It’s tough when you are adapting a cult book to a cinematic format, and even tougher when you are adapting said film to an English-language version. This was the case of Let me in, which is the English (read American) language version of the Swedish film, Let the right one in, based upon the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Having said that, Let me in does very well under the weight of the expectations. The English version was made by the recently resurrected Hammer films, known for their unique brand of horror. There was also a great deal of input into the film by Lindqvist, who had written the original screenplay.
The story is about Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) a young bullied boy, who befriends Abby (Chole Moretz), a young girl in a New Mexico town. As their friendship develops, Owen realises his friend is a vampire, with her ‘father’ being her source of procuring blood.
The setting of early-1980s Reagan America, with its rhetoric of the ‘evil empire’ (The Soviet Union), which definitely enhances the story. The presence of evil is never far away in the form of Owen’s schoolboy bullies, but there is also the presence of Abby, who lends an ambiguous air of being neither wholly innocent nor wholly evil, and forever on the cusp of adolescence.
There are subtle differences between the two films. Apart from changing the location and names, the story of how Abby’s adult minder,’The Father’, comes to be her companion is alluded to. In the English version, he met Abby as a boy and grew up to be her procurer. By remaining as true as possible to the original movie and the original literary source, it has retained what is really a great horror story.
I think what made it harder for me to be objective about this was that I had read the book and seen the original movie. My past experience of being devoted to a book and seeing its film adaptation have made me somewhat leery of adaptations (I can never really like Bridget Jones Diary, and High Fidelity was saved by Jon Cusack and Jack Black’s performance), but this is exceptional.