All this is true. In a perfect world, studios would look at a movie like Let The Right One In and say "man, we'd be assholes to try and touch this." And in a perfect world, there'd be no hesitation on the part of the average moviegoer to sample foreign fare. But we don't live in that perfect world. If Let Me In introduces a wider audience to a great story, then I don't see the need to disparage it as a matter of principle. When the remake is atrocious, as in the case of Pulse (2006), the abomination masquerading as a remake of Kairo (2001), then yes - that's bad. But when the remake is as finely made as Let Me In, then why be high-handed about it?
While Let Me In does nothing to eclipse the artistry of Let The Right One In, writer/director Matt Reeves has attentively preserved the tone of the original. It's still a melancholy look at a lonely, bullied kid who finds a lifeline in the form of a vampire. Only now instead of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), it's Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz) who develop a strange, sad bond. And instead of taking place in Stockholm, we're in New Mexico. It's still 1983, though, and it's still in the dead of winter.
The major story beats and set-pieces are all pretty much the same as in director Tomas Alfredson's film - even down to the way they're staged. But it feels as though Reeves is honoring Alfredson's work rather than just mimicking it. Reeves does bring in some new scenes and tweaks a few existing ones. He also prunes some of the extraneous story elements from the original, making for a more efficiently told tale. From the start, there's a palatable sense that Reeves "gets" the original - and its source material novel - and that in his hands, Let Me In was never in danger of becoming the movie that fans feared it might be.
However, there are some ways in which the remake just can't compete. As strong as the child performances are here, it's difficult for Smit-McPhee and Moretz to surpass the work that Hedebrant and Leandersson did in the original. Those two kids - Leandersson, especially - just had a look and vibe that can't be duplicated. Smit-McPhee and Moretz are outstanding but as you watch them, you're looking at actors. Skilled actors, yes, but still actors. There's an inevitable (if faint) air of Hollywood to Let Me In. When you watch Leandersson as Eli, you easily buy into the reality that this girl (or whatever) is a vampire. With Moretz, you're seeing Hit-Girl as a vampire. That's not enough to derail Let Me In but it's one reason why it can never have the unique mystique that the original does.
Let Me In is also less enigmatic than the original, with Reeves choosing to be more explicit about the relationship between Abby and her caretaker (Richard Jenkins) than Alfredson and novelist/screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist were about the relationship between Eli and her caretaker (Per Ragnar). I thought that this tragic pairing of young and old (or rather old and very old) was one of the eeriest and most affecting aspects of the original but it wasn't clear to every viewer what the nature of that relationship was (was this man Eli's father, or perhaps a pedophile?). By including an old film strip from a photo booth capturing Abby side by side with her guardian when he was just a boy himself, Reeves confirms that this person came into Abby's life decades earlier and has grown old as Abby's protector. Now the cycle is starting over with Owen.
There's so much that's wise about Let Me In that it's glaring when Reeves makes a bad decision. The single poorest choice on Reeves' part was to depict several of Abby's attacks and her gravity-defying movements through CG. It looks silly and I can't believe anyone connected with the movie thought it was the right way to go. It only occurs a few times but it's a few times too many. A secondary issue with the use of CG is that it makes Abby appear so capable and deadly that it makes us question why she would need someone to hunt for her. If Abby is so ferocious - moving like a Reaper from Blade II - then a companion doesn't seem so essential. And if we question Abby's need for a companion too strongly, that could derail the entire movie. After all, as with the original, Let Me In really isn't a love story. It's about Abby choosing someone that will serve as her protector and guardian. Reeves should've been more aware of the problems he was potentially creating before deciding to invite CG in.
Some slight missteps aside, though, fans of the original who wanted to guard a film they loved from the machinations of Hollywood should be relieved that Let Me In has emerged as a smart, sensitive movie. That it exists in the shadow of a better film shouldn't discount the excellent work that Reeves and his collaborators have done.