as well as the abbreviated title, we find everything that “Let The Right One In” was not.

++

It must be noted that "Let Me In" is the first film from the revived Hammer Studio Brand. Not a bad start, even if it seems a safe bet to cash in on a previous established title. Hammer was, after all, a certain kind of exploitation. Welcome back then. Better than Amicus' return with "It's Alive".




(1) David Jenkins review for “Let The Right One In”, Time Out Film Guide 2011, (ed. John Pym, Time Out Guides Ltd, London, 2010) pg. 609

(2) One friend called this version of the knifing-the-tree scene embarrassing, badly acted and executed.

(3) Another friend feels that Moretz is badly cast and that this scuppers the whole film.

(4) Matt Reeves interview by Jonathan Crocker, Little White Lies Magazine, issue 32 nov/dec. pg. 76

(5) Adam Woodward, "Let Me In" review, Little White Lies Magazine, issue 32 nov/dec 2010, pg.77