Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

More about Let Me In

I have a bad habit, when writing about a movie, to pick an issue I think is interesting and then discuss that. The problem is, if it's a new movie that people haven't really seen yet, they end up thinking that that's all that's in the movie. This time around, I got a lot of "What about tenderness and longing and needing to be accepted!" Having not seen the original (and yes, I really want to), I didn't know what I needed to mention in particular. Because, actually, I thought people would complain that Let Me In is too sentimental compared to Let the Right One In; there is a lot of longing, particularly on Abby's part (which is what people seemed to want to know), but also--well. Spoilers. So, since we had a really good discussion in the comments yesterday, I want to post some of the highlights of that and discuss some of those things: 

notemily: what I really love about the original is the sweet tenderness, the innocence  of the relationship between Eli and Oskar. even though she's, you know, a godless killing machine, it still FEELS like two twelve-year-olds tentatively beginning a relationship, and the fact that the movie can pull that off really impresses me.

cleolinda: The American version actually focuses on the tenderness and the relationship, actually. They go out on a "date" to play arcade games, he buys her candy, etc. I think that's actually what Matt Reeves said he wanted to bring to the forefront. So that's definitely there. If anything, I thought people would complain that there was too much of that.

[One of my favorite scenes was where Owen really, really wants Abby to try his favorite candy--you can tell this is a moment about more than just candy for him--and he just looks gutted when she says no (for reasons that are obvious only to us). And then she tries some anyway, for his sake, and ends up throwing up in the parking lot, and Owen just throws his arms around her as tight as he can. And that's when we get, "Would you still like me if I wasn't a girl?"]


mdmbrightside: From your interpretation, LMI seems to focuses more on the cycle of child abuse while LTROI seems more rooted in longing. By removing the pedophilic nature of her protector and Eli's hidden gender, you lose the undercurrents - wanting to be accepted, no matter the cost. Even the victims/investigator pub crawlers in the original dreamt of a better life.

cleolinda: Well, the thing is, once you either know or realize that he's not her father, and you see pictures of him at Owen's age with her--you realize that they must have had a romantic relationship of some kind. And there's a really well-done scene where she touches his face very tenderly (a running thing with Abby), [and] Chloe Moretz manages to make it very... not parent-child. But at the same time, the Richard Jenkins character seems so wholly devoted to her that he doesn't seem like a pedophile--the way she screams at him (in a really freaky, almost male voice), it's like she's the parent and he's the abused child, it's very interesting. (Which has implications for Owen too, I guess.) I think longing is still a large part of the story, but I think the actual horror is realizing the cycle of abuse and what it means for Owen.

mdmbrightside: [...] When I brought up the pedophilia of the protector, I interpreted it more that he was with Eli because he wanted to have sex with him and be loved by him. Eli kept him at an arm's length, needing him but not loving him. The protector's whole motivation for getting Eli blood is getting to touch him. Eli herself seemed more taken with Oscar (even getting into bed naked with him - is that in the remake?) because Oscar seems less obsessed with her gender, and after learning she's a boy still cares deeply for her. So it's not necessarily that she's replacing one protector for another, but that she's falling in love with someone else.

The idea that the Richard Jenkins character was once young like Owen can be assumed in LTROI but the book was explicit in that he met Eli as an adult. I think LMI just took it a step further to make it more obvious, which is probably a nod to the original film.

cleolinda: Actually, her getting in bed naked is in the American version, too. "You're not wearing anything... and you're cold!" "Is that... gross?" Long pause: "No...?"

The other thing is, she DOES say things like, "Would you like me if I wasn't a girl?," "I'm not a girl," and he's just like, "...okay." She then says, "I'm nothing," as opposed to "I'm a boy." If they had cast a more androgynous actress, I really think they could have gotten away with saying, "It's still in there if you know what you're looking for." But Chloe Moretz is styled to look pretty girlish. [Case in point.]

And Abby really does sound fearful that Owen won't like her if he knows the truth; I think she really is in love with Owen. But the pictures he finds suggest that she was once in love with her current protector as well (and she still is, to some degree, but it's not what it once was). I mean, these are photobooth pictures of them, a long strip, you know, and they are both the same age. Just the way Owen is now.

And yeah, even after all my tl;dr up there, it didn't even occur to me that Abby is, herself, abusive to her "father" when he screws up until I was down here in the comments talking about it. That... kind of makes the way she and Owen mesh a little more awful, even. You find yourself hoping it'll be different for them, maybe she loves him more or differently than she did the previous boy/man. But... don't things always start out that way, with us believing the best of ourselves and each other?


cleolinda: I've heard about that part [the caretaker being a pedophile in the original]--the interesting thing is that you feel so sad for Abby's "father" (who isn't given a name), who clearly feels a great deal of love for her, and is the one seeking her approval. And I think that sympathy makes it easier to imagine him and Owen as being on the same path. I mean, Owen can't be a pedophile; he IS a kid. But if he stays with Abby, that's eventually what he's going to be, because he'll age but she won't. And I never got the feeling that her father wanted to be a pedophile, either--he seems so beaten down by what he has to do for her to keep loving him. I almost think I felt worse for him than I did for either Abby or Owen, but then, Richard Jenkins is a really great actor, and the scene where he asks Abby not to see Owen again (and she touches his face, that one), is really striking. So I think the longing to be loved and accepted is present for all three characters; it's just the one I thought was most obvious, so I didn't go into that.

shoiryu: You definitely feel bad for [the caretaker] all around, I think, and I did in the original movie and the novel (until his last bit in the novel JESUS CHRIST.) The weird thing I AM noticing, though, about the "father" character -- he's not at all with her as a child in the book or the Swedish version. He's literally a pedophile who's besotted with her, who she's manipulated into helping her get food because she's small and it's harder for a child to move around alone. So I think the directional difference here is possibly that the original doesn't have that particular framing. To me the original came off very "Eli has found someone who's actually her AGE to relate to and who she can deal with, instead of having to shove this old guy away from her all the time, and so two misfit souls kind of found each other and just worked out that way." It sounds like with this part in the remark they're going for a different thing there, which seems to frame it like you said -- kind of sad for Owen.

cleolinda: Yeah, the more I'm finding out about this, the more I'm realizing--that is a very clear, major change they made. I think on one hand, they reaaaaally didn't want a pedophile to be the third biggest character in a mainstream American movie, but on the other hand, starting him off as a boy just like Owen purposefully alters the story and the themes. It brings him into the triangle as an equal, as opposed to, "Oh God, s/he has to get away from this guy." But in toning down the pedophilia with that character... they've also made it much more disturbing on Owen's end, for his future.

So what I'm saying is, I like that there seems to be a valid reason for this version to exist, because the story's a bit different and it's not just a carbon copy. I mean, you can think it's a crap story, but it least it tried to contribute something different.

I can't remember precisely what I read about the original--what DOES the father character do?

shoiryu: Yeah, basically. He's weirdly really sympathetic in the movie, and partially in the novel until his ending.

Basically he burns himself, he goes to the hospital, and Eli's been starving until this point, and he lets Eli drink from him, but for some reason (it's not totally clear, or I don't remember well) Eli doesn't kill him, which makes him a vampire. He's kind of a weird mindless revenant kind of vampire, though, and he wanders around in the woods for a few chapters before emerging back out and basically he, uh, he hits Eli over the head and tries to rape him. And it's really disturbing, on a number of levels, not least of which I think is because you spend part of the book in this guy's head, too, seeing things from his POV, and he doesn't "seem so bad" so the scene really brings home that yeah, no -- he is that bad, because pedophiles are.

cleolinda: Ohhhhhh. In the new movie, she lets him fall out of the 10th story hospital window, and he dies. He dies really, really dead. We don't see him again. Which makes sense, if they're removing the pedophile aspect and putting him and Owen on equal footing; they treat him more as a 50-year-old boy than an adult preying on a child.

The more people tell me about it, the more it seems like the changes to the caretaker character and how that works in the story are really the biggest differences between the two movies.


cleolinda: Yeah, the Eli/Abby gender thing isn't in there, but it's strangely alluded to, if you wanted to look at it that way--she keeps telling him she's "not a girl," meaning, "a vampire," but there a point where he looks into the bathroom when she's changing clothes and kind of gets this weirded-out look on his face that isn't addressed any further. I wondered if that was acknowledging that scene in the original without actually making it "canon" for the American.

razzymelon: I think what's really put me off about the remake? Is from the trailers, that Eli/Abby has a very normal little girl voice. In the Swedish film( which I remember people on IMDB arguing over the film versus book rawrawrawr), they dubbed over the actress' voice with an woman's voice to give her this super creepy effect of Eli obviously not being 12. Or necessarily a girl. Just this androgynous, mature voice coming from this fluffy, bright eyed little girl.

cleolinda: The interesting thing is that Owen hears Abby yelling at her "father" through the wall, and we're allowed to see the father cowering, so we know he's not the one yelling. But the person yelling? Does not sound like a little girl. Owen actually thinks it's the father yelling at her.  I actually leaned over to Emily (who has seen the original) and whispered, "Whaaaaat the heeeeeeelll." And given how her face transforms--monster eyes, skin changes, etc.--when she feeds, you almost get the feeling that it's a thing wearing a little girl's body. "I'm not a girl. I'm nothing."

cleolinda: What I found myself saying a few comments ago is that Abby is so different when she's in vampire mode, and when she's screaming at her "father" in this terrifying, adult, possibly even male voice, is that it almost comes off as an inhuman thing wearing a little girl's body, if you think about it. "I'm not a girl. I'm nothing." It's still a story about a boy who falls in love with a girl who isn't a girl. It's just that... "isn't a girl" means something very different, and kind of horrifying, in this case.


goddessvicky: One thing I was confused about involved Abby's "father". In the book, the man was a pedophile that Eli/Abby found as a man and took under her wing as a servant, in a sort of quid pro quo arrangement. She didn't acquire him as a youth, so the story didn't exactly mirror Oskar/Owen like it did here. You were either left to believe that once they were far enough away, Abby would make Owen a vampire as well, or he would, eventually, end up like the man.

notemily: See, I like the way the original film did it. It didn't say Hakan was a pedophile and it didn't say he wasn't, either. And it didn't say what was going to happen to Oskar after the end of the movie. It let you draw your own conclusions. I liked that a lot. I haven't read the book, though.

cleolinda: I will say, the movie doesn't actually say, "Owen is going to have exactly the same life." There is the idea that maybe Owen is different from the other companion, that maybe he's more suited to it, that maybe the "father" never liked killing at all. And a lot of people seem to think that she'll turn him, although I'd think she'd want to have someone who could move around in daylight to protect her. So I don't know. But it's not really as definite as my interpretation of it sounds.


notemily: The other thing about the original is that it ends on an upbeat, sweet, almost happy note--so you do feel like the movie was a romance, and it's only when you look back on it as a whole that you realize how depressing Oskar's future is. Oskar himself looks happy to be stepping into the role, and he has triumphed over his tormentors, so you're all happy for him and then you're like "...wait."

cleolinda: And yeah, at the end, Owen looks pretty content on the train. I think making the similarity between Owen and the previous companion more explicit means that the "...wait" hits you sooner rather than later.

I promise that when I see Let the Right One In, I'll come back and we'll discuss that as well. The thematic focus of the two movies seems different enough that I think we'll have a lot to discuss. (And no, I don't think Let Me In will knock it from the Great Horror Movie pantheon in any way. There's a reason I only use one tag whether I'm discussing the original or the new version.) The new one has sort of a golden, Spielberg-esque tone at times--the Two Kids In Love times--that I suspect differentiates it from the original, and probably weakens the impact a good bit--makes it a bit less haunting. But I did find myself thinking about Let Me In all night, which means it succeeds on a certain, important level. And even if you love the original, I think the new one's worth seeing for the very different take it has on the Abby/caretaker relationship, which is what I found myself thinking about the most.

Today's #leavingthehouseomg: The Social Network. See you around this evening.

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Tags: leaving the house omg, let the right one in, movie discussion, movies, vampires


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    WOW I MEANT TO HAVE THIS UP SOONER So! A lot of stuff this week! I'm on A Matter of Taste again! And we talk about ALL THE THINGS: True…

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