Cloverfield director Matt Reeves returns in October with Let Me In, a remake of the much-loved 2008 Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, about a boy (The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends a vampire (Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz) in a tiny New Mexico town in the early eighties. We ran into Reeves last night at Comic-Con, where he told us about falling in love with the original Right One and what's different about his film.
When did you first see the original Let the Right One In?
I had just finished Cloverfield. It was January 2008. There was a small, personal movie I wrote before Cloverfield called The Invisible Woman and I was looking for a place to make it. I met with Overture and they said it was too dark for them, too small. They said, “But we really want to work with you. We're pursuing the rights to this movie, Let the Right One In for a remake. If you're interested, let us know because we're trying to get it.”
It was given to me with the caveat that you'd probably want to age the kids up to make the story work for an American audience. So I watched it and called up the guys at Overture. I said, “I have two things to say. One is I really don't know if you should remake this movie because it's amazing. The second one was if you do remake it, if you age those kids up, you literally destroy the story." That's the beauty of the story. It's about that time of life. It's about that pre-adolescent moment — the confusion, the pain, the loneliness of that time.
So how different is your movie from the Swedish original? What did you keep?
[I kept] those jungle gym scenes, which, to me, are the heart of the book and the original Swedish film. I knew that there were aspects I wanted to change in order to emphasize things — like the idea of the parents' divorce that was going on. And I knew that the key would be to find two, young performers who are capable of pulling off the emotional complexity — and not having them or my director of photography watch the original film. Even though it had been done before, we approached it as though it hadn't. In certain ways, the content is very similar, but our approach, hopefully, is somewhat different. And then there are ways I tried to take the story and put it more into Oskar's point of view. I wanted the film to be as much as possible about the difficulty of his adolescence.
You changed the title to Let Me In. Why?
The place we got the title from, that was the title of the original novel [by John Ajvide Lindqvist] that I had, which was the American translation. The publisher didn't think the title Let the Right One In would sell in the U.S., so they changed it. That original film has such a passionate following, so to use the different title is to say that we're in no way looking to, or could even imagine, stepping on the status or anything about that film. That film will always exist as the masterpiece that it is. I hope that our film exists alongside it as another version of this story. By making things a little different, superficially different in terms of a title or characters' names, it was in a subtle way to say, “Don't worry, that film still exists. We're not trying to say it doesn't."
The original was a horror film, but a lot of the violence was implied. Did you feel any pressure to make this version more bloody and violent?
No. What's so amazing about the story, I think, is the juxtaposition of the tenderness of that relationship and then the truly disturbing aspect of the things going on. The character Richard [Jenkins] plays, he's essentially a serial killer. It turns out that he's doing it for this reason that is heartrending, but he's a serial killer. He tracks people down and he drains them of their blood. He kills them in this ritualistic manner. Turns out the ritual's about getting food for the young girl that he's protecting, who also happens to be a vampire. Those tones resonate against each other in such an unusual way. The thing that was done in the original film was that it was very restrained. I felt that was the right thing to do here. The fact of the matter is there's somebody being bled into a jug [in the original]. There's some graphic moments. Those moments are still in there, but it's not like Saw. It's not something that goes completely extreme. It keeps that kind of restraint, but you definitely see things. It's disturbing.
The original is set in cold, snowy Sweden. Yours was shot in New Mexico. Is there snow?
We filmed in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is actually high desert. It snows! It was plenty cold. We did not have to fake the snow. That is definitely an aspect of the story and the original film that I thought was beautiful. That was something I really wanted to have. Something about the virgin snow and the blood in the snow... It's just powerful. There are just some things that are so elemental and that was one of those elemental aspects of the story that you just had to have in order for that story to work.
What should fans of True Blood and Twilight expect from this movie?
What's amazing about the vampire story is how incredibly durable it is, clearly. The fun thing about a genre film is you can use the metaphor to explore whatever it is that you want to. True Blood, there's a real sexual element to that. There's a grand romance for the Twilight stories. With this, the thing that really appealed to me was that it was a vampire-smuggling story in a coming-of-age story, the pain of that part of life. I would hope that what people are going to get here is something that is incredibly different and personal. It's quite an unusual and original vampire story.