Last weekend I watched both the theatrical release of "Let Me In" and the original Swedish film "Let The Right One In". I disagree with the critics and think the new film is the better of the two. The original film is a good work of horror, but the American film is scarier, more coherent, and included better performances. Lots of critics are saying the new film does not compare to the original, but I think it is an obvious case of critics being required to prefer foreign films over American ones. I think it is a law.
The films are 90% the same, and there are just a few differences, but I think the American film is better.
Here are my problems with the original.
1. The kids can't act. Whether it was the skill of the director or the talent of the stars, the kids in the original spend most of the film standing around awkwardly, shuffling their feet and staring off camera, looking like kids in a middle school play who have forgotten their lines. I understand that they were 13 at the time. They certainly acted it.
Chloe Moretz is a pretty good actor for 13, and it shows. One could tell from her performance that Abby, the vampire, does not enjoy having to kill. In the original, Eli is so stiff that you can only tell she regrets her lifestyle from direct statements of that fact in dialogue and more obvious blocking.
2. The Father in the original is the worst serial killer ever. Assuming he has been friends with Eli for a long time, and has killed and drained a lot of people, he is astonishingly bad at it. Both killings in this film are ruined by bad planning, and I find it hard to believe that anyone would allow a stranger to walk up top them with a gas canister attached to a breathing mask and just stick it over their face.
The Father in the American film is scary. He has a routine that works which involves sneaking up on his victims stealthily and attacking them when they are alone and vulnerable, something that is not necessary when hunting passive Swedes with no survival instincts. He does botch one attack, but it is less through bad planning than through bad luck, and it has some black humor included at no extra cost.
4. Eli is not very good at hunting. Assuming Eli has been "twelve for a very long time", and that she had to hunt for blood on her own before finding her "dad", she is also really bad at it. She kills a victim in plain sight of one of her neighbors, across the street from her home. She makes a minimal attempt at stealth and chooses a really bad spot where she can be seen, and is seen. Perhaps she was relying on number 4.
Abby, in the American film, is much scarier. When she kills her victim in the pedestrian underpass, it is frightening and unobserved.
4. Apparently, Swedish people do not call the police or go to the hospital when things go horribly wrong. In the Swedish film, Eli kills a neighbor in order to feed after her "father" screws up. The crazy cat man at her apartment sees the whole thing, and refuses to call the cops because he is afraid of being interrogated. He does tell the victim's best friend, who also does not call the cops, even after they find a large pool of blood or after the victim's body is found. They all just sit around and drink and mourn poor Jocke. When another attack is witnessed, not only are the police not called, but no one takes the victim, who has large bleeding wounds on her neck, to the hospital. They just slap some toilet paper over the wound and send her to bed. This second fact lead to an interesting bit involving some cats, but even then, the displayed passivity of the Swedish bothers me. In good old America, when a dozen cats are trying to eat your wife, you react. Is it not so in Sweden?
In the American film, Abby's first kill is un-witnessed, and the second victim ends up in the hospital. Due to all this violence, there is actually a cop in the American film who is trying to get to the bottom of everything. He is not a terribly skilled cop, but he at least has to advantage of existing.
5. The cinematography in the American film is better. The Swedish director had too many uninteresting shots.
6. The production values of the American film are better. I don't want to hold this against the Swedish film, perhaps they had a small budget, and did the best they could.
Here are my problems with the new film.
1. The director inserted a bunch of clumsy religious references that were not in the original. The cop asks "Are you a Satanist?" to the father while he is in the hospital. The writer set this in the 80's for no reason I can see other than to include Reagan's "Good and Evil" speech and references to Satanic cults, which were the paranoid delusion of middle America at the time. It just seemed extraneous.
I know all the artsy-fartsies will be required by contract to poo-poo the American film, but it is a superior piece of work for both artistic and geeky reasons.