Let The Right One In vs. Let Me In

“Let Me In” is the 2010 American version of “Let The Right One In” a 2008 Swedish film directed by Tomas Alfredson. I watched “Let the Right One In” (to be referred to as LTROI hereafter) at home on a lonely night when I was in a weird mood and wanted a movie to match. It left an impression. I wasn’t sure how to feel about “Let Me In” (obviously to be referred to as LMI hereafter), directed by Matt Reeves. I referred back to my experiences of The Grudge, both the Japanese and the American version and since I found merits in both versions, I thought this would be a similar experience, so I tromped off to the movie theater, with some vague memories of how it was all going to go down.

After I watched the American version, I came home, and instantly sat down to watch the Swedish film. I was unsure of how I felt and that left me troubled.

The American version is faster paced, with many of the small side stories  (primarily to do with the neighbors) completely cut out. Also, it starts in media res and then cuts back to two weeks leading up to the event. This allows you to be shocked to attention so you can sit through the actual plot of the story before either gore or heart rending angst can be tossed your way to keep you interested. Maybe the American audience is just so inured to pain and horror in our movies that the producers didn’t think we could face up to the plot in its original order and at its original pace. If you are not the type of person who can sit through a number of scenes where nothing of import appears to be happening, then the US version is probably all you need to get from this story. However, the original invokes much deeper and more genuine feelings for the main characters.

Speaking of the main characters, they are a strange, lonely 12-year-old boy, who appears to be superfluous in all environments, and a strange creature who has been 12 years old “for a very long time”, craving a human connection even though she hardly remembers what being human is all about. During the long Swedish evenings Oskar and Eli form a connection, while Owen and Abby do the same in a small, unnamed American town. The boy is tortured at school by a young sociopath, and is growing into a sociopath in his own right. The young vampire moves next door with her companion/keeper, and the two outcasts become friends. But the vampire must feed, and so bodies start turning up. The plot starts to revolve around just how much a boy can treasure a long sought after relationship with another creature.

And now that you know the basic premise, I will present the rest of this comparison to you in the shape of a bulleted list (SPOILER ALERT):

  • In the beginning of the movie our young protagonist is practicing how he may one day get back at his bullies, or at least imagining himself on the other side of the torture. LTROI’s Oskar’s ”Squeal, sqeal like a pig” sounds way less disturbing than LMI’s Owen’s “Scared? Are you scared, little girl?” especially considering that this boy will be making friend with a little girl in a very near future.
  • The relationship between Eli’s keeper is more loving and based on selfless devotion than in the American remake, where it’s more about something being owed and helpless anger.
  • The American version shows you the photos of the vampire and another little boy, who has obviously grown to be her current keeper, to drive the doom of it all home. Owen freaks out, but after Abby kills a detective as well as his bullies, he simply follows her. When you watch the original, you are left wondering the whole time if Oskar understands his future as he sits on the train with Eli in a trunk at his feet.
  • Kåre Hedebrant, who played Oskar, was just  much creepier than Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played Owen. Oskar seemed to be just what nature ordered for a serial killer to be since he was already obsessed with murder, which was not really emphasized in the US remake, where the boy is simply bullied and eventually buys a small knife.
  • The Swedish vampire gets shoes, all the shoes she wants. The only time she is barefoot is when she arrives at the hospital where she expects to find her companion, dying and disfigured, and it is obvious that she did not dress in her urgency. It isn’t really clear why the American vamp doesn’t ever get shoes, except maybe to keep pointing out how weird she is?
  • The Swedish version also conveys a sense of community, which is damaged bya murderer in its midst. The American version only presents a few stereotypes you only feel anything for when they are either naked or covered in blood.
  • The LTROI often shows instead of telling, and while the American version does stay pretty close to the original script, it does add explanatory asides. Where in the Swedish version you just see some puzzles in Eli’s apartment and are led to believe that this is why she showed interest in the Rubics Cube, in the US version, she tells the boy that she likes puzzles after he sees them in her apartment. I would almost recommend watching the original and then watching the US remake in case there was something that you didn’t get, like for example, why it is that the vampire’s helper is such a klutz.
  • In LTROI Eli, played by Lina Leandersson, has a husky voice and a mask-like face showing little to no emotion. The Americans demoned up Abby, played by Chloe Moretz (of Kick-Ass fame). Her features change when the blood lust takes over and her voice changes as well, which takes away from the idea that this is just a child who has been made into something that craves things a child should not. And now she makes other children like her, giving them a life they would not have chosen, could not have acquired without her. Where Abby looks terrifying, Eli usually just looks scared and like she is in pain.
  • The book in the original was The Hobbit, not Romeo and Juliet. A book about conquering monsters and adventure rather than two saps who died because of poor planning and too many hormones. Overall, both movies are about a completely unromantic vampire story. It is, however, a romance of two uncared for children, the romance of a runaway, rather than your basic sexy, all-powerful vampire who takes a liking to a mere mortal.
  • The music in LTROI was less insistent and intrusive. You were allowed to form your own emotional response instead of being driven to it by the drums. In fact, it was often the absence of sound that highlighted the drama, not the pounding beat.
  • Oskar was a strange sort of martyr rather than just a powerless weakling waiting for someone to save him and lead him. In the original, Oskar sacrificed himself, in the US version, Owen followed the one to whom he owed his life, the one who was stronger, and the only one who seemed to care. Both believable, the US version probably more practical, but the Swedish version more interesting.
  • Eli and Oskar are more awkward. During the first hug Oskar nearly knocks Eli over. Owen and Abby seem more practiced at hugging for two beings that don’t often get to do it. In general, even the smallest changes from the original to the most recent film carry a great deal of meaning. When Eli’s keeper asks her not to see Oscar, for just one night, Eli touches his face and walks away. There is a sense of love and sorrow. When Abby touches her keeper’s face, he uses that rare moment of bonding to ask her not see Owen, and she takes her hand away from his face and leaves behind frustration and anger.
  • In LTROI, Eli is truly unkempt, going along with the idea that she has been forced out of society as a child, helped only by other children who did not learn what it is to be adults. While Abby is often barefoot, Eli looks like she does not often bathe and her clothes look like man’s clothes, her pants held up by a rope.
  • In LTROI there is a rather silly bit where a woman, recently bitten and with the vampiric change upon her, is attacked by an army of cats. I didn’t miss that scene at all as it was one of many removed in the making of LMI.
  • Both movies include a bit of prepubescent nudity. Both Eli and Abby say “I am not a girl” and I guess it leaves the boy wondering. In the Swedish version Oskar peeks in while Eli changes from blood-soaked clothes and is rewarded with a glimpse of something that absolutely would not fly in the US. So in LME, we see that Owen is peeping and is shocked by something, but we do not see what he sees.
  • LMI occasionally attempts to establish the same artsy feel of LTROI, and generally fails. In LMI there is a scene where Owen is witnessing Abby commit a gruesome murder. Her victim reaches a blood-soaked hand toward him and it appears as if Owen is reaching back, but what he does instead is close the door. It sounds like a great device: Owen reaching for, but ultimately rejecting humanity, but it doesn’t really work. Another example is a long bloody kiss the two children have over a dead body. While it works in LTROI, in LMI it almost seemed to be comedic relief and there were definite giggles in the audience.

In conclusion, where the American version made my heart pound, the Swedish version brought tears to my eyes, and I really don’t cry much at movies. Overall verdict, watch both! But watch the original first.

    • LTROI fan
    • February 9th, 2011

    Good review, but it’s a SWEDISH film, not Norwegian. :) A Swedish film after a Swedish book.

      • eatthelemons
      • February 9th, 2011

      Thanks! I’ll correct asap

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