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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 10.02.08] movie review horror drama

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I'm still kicking around the Edmonton International Film festival but, since I've got about three hours to kill before Midnight Meat Train screens, I thought I'd take some time out from schmoozing (and eating way too many of those leathery theater hot dogs *hacks*) to talk about Tomas Alfredson's brilliant Let the Right One In as well as do a little moaning about the prospects of this much ballyhooed remake.

Our Cali correspondent Cyberhal pretty much summed up how I feel about the film in his own review of LTROI from the LA Film Festival so I'll do my best to leave out descriptions of magical snowfalls and the power of understated acting and just talk about my gut feelings. Basically, my gut's telling me that Let the Right One In is a distinctly Scandinavian coming of age story and that the Americans should just leave it alone. Like Lasse Hallström's My Life as a Dog or even Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander before it, Alfredson has crafted a touching portrait of one boy's journey into worldliness. It's so much more than just a sellable concept piece about a young boy who falls for a Vampire which, in the wake of Twilight and HBO's (admittedly awesome) True Blood, I know is how Abrams is getting the studios to back it.

In all fairness, I like J.J. Abrams and I don't think he's out to exploit Alfredson's work for a quick buck. I watched Alias, I'm a massive LOST fan, geez I'm even up on Fringe, so I know enough about Abrams to know that he sees the opportunity to tell an intriguing character story. So no, my beef's not with Abrams per se, but with his belief that a) the film needs to be retold in English and b) mainstream audiences would even want it.

This movie thrives on quiet, on subtlety, on the unspoken - all things that a mainstream movie going audience is just not into and aren't asking for. Want to know how I know they aren't? Because I just sat through a screening with a bunch of them and it was painful. Between awkward laughter, the munching of popcorn, a couple making out behind me, and three cell phones going off (I kid you not, one of them even had a AC/DC ring tone that was so inappropriate it made me want to cry), I realized that whatever they do to "punch" up the remake will make it suck. They're either going to make it a love story (which it's not), a horror movie (which it's not), some weepy preteen drama (which it certainly is not), or a combination of all three. The studios will want more humor and more scares, and the writers will add more dramatic flair and the original impetus will be lost.

Alfredson recently made this comment to Moviezine, and I tend to agree:

“Remakes should be made of movies that aren’t very good, that gives you the chance to fix whatever has gone wrong. I’m very proud of my movie and think it’s great, but the Americans might be of an other opinion. The saddest thing for me would be to see that beautiful story made into something mainstream.” … “I don’t like to whine, but of course – if you’d spent years on painting a picture, you’d hate to hear buzz about a copy even before your vernissage!”"

You probably think I sound like a big snob, but I assure you snobbery has nothing to do with it. This is about artistic authorship. I've got a Mondrian print hanging on my wall but I don't stare at it in awe or show it off to guests because I know its a fake - a cheap copy of a groundbreaking piece of art. There is also this notion that Millions of people will be exposed to the story and that that's the most important thing. That's simply not the case. A remake will only dilute the work and Alfredson and Lindqvist will end up loosing conceptual ownership of a film they've worked years to make. And it hasn't even premiered in the States yet!

I suppose as a standard review this post completely fails. However, if you've made it all the way to the end of this rant I hope you at least leave with a sense of the power this film had over me. I usually recommend seeing films in the theater but, with Let the Right One In, I advise you to save it for a personal experience at home - preferably on a cold winter night.

Stay tuned to see what's next from the fest!

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quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

I don't see the big deal with this film, I thought it was mediocre at best.


Anonymous (13 years ago) Reply

This is playing on Friday Oct. 3rd in San Francisco at the Roxie Theater at 8PM as part of Dead Channels! Can't wait!!!


Sentinel (13 years ago) Reply

I completely agree. As an American movie buff I can say that one of the things I hate the most is when Hollywood remakes a great foriegn film. They adapt it to be more palatable to the "Main Stream". Which really means that they make it suck. God, look at what they did to Ringu (and others like it).


Cyberhal (13 years ago) Reply

I think this is an amazing movie, the music of silence and the absence of kitsch. No phoney "bonding" between child and adults. but I agree with you Agent Orange, I'm not sure it will work as a US remake. I wonder if it could work as a Canadian movie? perhaps. It needs to be made by someone who grew up with lots of snow and darkness.

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