Aspiring student filmmakers, director Matt Reeves has advice for you.
“The surest way to learn filmmaking is to do it. The surest way to get what you want made is to be passionate and incredibly tenacious,” he said. “Write and make movies in any way you can. With the technology available to students today, there’s no reason why you can’t make your movie—besides commitment.”
Commitment is probably one reason why Reeves’ (Cloverfield, Felicity) new film is receiving rave reviews.
Let Me In centers around 12-year-old protagonist Owen, a boy who has a lot of confusion in his life. His single mother is an alcoholic, he lives in a run-down apartment in New Mexico, and he gets beat up at school every day. Then vampires move in next door, and 12-year-old (or so she appears) vampire Abby befriends Owen, changing his life dramatically.
A remake of 2008’s award-winning Swedish film Let The Right One In, Let Me In opens in theaters today, Oct. 1. Before people compare the two movies shot for shot, it’s worth knowing the writer-director’s thoughts about the project. TSL had the unique opportunity to interview Let Me In’s Matt Reeves after seeing the film at a critics’ advanced screening in Beverly Hills.
Reeves’ film features a great mix of suspense, horror, and dark comedy. For a horror remake, Let Me In boasts impressively distinctive cinematography. Reeves acknowledges the expectations a moviegoer might have for a Halloween H20, Saw VI, or Bride of Chucky revamp. “Most remakes are horrible,” he said. “If I were on the outside, I would be thinking exactly the same thing.” But Reeves strove to create his Americanized version within the structure of the original film. “The fans of the story are protective,” he said. “I wanted to translate it to an American context without stepping on Tomas Alfredson’s [Swedish director] toes.”
So Reeves set his film in the bleak snowscape of 1980s New Mexico. “Everything we tried to do was in a faithful recreation of the period – not a fetishization,” he explained. “We tried to make the movie look like it was made in the 80s, not a movie about the 80s.”
This required significant attention to detail. Reeves spoke in depth about the thoughts behind his directorial decisions. “I put a moonscape mural on Owen’s bedroom wall to make it look like he was a solitary figure. This ‘one man on the moon’ idea would help convey his alienation.” Reeves also dressed Owen in a puffy silver jacket “like a space suit,” he said. “I was very aware of his shirt collar. It would be half in and half out of the jacket. That showed a kind of vulnerability and awkwardness in his character.”
Reeves actually began adapting Let The Right One In a year before it was released. When it came out to receive mass acclaim, he wasn’t sure if he should remake it. “It made my job more daunting,” he admitted, “but when I read the novel I connected to it because it was about linkless childhood and growing up in the 80s. What drew me to the project is that I’d tell a painful yet beautiful adult story through the eyes of children.”
Twelve-year-olds play the lead roles in the film, but children under 17 cannot be admitted into the theater without a parent or guardian. So what does Reeves think the demographics of Let Me In’s fanbase will look like?
“To be honest, I have no idea, and I hope that people will embrace it,” he said, “but it’s one of those things that people would refer to as a ‘marketing challenge.’”
If you’re a fan of Let The Right One In, Let Me In is definitely worth seeing. You’ll have fun thinking about the movies side by side, perhaps hoping to see the re-creation of your favorite scenes or looking for Reeves’ own additions. Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Step Brothers), playing Abby’s supposed father, does a great job of portraying the rekindling of their unsettling relationship. The child actors, Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee, though decent enough to carry the movie and both lined up for some big upcoming roles, shouldn’t be expected to turn into stars just yet.
Although its trailer presents Let Me In as a pure horror film, the movie itself slips back and forth between genres. Indeed, the remake is gorier than the original, but Reeves is able to create an atmospheric tone with shots that most horror films won’t even attempt. Specifically, one car chase, crash-and-burn sequence is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The visuals look great, the score is eerie, and the pacing is slow enough to let a real story develop. Yet while Reeves succeeds in humanizing non-human characters, he shouldn’t forget that blood is more important to vampires than to audiences. The gore is unnecessary, ineffective, and sometimes too dramatic to take seriously. The creepy moments—not the gratuitously violent ones—make this movie work.
Ultimately, though, Let Me In is a vampire movie, and thus comparisons will inevitably be made to a certain over-hyped teen saga. Will his film appeal to Twilight fans? Reeves concluded the interview with a careful, but sure, answer:
“Twilight is a grand fantasy. This is its dark cousin with a real take on growing up.”