Matt Reeves has to be breathing at least half a sigh of relief at the moment. The filmmaker has had a scattershot career helming the dramedy “The Pallbearer” and the shaky sci-fi epic “Cloverfield,” but up until now his biggest achievement was probably co-creating and directing the pilot for “Felicity.” That all changed after the initial reviews came in for “Let Me In,” Overture and Hammer Films’ English language remake of 2008’s “Let The Right One In.”
Retelling what is already recognized as a modern classic is a daunting task, but as critics have noted, Reeves has accomplished the rare feat of re-telling an original tale without overshadowing it, embarrassing it or trumping it. instead, he’s created a film that can stand by its predecessor. “Let Me In” still tells the story of a lonely boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriend what he thinks is a new neighbor his age (Chloe Moretz) only to discover she’s actually, of all things, a vampire. One of the key differences in Reeves version, which is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico instead of Sweden, is how he’s infused historical moments from the ’80s era to give the subject matter a different (not necessarily better, not necessarily worse) depth.
I had a chance to speak to Reeves back in July after he’d previewed some scenes from “Let Me In” at San Diego Comic-Con. Having already seen an unfinished version of the film, our conversation wandered off into major spoiler territory. Much of that discussion will be posted after the film’s general release. However, the use of the time period did come up and Reeves admits he wanted to harken back a bit to the films of the time, such as “E.T.,” which portrayed suburbia in a different way than today.
Reeves reminds us that President Reagan’s mantra (one replayed at the beginning of the picture) was that America is fundamentally good and you should beware of the “evil” out there. Now, Reagan was specifically talking about Communism in the midst of the cold war, but Reeves notes, “think about a 12-year-old boy who is being bullied mercilessly at school in his little suburban community and who feels so alone…and he has terrible feelings, fantasies of revenge of getting back at these kids, of tormenting or killing them. The idea of getting back at these kids [was important to him]. So, a lot of those ’80s details were about trying to put in things that I related to in that same period.”
One other topic we chatted about was the remarkable performance of Smit-McPhee. This pundit was not a fan of the young actor’s work in “The Road,” but the Aussie is a revelation under Reeves’ eye. The filmmaker luckily hadn’t screened “The Road” before casting Smit-McPhee and reveals once he saw him read for the part he knew he could “actually make the movie.” In fact, he admits so much hinged on the performances of the young man and Moretz that Reeves scheduled all their key scenes during the first three weeks of shooting. Once those scenes were completed he knew whether he’d have a shot at living up to “Let Me In’s” predecessor or not. As mentioned previously, he certainly has.
You can listen to more of our discussion about “Let Me In” embedded in this post below or download it and listen to it on your own computer.
“Let Me In” opens nationwide on Oct. 1