If you've seen Let The Right One In (a 2008 Swedish adaptation of the novel written in 2004) you'll know how beautiful this story is. Being told predominantly from the eyes of two 12 year olds, we see how one boy, Owen (Kodi Smith McPhee) who's bullied constantly throughout his life, witnesses divorce and alcoholism from his parents and is constantly lonely finds a friend within a mysterious girl, Abby (Chloe Moretz) who moves into his neighbourhood. But what's intriguing about this girl is the horrifying truth that she's a vampire. It's a completely unique tale from the book, and the Swedish version is incredibly innocent and honest. The English version doesn't seem to touch the sentimental value and creates more of a bloodbath than anything else.
Directed by Matt Reeves, he seems to favour these monster driven narratives. But this focus on the evil has left the idea of companionship minimal in the film. It's about the difficulties in life, not the horror behind the actions. The book is very dark and you do feel this. The setting is secluded, the characters live hard lives in a run down area and we see the struggle of growing up within these children. But watching the attacks on people becomes almost horrible to witness. The film's meant to represent a way of living, but all we see are built up scenes of tension every time an attack comes to make us scared. We don't sympathise with the characters, we're distanced from them. And when we see the bullying, it's so brutal that rather a feeling of sadness, it's a feeling of disgust.
Another factor that makes this a disappointing watch in terms of the cinematography is the special effects. Living in a world where everything should be flawlessly real now in editing, when we watch Abby attack it just doesn't live up to expectations. It turns her into something more like an animal than a vampire, losing her youth and creating a poor represented criminal. The movements are so over the top that you find it unrealistic - Yes, I know it's a vampire story, but being surrounded by so many of these creatures in film and TV now, you would expect it to have a much more believable feel than it does.
The redeeming factors are the two main actors. Chloe Moretz, like most of her performances, plays this character who's witnessed the world. Yeah, she's 12 but she's been 12 "for a very long time". Somehow she's an adult in a child's body which is perfect for the role. Kodi Smith-McPhee plays such a timid haunted boy that you really can gain a sense of emotion from his torment he goes through. Although the story lacks in the punch, his performance brings it back up to mark with his moving and painful experiences.
If Let The Right One In hadn't of been made, I'm sure this film would have had a much bigger impact. It's got the potential to create a compassionate story with a real individual look at life. But it's been done previously in such a elegant way that this becomes painful rather than filled with tenderness. The music is out of place in so many parts leading to mixed interpretations of a scene. At one point we have light strings playing in the background as Owen tells Abby he has a knife, for example. This misrepresentation of emotion makes it so much more difficult to watch, and it's a common theme running throughout the film.
I do have to stress, this isn't an awful film. It's just been created previously in a much better way. You still are entertained and find the tale as a whole very interesting to watch. But the way it's carried out is much more of a horror than a thriller now. If I were you, I'd deal with the subtitles and buy the Swedish version, it's a lot more satisfying.