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“Let Me In,” Reviewed

“Let Me In,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

Maybe vampire movies are so popular because going to the movies is a slightly vampiric activity. We, the audience, feed off the creativity of the filmmakers and the vicarious pleasure of watching other people’s lives, but whatever satisfaction we get doesn’t last. Pretty soon we need to feed again.

Hollywood’s the same way: they’re just as thirsty for our dollars as we are for their product. But they’re like some kind of vampire-cannibal hybrid, since they also eat their own to survive. Which is how you get a film like “Let Me In,” a remake of a Swedish vampire picture called “Let the Right One In.” The original film, from director Tomas Alfredson, is only three years old and is widely available on DVD (you can even stream the film right now if you’re a Netflix subscriber). The only reason for this admittedly very watchable American version is cinematic vampirism.

At least it’s well-made. Its director is Matt Reeves, who is emerging as a significant craftsman of modern horror movies. His skill lies not in inventing but refining, in taking familiar ideas and presenting them with uncommon care and ingenuity. There were fake found footage horror movies before Reeves’ “Cloverfield,” but few with its scale and sheer visual audacity. I guess in our ongoing metaphor he’d be Dr. Frankenstein, collecting bits and pieces of the dead, reassembling them in a new way, and shocking them into vibrant, terrifying life.

The characters are essentially unchanged from the Swedish iteration. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Owen, the picked-upon teen who strikes up a friendship with Abby, the twelve-year-old girl who’s just moved next door to him in a Los Alamos, New Mexico apartment complex. Or at least Abby looks twelve years old and looks like a girl; we understand long before Owen does that Abby is a vampire, one far older than her physical age suggests. She needs blood to live, and she’s assisted in her nightly searches for it by a nameless middle-aged man (Richard Jenkins) who dutifully murders strangers and then hides the evidence in order to keep Abby fed and safe.

Jenkins’ part is the most changed from the Swedish film, where his character’s connection to the girl vampire was left much more ambiguous. Reeves, in contrast, makes very clear just who Jenkins is and why he takes care of Abby. Though Jenkins plays his scenes beautifully, the choice to explain Abby and Jenkins’ character history makes “Let Me In” a bit less spooky, a bit less sad, and a bit more conventional.

Come to think of it, “conventional but effective” may be the best way to describe Reeves’ overall approach to the project. He turns American Abby into a much more traditional movie monster than Swedish Eli. He inserts a flashback structure into the narrative to keep the audience from waiting for the first scares. And he uses a lot more music than Alfredson, particularly an ominous thump thump motif by composer Michael Giacchino that evokes the sound of a demonic heartbeat. None of these changes necessarily improve the material, but they don’t ruin it either. Unnecessary or not, the thing still works.

Reeves’ smartest and most important decisions came during casting. The precociousness Moretz displayed in “Kick-Ass” makes her perfect for a character far older than her appearance. And Smit-McPhee, giving a much more complete performance than in “The Road,” looks so sickly and anemic it’s hard to tell which kid needs blood more badly. I also liked Dylan Minnette as Owen’s tormentor Kenny. With his douchy attitude and Justin Bieber haircut, he’s an easy guy to despise.

I can imagine someone who doesn’t know “Let the Right One In” getting a big kick out of “Let Me In.” It’s stylish and well-acted, and its core story about an unlikely friendship, and larger themes about the nature of evil survive the translation intact. On the other hand, there’s a chance “Let the Right One In” partisans might have a more visceral reaction to the new version, since knowing what is coming only enhances the movie’s air of dread.

It can’t be easy to make something this faithful to a previous movie feel this fresh. For that, I give Reeves a lot of credit. I was satisfied. But only for so long.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.