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DID YOU READ

“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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.