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Let Me In – Writer/Director Matt Reeves talks about remaking the Swedish vampire film

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Let Me In - Director Matt Reeves
Director Matt Reeves © Overture Films

Following the success of his giant monster epic Cloverfield, filmmaker Matt Reeves has come up with a more intimate but equally disturbing piece of genre work. Let Me In is based on the Swedish thriller Let the Right One In, adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel and stars Cody Smit-McPhee as Owen, a bullied schoolboy, whose lonely existence is changed by the arrival of new neighbor Abby (Chloë Moretz) and her father (played by Richard Jenkins). The two quickly become friends but Owen soon discovers that the innocent-looking Abby is actually a centuries-old monster with an insatiable appetite for blood.

Reeves recently sat down with the press to share his thoughts about Let Me In, which opens October 8th from Hammer and Overture Films…

Why was the title of the film changed from the original?

Let Me In - Chloe Moretz
Abby (Chloe Moretz) © Overture Films

Originally when I read the novel right after I saw the film, the title on the novel was actually Let Me In. I know that people are passionate about the original film and the one thing I didn’t want was to have people feeling that we were somehow trying to go in and Hollywood-ize it or remake it in some kind of really cynical way. By not taking exactly the same title, it would say, ‘Okay, we’re this, but we’re slightly different!’ so that’s sort of how it stuck. It was a way to differentiate it slightly.

What were your criteria for finding the right young actors to play these pivotal roles?

Cody Smit-McPhee is not American; that’s the amazing thing. My criteria was to find two kids that I felt could emotionally handle the complexity of the characters and the story. Frankly, it’s an adult film even though it centers on two kids, so that’s a tremendous burden to put on two kids to play it.

When Cody came in, he was so authentic. All the time, I would be saying, ‘What would you do here?’ and he would say, ‘Keeping it real, I would do this…’ and that was really my criteria: to try and find two kids that could authentically express themselves. That was the joy in finding them.

You also set the film in the eighties.

The Cold War era, yes. In the book, Lindqvist talks a lot about what was going on in Sweden at that time. He talks about gun control and all these important issues, so those were the things going on during Lindqvist’s childhood.

When I was thinking back to that period in my life, it was the Reagan era and it was basically about the big mantra, which was ‘the evil empire.’ It was the idea that evil was something that was outside of us, that Americans were fundamentally good, and the evil was the Soviets or communism.

There was something about that idea that I thought was contextually very interesting for the movie. Obviously Cody’s character and Chloe’s character are dealing with the evil within, or the darker impulses that we all have that makes up the struggle we have as people, so I thought, what would it mean to be a 12 year-old who’s dealing with dark feelings because he’s being bullied mercilessly?

Life is so difficult for him, but the president and the community are sort of saying, ‘These are not acceptable feelings!’ so Owen starts to think, ‘Is it me? Am I evil?’ or maybe dismiss evil altogether. I just thought contextually that idea was kind of interesting

Could you talk about the bullying aspect of the film? Being in a situation you can’t escape from is the kind of thing that can lead you to.

Let Me In - Kodi Smit-McPhee
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) © Overture Films

Murderous thought, yes. One of the ideas that was important in terms of doing those scenes was that they felt as horrific as the horror scenes, because that’s what it feels like to be a 12 year-old being bullied. And when and the idea of the dread, what he talks about of knowing that it’s coming; there is nothing worse.

One of the things I tried to develop is that it’s not so much the terrible moments that occur, but there is tremendous anticipation of bad things in the movie. There is a lot of dread and, that sort of inexorable movement towards something that is awful. I think being bullied as a kid is like that.

Does that lead Owen to be more accepting of Abby, because she can do the things he can’t?

No question. But the two-sided sword of that is when she’s telling him to fight back and do all the things that he’s afraid to do, there’s a kind of liberation in that. But the other side of it is when something is a dark fantasy, that’s one thing.

When you actually enact it, there are consequences, so on the one hand he can embrace her, but on the other hand, when he discovers her true nature, he has to accept her but he also sees the horror of it.

After the top-secretive Cloverfield, was it a relief to do a film you could actually talk about?

Yes! This one had a much different focus, because not only could I talk about it, but because the original film and novel are so beloved, we were also being watched in a laser-like way. It was a different sort of concern, but we didn’t have to keep that part secret.

I remember when they started talking about viral marketing and those kinds of things and I had to readjust my brain to say, ‘Oh yeah, everyone knows this story and what happens; that’s great!’ Now it just becomes about people getting to watch and see what we did with it and how it plays out, so in that sense, it was liberating

Is there going to be a Cloverfield 2?

It’s not dead, just dormant. I’ve been focused on making this movie for as long as we’ve been making it and J.J. Abrams is passionately involved in doing Super 8. Drew Goddard who wrote Cloverfield has just directed a movie he co-wrote with Joss Whedon called Cabin in the Woods and he’s writing a movie for Steven Spielberg right now, so we’ve all been incredibly busy. Hopefully if we ever find what we think will be a sequel idea that would be worth doing, we will do it.