Hammer Horror has returned to the big screen with a remake of a Swedish vampire film based on a best-seller by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The studio has left itself plenty of room for improvement.
Let Me In tells the story of a lonely 12-year-old boy who befriends a lonely 12-year-old vampire (‘I’ve been 12 for a very long time’) in the lonely snow-covered city of Los Alamos. The roles are played superbly by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz (she carries a real sense of otherness, that age beyond her apparent years), ahead of a cast who also perform wonderfully.
The love story between the two is the core of the book, a what can perhaps most kindly be described as langourous unfolding, set against the backdrop of a police investigation into cult-like deaths in the neighbourhood, a broken family and social disillusionment. The Swedish movie (for which Lindqvist wrote the screenplay), a beautifully photographed rendition, dropped the police angle, while the Hammer version has neglected the social dystopia.
Sadly, Hammer has also neglected the elements of Lindqvist’s story that gave it its impact — pedophilia and sexual ambiguity — and instead opted for twee CGI and some questionable narrative devices. An introductory discussion of religion and evil is left to wither, an attempted cyclical opening fails to deliver, a basement haven appears out of nowhere and, unlike in the book, serves no purpose.
Owen (names have been Anglicised, removing yet another layer of ambiguity from the vampire) is an only child with a single mother — mum is kept offstage, blurred, out of shot, while father is a mere voice on the phone. Camera work is excessively stylised, using blur and extreme close-up to magnify the sense of isolation.
There is no getting past the book’s lack of narrative tension, but I couldn’t help feel that the Hammer version is a watered down and uninspired echo of what is an emotionally effective and atmospheric text, thanks in part to the combination of the Swedes having already taken the arthouse road and the filmmakers lacking the fortitude to present the gutsiest parts of Ajvide’s story.