Every time director Matt Reeves has talked publicly about his English-language remake of Tomas Alfredson's cult vampire flick Let the Right One In, he's had to make a case for relevance based on sheer enthusiasm alone. But on Saturday at Comic-Con, Reeves finally had real proof to show skeptical fans of the original -- two clips that revealed just how much, in a good way, his film differs from the original.
Let Me In is released worldwide in October, and some of what Reeves had to show wasn't 100 percent complete -- though I challenge anyone to name anything in the two Comic-Con exclusive clips that didn't look, well, kind of amazing.
Reeves, joined by cast members Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, and Richard Jenkins, first screened the trailer while talking the usual jazz about how much he wanted to put his own spin on John Lindqvist's original novel, on which Let the Right One In is also based. The trailer set the mood for Hall H patrons, depicting a lot of familiar-looking settings -- the snowy locales, the school, the brick apartment building where Owen and Abby (Oskar and Eli in the Swedish film) first meet.
We already know that Reeves has a deep respect for the material and for Alfredson's fantastic Swedish-language film. What many fans were curious to see was how well Let Me In could justify its own existence.
To that end, Reeves chose the right two scenes to bring to Comic-Con. In the first, we catch up with Abby (Chloe Moretz) and Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), newly acquainted and both somewhat wary, as they visit a local arcade. The excited Owen shows Abby how to play Ms. Pac-Man, even if he's no good at catching the spooky ghosts, and offers to buy her candy -- "You can have anything you want!" -- which she reluctantly refuses. Owen's face falls with rejection, so Abby quietly relents. "I guess I could have one."
The small gesture makes Owen happy, but the candy makes Abby sick. She vomits in the parking lot, where Owen finds her, bewildered. He embraces her, and they share a sweet, quiet exchange in which Abby hints at her true nature. It's an extremely well-acted and affecting scene that should convince skeptics that Reeves found the right young performers -- two of the best actors of their generation -- to breathe new life into these characters.
Reeves admitted he hadn't seen either Smit-McPhee in The Road or Moretz in Kick-Ass before casting them as his leads, because "nobody would show me anything!"
But impressive auditions (and the kids' previous work, including Smit-McPhee in Romulus, My Father) convinced Reeves that he had the right pair for his remake. "I felt like if we couldn't find the kids, we couldn't make the movie," he said.
If Reeves' first clip demonstrated the acting chops of his child actors, his second showed the audience how he's changed events in the film, with still-effective results. Richard Jenkins, playing Abby's older companion/guardian, sets out on a hunt to get Abby the blood she needs to survive. Reeves, inspired by real life stories of parking lot stalkers, here has Jenkins lie in wait in the back seat of a victim's car -- a scenario that goes awry and plays out in breathtaking fashion, culminating in an interior POV shot of the car careening into traffic and rolling down an embankment. It's tense and sad for Jenkins, who conveys his character's tragedy through his eyes alone, his face largely obscured by a makeshift mask.
Plenty rides on the success of Let Me In besides the film itself; it's the first original film in 35 years from Brit horror specialists Hammer Films, according to Hammer prexy Simon Oakes, who took the stage to introduce the panel and address the thousands of fans packed into Hall H. Based on the reaction to Let Me In at Comic-Con, the rebooted Hammer Films is winning fans over with every subsequent look at the October 2010 release.
Still, it might take more than a few clips and earnest Q&As to convince the skeptics. Chime in below and tell us if you're warming up more and more to the vampire drama -- and if not, what will it take to get you onboard?