In horror-geek circles, there are few recent films as beloved as the 2008 Swedish vampire flick “Let the Right One In.” Telling the tale of a bullied boy and a girl who has been 12 for roughly two centuries, the movie is tender, brutal and, to many, untouchable. So, when Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) decided to remake it, he knew he might as well have been drawing a giant bull’s-eye across his back.
“Absolutely, and I totally understand it,” said the filmmaker, who is currently in post-production on “Let Me In,” the American remake that stars “Kick-Ass” breakout Chloe Moretz and 13-year-old newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee. “When I was first shown the [original] film, it was way before it came out. I was so taken with it, and I had such a personal reaction. This was probably a year before it came out. [Director Tomas Alfredson] so brilliantly melded those two concepts of taking that eerie dreadful horror film and mashing it up with those feelings of coming of age. I was just blown away.”
In some of his most revealing comments yet about the project, Reeves — whose version hits theaters on October 1 — explained why it’s important to not be too precious about what can and cannot be remade. “I saw the movie and I said, ‘I have two things to say: If you make the kids older, as [some people behind the remake] had suggested, you destroy the film; it’s the preadolescent moment it captures.’ The other thing I said is, ‘I really don’t know if you should remake this movie.’
“Then they gave me the book, and the book was so beautiful. I just had this really personal connection with it, and I couldn’t get the story out of my head,” he said of the source material, written by author John Ajvide Lindqvist. “I thought, this may be a crazy thing to do, but I can’t resist this. So I decided to write to John, and I said, ‘I’m incredibly interested in doing this, but I want you to know why.’ I said the thing about this story is it resonates in such a personal way with my childhood and that feeling of growing up and that painful coming of age. And he wrote back to me and said he was a big fan of ‘Cloverfield’ and that he was excited about the prospect of me getting involved.
“Visually, this film is very restrained,” Reeves said, addressing those who think “Let Me In” will transform the story into “Cloverfield” with vampires. “If anyone looked at the other stuff I’ve done, they’d see it’s restrained and naturalistic. In a certain way, it’s connected to ‘Cloverfield,’ because as shaky and crazy as that movie was, my approach was to make this as naturalistic as possible. So there’s a kind of naturalism and restraint.”
As for the up-and-coming Moretz, he said, “The last thing I wanted her to do was to play a vampire. We kept looking for real-world analogies. I saw these photographs by Mary Ellen Mark of this homeless family, and there was this 12-year-old girl, and the pictures were so haunting.
“I thought, ‘This is the perfect analogy. Here’s this 12-year-old-girl who has seen so many things a 12-year-old should never see, and yet she’s still a 12-year-old,’ ” he said of Moretz’s character. “With Chloe, we just talked about imagining what her life would be. It’s not a sexy, glamorous vampire story. It’s this burden she has. She really connected to it. She got into her primal side.”
Reeves said he’s most excited about the kids’ performances, as well as that of Richard Jenkins, who plays Chloe’s father. “I knew the challenge of the film would be to find kids that you really believe. I wanted to immerse the film in a classical point-of-view style style like a Polanski/Hitchcockian thing,” Reeves explained, defending his vision and hoping people will keep an open mind until it comes out.
“I knew there would be a bull’s-eye [on me], and that it would intensify,” the filmmaker admitted. “But ‘Americanization’ doesn’t mean a dumbing-down of the story.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Let Me In.”
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