LET ME IN director lets us in
A horror film slash coming-of-age story, Let Me In is the Matt Reeves–directed remake of Let The Right One In, the 2008 Swedish film which was based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel about a bullied boy who finds a soulmate in a female vampire. This version, transplanted to 1980s’ New Mexico, is a beautiful piece of work, filled with angst, soul, atmosphere, and blood stains.
I phoned Reeves (who did the 2008 hit Cloverfield) and asked him to let me into his process.
Me: Hi, Matt. You obviously love the story of the outcast triumphing. Everyone does.
Reeves: That’s only one aspect of the story. It’s the outcast finding someone who understands him, but there’s a dark edge to the story. He has vivid fantasies of revenge and when they’re played out, it’s not all victory. There’s something chilling about it and there are consequences. I was haunted by the ambiguity. It makes it a powerful horror story. I wanted to make sure that even the bully would be humanized. It’s not black and white. There’s a potential for evil in all of us.
Musto: Did you purposely have the lead boy (Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) look androgynous?
Reeves: Absolutely. When I was a kid, till about 12, I was always mistaken for being a girl. I was bullied and it was so painful. You’re also so filled with shame. It’s hard to reach out to other people and tell them about it because of the shame. Being understood as a kid is very difficult. I was drawn to the idea of the androgyne at that age. In the film, Owen looks more feminine at times than Chloe Grace Moretz (the vampire) when she has that hood on.
Me: Was there any trepidation about doing a remake?
Reeves: Overture Films mentioned the Swedish movie (which hadn’t come out yet) to me. I said, “I’m not interested in doing a remake. I want to make my movie.” Then I watched the movie and I was very affected by it. When I realized it was a vampire story, I thought it was kind of genius. They were doing it under the guise of a genre film and using the metaphor of growing up in that way as horror. I said, “I don’t think you should remake this. It’s so great.” They said, “We think there’ll be an audience and we love the story.”
Me: So you started to acquiesce?
Reeves: It got so under my skin that I read the novel and loved it more and more. I wrote to Lindqvist, “I’m interested because I’m incredibly moved by the story.” He was very positive because he loved Cloverfield and thought it was a fresh take on a well worn story, and he was excited to know that I had a personal response to the coming-of-age story.
Then the Swedish movie came out and I suddenly thought “What have I done?” but I was so connected I didn’t want to turn back.
Me: I’m glad you didn’t! Your film is a wow!