Okay, this is actually more of a comparison than a review of the movies. I have read the book, watched the Swedish movie and the Hollywood movie. I know it has been a while since the movies are out but back then I didn’t have this blog, and I had a lengthy discussion with my brother about the good and bad in both movies.
I watched the Swedish version on DVD first. It was a captivating movie but left a lot of question unanswered, in a good way. I wanted to know more about Eli’s relationship with the old man and their past. I bought the book and, incredibly, not being much of a novel person, I read the whole thing.
I found the answers I was looking for, as well as enjoying the narrative from the perspectives of different characters in each chapter. As it is with all cases of book-film adaption, a lot of the book’s content and characters could not make it in the film, but that’s also because of the explicit contents, like pedophilia (and how uncomfortably detailed it was), that was just too much for the movie screen.
I will start with what I like about the Hollywood version. I like how they kept the supporting characters simple. In Let Me In, the relationships of the neighbours, who eventually fall victim, are simple enough to keep the audience focused on the more important characters, but left out the more important issue of how Virginia suffered with the infection and seek death. The scene where Hakkan spilled the blood by accident also made more sense than the original, where he just forgot the blood entirely. I also liked how the bullying scenes were a lot more intense than the original. Not that I enjoy watching kids getting bullied but it captured me and got me totally absorbed into the moment so I thought that was very well done.
Oh and I seriously love their poster. Love it!
Sadly, I also think there are many mistakes in Let Me In. First of all, I do not like the acting at all. They all seemed very grim throughout the entire movie. What I like about Let the Right One In is that both Oskar and Eli occasionally show child-like smiles (at time with a running nose), which reminds us that they are in fact still children (Eli is frozen in age both mentally and physically), while in Let Me In, the children seem to think they need to act incredibly serious to be a good actor. The way they delivered their lines and the way they cringe their face so much, I can’t help feeling like it was overacting.
Kid, your girlfriend just came back and saved you. It’s okay to show a little emotion and smile.
I felt there was something more powerful in the acting in Let the Right One In, especially if you compare the scenes when Oskar/Owen asks Eli/Abby if she’s a vampire. That scene had a lot of symbolism and the acting really allowed me to look further into the characters’ minds. In the same scene, Let Me In also revealed the back story of the Hakkan, the old man, showing that he grew old as Abby stayed young, which is not true to the book at all and left out the opportunity to open that to interpretation as the original did.
The psychology behind the characters are off as well, especially for Owen. At the beginning, it was clear that Owen was bullied at school and I started to feel sorry for him, but back in his apartment, he suddenly pulled out a mask and a knife, posing in front of the mirror and say “Are you afraid, little girl?”, which was completely creepy. Owen, or Oskar was supposed to only show hatred towards his bullies (which is where the knife comes in) but for some unknown reason, he starts to fantasise harming the innocent? That made no sense at all. At that point, I stop empathising with him.
Now you’re just freaking me out
When Oskar peeked at Eli changing, that scene actually had a meaning, which I will not mention here. In Let Me In, he just peaked and the director left out that meaning. I suppose it was intentional, but i reckon they should’ve left that peeking part out entirely because it just made him creepy again.
I suppose, in true Hollywood style, the director wanted to add the horror element to the movie by having the vampire’s face deform into something demonic to scare the audience. Not only did the effect looked horrible and fake, but it was completely unnecessary. Even though I am dedicating my career to 3D CGI, I still think this should be used in moderation, because excessive use of CGI can take audience out of the movie as Let Me In did. Every time the CGI comes in the movie, I either thought “Wow that was such a bad effect” or “Wow that is trying too hard”. Also in the scene where Abby murdered the first victim, they left out the moment from the original when Eli rest her head on the body in silence. I was disappointed because that was a very important moment in the movie where you get a glimpse into her character. The way she lowered her head to the body and breathing heavily after she killed him showed that she did not want to kill and still regrets it every time.
I was disappointed at the soundtrack but I suppose that was because I love the theme of the original so much. Nothing really stand out in Let Me In and they had music where silence would have worked better. Speaking of sound, they also left out the animal-like growling sounds when Abby needs to feed, which was extremely effective in showing that she’s not human without any deformation.
Finally, the pool scene.
Oskar was still holding his breath under the water throughout the rampage. That was one of my favourite scenes from the movie because the contrast of the calmness under water and body parts falling in the pool from the rampage above was very powerful.
Sadly, Let Me In allowed Owen out of the water gasping for breath while the rampage went on and well aware of what was happening. Although the rampage was happening off camera, the scene wasn’t as effective and memorable. If anything, it feels like we were missing out on the action.
Let Me In showed the aftermath of the bloodstained pool, but left out the part in the Swedish movie where Eli left one of the bullies (who had shown reluctance to bully Oskar throughout the entire film) alive sobbing. That shot tells that Eli was still able to tell good from evil and that she killed in that scene for a different purpose – to save Oskar, not for blood.
Some told me that the romance did not seem necessary and the movie would have worked without it anyway because it was more about the friendship than love. One even told me that the movie was sexualising children. I don’t agree with that but I do agree that the romance seemed unnecessary, which I don’t see as a big issue. It may be unnecessary but it did not ruin the films. I suppose some people pointed that out because it made the audience look forward to the proof of love then left empty handed in that department, but they’re just kids and I think it’s natural for kids their age to be curious about having a relationship or puppy love.
In conclusion, most people will tell you that both movies are very similar and that they’re just as good as each other. It’s true. They are similar, but many of the important essence are missing from the original and they were what made the Swedish version far more superior.