Monday, March 21, 2011

Let Me In

There is a film version of The Woman in Black. Written by Nigel Kneale, it is an effectively creepy tale with some genuine scares in it. The production is difficult to get hold of not least in part because the novel's author hates it. One of the reasons why seems to be the minor, yet seemingly pointless and niggling, changes Kneale's screenplay makes to her book. I mean, why change the gender of the dog? Really, what was the point in doing that?

Now I've often thought that Susan Hill is over-reacting about these changes (if the rumours are correct and they are the main thing bothering her about the adaptation); they do little to damage the drama, and even the changed ending is still extremely effective. Then I saw Let Me In, a remake of the superb Swedish film Let The Right One In, and I got it. Because, while Let Me In is not an atrocious film, it is filled with pointless little changes to the original that add nothing but help to make the remake into a pale imitation of a far superior original.

I'm not going to list all the differences between the two films; instead, I'll illustrate using two crucial ones. First up, why change the title? Surely the filmmakers weren't worried that the Swedish title was too long for US audiences? But if that wasn't the case, then really, why make that change? The original title is playful, and hints at the ambiguous relationship at the heart of the film - has Oskar let the right one in, or is he being manipulated by a much older vampiric predator? Let Me In as a title lacks that ambiguity; it is a straight request, and a pointless truncation of the original title.

Then you have the elimination of the drinking buddies in the original as properly drawn, credible characters. This is the most irritating change for me; those characters were crucial to the success of the original - they made it more human, and the characterisation helped us to care when they were killed. By reducing them to walk-on parts in the background, the film loses a crucial counterpoint to the central drama, and makes the film solely about the relationship between the vampire and his/her would be carer.

Any remake has to work hard in order to show it is as good as its predecessor. Let Me In hampers itself by implementing a number of pointless changes. The end result is a passable film if you haven't seen the original, but if you have, then the US remake is simply an inferior and irritating faded photocopy of a much better predecessor.

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