Skip to content

Let The Original One In; Or, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

October 3, 2010

It’s not particularly shocking to see an American remake of a foreign film and find it terrible when compared to the original, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get bent out of shape about it sometimes.  The new release Let Me In is probably getting rant from me because I found it particularly egregious that this tragedy involves not one, but TWO of my favorite actors, Elias Koteas and Richard Jenkins.

First of all, if you missed it, a couple years ago there was a Swedish film called Let the Right One In, about childhood isolation and first encounters with love, intimacy, and tragedy.  Oh and vampires.  But not in the cliche way.  It was eerie, somewhat startling, and had amazing cinematography.  Ok, the remake had some of that too, I’ll get to that in a second.   It was complicated and subtle and at the end as pieces came together, there was space for moral ambiguity that made me very uncomfortable as a viewer about what I was rooting for — I loved it.

So while that movie got eleventy billion festival and critic awards from all over the world, it didn’t get wide release here in the states, instead playing mostly in the arthouse branches of movie chains.  I didn’t see it until DVD because it was only in my town for a few short weeks.  Last month I started seeing posters for a new movie from the director of Cloverfield (not a winning recommendation for me personally, I turned that movie off after 15 minutes because I could never get past the shaky premise to go with the shaky camera to explain the faux documentary aspect) and learned that film studios in America wanted in on this Swedish award-winning action.  I was highly suspicious and would have never made an effort to see this in the theater, but it was a group outing planned by friends I wanted to see after a month of being out of town.  I’m sure glad that seeing my friends made me happy, because that remake was terrible.

It didn’t start out that way — in fact, when I saw Elias show up in the first scene, I relaxed a little.  When Richard Jenkins showed up too, I got downright excited.  In the first half, there are some lovely moments: I loved the director’s choice in how he portrayed a car accident and I even liked the choice of early 80s setting in mirroring the look of the suburb of Stockholm.  But then they had to insert a silly 80s song into every other scene.  And then the CGI started.  And the excessive blood and gore.  And then they started revealing things halfway through the movie, basically explaining in great detail how it all works with heavily orchestrated music to tell us exactly how to feel, which is pretty damn boring to watch.

As a straight up horror movie with no source material, I might have given it a B-; the same amount of mystery of a good episode of Medium stretched out over two hours, but still way better than many others of the genre.  However, when compared to the original, you may need to take your blood pressure medication.  I hope Jenkins and Koteas at least sent a kid to college or paid off a house or something.

mmmmmm.....yes please. (this is not from the movie, this is gratuitous.)

Then I came home and had salt rubbed in my wounds:  87% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.  DO NOT FALL FOR THIS PEOPLE.  Stay at home in your pajamas and watch the original on Netflix Instant.


One more warning for people who are interested in watching either:  there is intense bullying depicted in this movie — even more so in the remake than the original I felt, but still significant to the plot in both — which was particularly hard to watch given the events of the last few weeks.  I’m not frequently aware enough to catch and make trigger warnings, but this was hard to ignore.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 12:27 am

    This is so disappointing and annoying. After the Ted Danson’s Cousins debacle, I don’t understand why Hollywood won’t stop remaking perfectly good foreign films. It bugs me like whoa. Thank you for writing this rant. I’ve got your back on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” rant.

  2. evmaroon permalink
    October 4, 2010 12:41 am

    I can come up with at least half a dozen awful US remakes of foreign films, Mostly Martha near the top of my list, and I’m glad you shed some light on this troubling issue, Raymond! I will now go watch the Swedish original version. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Next time, tell your friends you should all just go out for pizza and talk.

  3. October 4, 2010 2:25 am

    The original was so subtle and minimalist with dialogue and reflected the bleakness of the Swedish landscape so well that I can’t imagine an American remake being anything other than clunky, overly talky and afraid to engage some of the more difficult/uncomfortable aspects of the original. I have to admit I am curious to see how badly they effed it up though.

  4. October 4, 2010 7:19 am

    LOVED the original, will have to see the American, despite your warnings. I have never taken anyone’s advice on anything ever. And I loved loved loved Cloverfield.

    One American remake I actually liked better than the original and not just because it was Sarah Michelle Gellar’s first post-Buffy movie (I am denying the existence of Scooby Doo.) The Grudge. I liked it better than Ju-On.

  5. October 4, 2010 7:36 am

    Exactly, everything you said.

    I probably won’t watch Let the Right One In again, because I was profoundly scared by it. But I also told everyone I know to see it immediately. I count it as one of the best films I’ve seen in the last five years.

    Also, why does Hollywood remake incredible, well-received films? They’re not going to get it done better. Remake crap with a good premise but a bad execution.

  6. Amber permalink
    October 4, 2010 7:54 am

    “And the excessive blood and gore.”

    the thing that stuck with me about the original (and i admit i have not seen, nor have any desire to see the remake, especially after your review) was that her being a vampire was incidental to the story. there was very little blood and gore but rather, you knew what was happening off screen (i’m thinking about that one viaduct killing in particular) without explicitly being shown. and a child vampire coming out of the shadows with blood all over her mouth was scarier than any cgi while also being intensely heartbreaking.

  7. October 4, 2010 8:14 am

    @Beth: I will sometimes even accept the same director remaking it for America (e.g. Michael Haneke and Funny Games), but that’s it. What is astounding me more is that critical reception for this is GOOD. Did every movie critic get paid off? Were they blinded by the Koteas?? I know that sometimes happens to me.

    @Chriso: I won’t talk you out of satisfying your curiosity, just make sure you don’t spend money on it!

    @Ev: I saw No Reservations on a plane and was surprised that I didn’t completely hate it, but it still felt totally unnecessary and redundant.

    @Snarky: I want to say “I probably won’t even watch that remake” but let’s be real, I’m sure I’ll peek a little.

  8. October 4, 2010 8:20 am

    @gaiachick: Warnings are just that — warnings. I ignore them too and see movie as my own peril, so I understand! I wanted to like Cloverfield, but I got a headache from the “cinematography” which seemed creatively unnecessary.

  9. October 4, 2010 8:23 am

    @Amber: seriously, she was a fast-moving zombie who chomped the isht out of that dude in the tunnel and we saw it ALL. which, that’s what horror movies are, and I can be into that sometimes, but it was so inconsistent with the tone and beauty of the original, it felt crass and disrespectful.

  10. amygee permalink
    October 4, 2010 9:52 am

    I still haven’t seen the original. I have something to look forward to, obviously!

  11. K. DeLovely permalink
    October 4, 2010 10:25 am

    I’m putting the original in my queue right now! And sticking a post-it in my mind to avoid the remake.

  12. October 4, 2010 11:38 am

    amyg and miss delovely, I think you won’t be disappointed! it’s one of the better movies made in 2008.

  13. evmaroon permalink
    October 4, 2010 11:49 am

    Those Swedes do make some hard to watch cinema, but I love them for it.

  14. hsofia permalink
    October 4, 2010 12:01 pm

    I don’t have any statistics, but my guess is Hollywood remakes these movies because most Americans won’t watch films that are subtitled. I don’t have any problem with subtitles and never have, but in the last few years I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m in the minority. Now one could go into all the possible reasons why Americans don’t like subtitled films (perhaps the primary one being that they don’t have to), but that’s a big derail.

    We just watched Let the Right One In a few nights ago, so there is no chance that I’ll be seeing the remake any time soon. I like the young actress who plays the vampire (she was in Kick Ass, but why would I pay $10 to see another version of a movie I just saw?

  15. Maile permalink
    October 4, 2010 12:23 pm

    you’re so right ray! i’ve been seeing the commercials for this and getting angry about it too. it’s hard for me to understand why remake such good movies from other countries and yeah, the only thing i can come up with is, like hsofia says, americans won’t read subtitles. if that is true, then, that is definitely why we can’t have nice things.

  16. October 4, 2010 12:27 pm

    I really loved the original; it was more about the characters and less about the action, and “OH HAI VAMPYRE GRRL!” wasn’t the main point. A friend and I discussed this when we saw Twilight:Eclipse a while back (ok, look, it was at the dollar theatre and I’m a movie masochist. Don’t judge me!) and agreed that we were bothered by the spin that’s been put on Let Me In. I mean, I knew that LTROI was a vampire movie, but only because I read about movies. The original brings it about subtly and doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but even the commercials and trailers for this are “HEY! HEEEEYYY!!! SHE’S A SHITSUCKING VAMPIRE!!! SHE DRINKS BLOOOOOODDDDD!!! WHOOOOOO!” and it drives me nuts.

    That said, I’ll probably see it when it comes out on DVD. I will give the guys who remade it this, though: they let the characters be kids instead of older teenagers, which was one of my concerns. I was worried that they’d try to make it all “Sexy Teenaged Vampire and Human” or something.

  17. October 4, 2010 12:31 pm

    @maile & @hsofia: why would I pay $10 to see another version of a movie I just saw? I was asking my curious/masochist side this myself! you’re right about the subtitles, and i think even foreign films that do break through into the mainstream still have such a small fraction of the audience that most blockbusters do. perhaps Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did alright, but 1) it was an action movie and not dialogue based, and 2) if you can only name one or two, well, every rule has it’s occasional exception.

  18. October 4, 2010 12:35 pm

    @eieioj: Like I said, the movie is a B- in a vacuum, there are certainly some good moments in the movie, especially in the first half. But if you fall asleep in the middle, don’t worry about rewinding it. Also, I KNEW that girl looked familiar but hadn’t looked her up on imdb yet. The boy who played the lead, Owen, was good too. I just felt bad for him!

  19. October 4, 2010 12:47 pm

    On Remakes:
    Recently I watched Death at a Funeral (the British version) and was confused to see that its like a year later and there is a remake with Chris Rock? Having not seen the remake, I can’t comment on whether it is better, though I would imagine that would be hard considering the original was sort of a perfect British comedy but why would they remake it… I mean, its not like it isn’t in English…

  20. October 4, 2010 12:57 pm

    I am considering a Death at a Funeral double feature, apparently I’m a curious masochist! I mean, I also recently watched the remake of The Women — that’s a whole other post.

  21. cara permalink
    October 4, 2010 2:02 pm

    I am glad that i read this, i get so excited when i see new horror movies, but i am so so sick of gratuitous violence and gore. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

  22. October 4, 2010 3:59 pm

    Cara, I’m an omnivore about movies and have a stronger stomach than many, but I like to know what I’m getting into so I can be properly prepared, if possible. Glad to be of service to others!

  23. hsofia permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:03 pm

    A remake of Death at a Funeral starring Chris Rock? Wow. I thought the first one was funny enough (mostly due to Alan Tudyk) but it felt belabored at times. I can imagine the US remake having the same problem. It’s one of the reasons I don’t watch a lot of comedies.

    Another 2-3 year US remake is Brothers – I have the original Danish version in my queue, but despite liking the Tobey Maguire/Jake Gyllenhaal match-up, I can’t watch the remake because I’ve been skeered of Natalie Portman ever since The Other Boleyn Girl .

  24. melanie permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:15 pm

    I’m going to want to see that post on the remake of The Women immediately.

  25. October 4, 2010 4:15 pm

    @hsofia: I was thinking of the Brothers back-to-back remake too. I might have to do a monthly rant series on this issue! Also, I was just at the library and had The Other Boleyn Girl in my hand, but put it down. Your comment makes me wonder if I dodged a bullet…..or do I need to go back??

  26. metermouse permalink
    October 4, 2010 4:19 pm

    I read this just a little too late… though who am I kidding, I was going to watch the Let Me In anyways. Like most who love the LTROI, I thought it was unnecessary to remake it. But for some reason I had this crazy hope that it would stand tall on its own artistic merits, hopefully taking more from the book. I hoped wayyyy too high.

    After seeing LMI, I didn’t HATE it, but I had a very uneasy feeling… like I knew it was just… wrong. It didn’t have to be a completely unnecessary movie but that’s exactly what it ended up being. I felt so bad for Chloe Moretz… but they really did have her talking too much, and too fluidly.

    Eli would’ve never been so easy to engage in dance to 80’s pop, at the same time saying “cool” with an easy smile on her face!!

    oh well. Hopefully your review will help to educate the masses.

    And, I just finished reading the book, and I highly reccomend it to anyone who loved LTROI… it keeps the same sweetness between Oskar and Eli, while incorporating some positively thrilling moments and backstory!!

  27. October 4, 2010 6:30 pm

    @metermouse: I was very curious about how either movie stood up next to the book, as I hadn’t read it, so thanks for your input! I would have still watched it even if I’d read a warning like this, I just would maybe wait for dvd and also watch the original first, the latter is really what I’m advocating most.

    @melanie: the notes on the movie have been taken, I just need to sit down and make it a narrative!

  28. October 4, 2010 6:43 pm

    I have seen neither movie, but Cleolinda has an interesting perspective seieng LMI as someone who had intentionally not seen LTROI:

  29. hsofia permalink
    October 4, 2010 8:48 pm

    raymondj – I’d read about the sisters and Henry VIII’s wives before seeing the movie, and that might have spoiled it for me. About halfway through I walked out, offended and sickened on a heart and gut level. Not that I have anything to do with these historical figures, but it struck me as distasteful and gross. I couldn’t stop thinking how horrified I’d be if someone wrote a book/made a movie like this about someone I loved. Also, the acting was horrible (except Scarlett Johannson). I adore me some Australian Munich Hulk guy, but all he did was stomp around his castle in big poofy pants. Just ridiculous.

  30. October 4, 2010 8:49 pm

    Well, that answers the ‘should I try to see this this weekend?’ question that was kicking around in my head.

    I don’t know why US remakes have to persist in taking subtle, elegantly crafted films and turning them into clonky exposition-fests. ‘See what I did there! DID YOU? DID YOU SEE?!’ really needs to be banished from the US filmmaking vocabulary.

  31. October 4, 2010 9:33 pm

    Re: Death at A Funeral

    I haven’t seen the remake because I love the original. And Alan Tudyk’s bum.


    Apparently it’s a shot for shot remake, except they make the brother (Martin Lawrence) sleazier and everyone uses the word “Damn!” a lot.

  32. October 4, 2010 10:03 pm

    @s.e.s. : so true. it’s not actually clever if you have to tell us (repeatedly) it’s clever!

  33. October 4, 2010 10:05 pm

    @eieioj : shot-for-shot remakes intrigue me, though rarely impress me. did you see Gus van Sant’s Psycho? I haven’t seen it several years, but it was so….odd. another one to add to my list for this new series on remakes that seems to be developing!

  34. October 11, 2010 7:59 pm

    I will agree with you in your comparison to the first movie. It missed the mark. But alas that mark is only set by fans of the original. I am sure the studios mark they are aiming for is bringing a a great story to the American market while making a buck. If you were to judge the movie as if you had no basis for comparison I firmly believe you would give it a higher score. Its not a horror movie nor was the original. The way I have explained the story to friends since I saw the original is ” if you take the themes that are attempted at in Twilight but actually do it well you have Let Me In.”

  35. October 12, 2010 8:57 am

    I think the new one is definitely a horror movie, or perhaps just “a scary movie” if it didn’t have enough blood and guts and startling to qualify as horror for you — I found it adequately gory to qualify though. And you’re right, I said judge on its own, I’d give it a B-, maybe a B (the heavy handed musical score and lathering on of the 80s would have bothered me, original or not).

    However, 1sttimeoffender, you do bring up a good point about what I’m comparing it too — I have not read the book, but those who have say the american remake is actually closer to the story of the book than the original, so when made into a triangle comparison, instead of just two movies, it is definitely more complicated and sticky, which makes for great discussion!

  36. October 12, 2010 12:34 pm

    The score and the worthless cgi did take some of the fun out of it. The “spider monkey attack” were not needed in the least. The horrifying elements of both films were to me was always the bullying. You do allude to a very good question. What does constitute a horror film these days? I guess before I drivel on I should admit that I am a terrible critic of movies. I am very easily entertained. My expectations for movies are very low. I walk in and expect to be entertained for a couple hours. If I am lucky it will be thought provoking and elicit some sort of emotional afterglow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: