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Statuesque: Why ‘Let Me In’ Should Be Nominated For Best Picture

You won’t see me openly campaigning for a lot of things in this space. There are people who do that professionally, and I don’t really have a dog in this fight. But if I see a worthy candidate, I’m going to follow the instructions that I see on the subway and say something. In this case, I would like to make a case for ‘Let Me In’, Matt Reeves’ outstanding take on the original Swedish film ‘Let the Right One In‘. Yes, it’s about vampires. And yes, it should be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Part of the reason I’m so adamant about the film getting into the Best Picture dogfight is that so few people saw it in the theaters during its initial run. In fact, I would speculate (probably wisely) that more people saw ‘The Hurt Locker‘, the tiny-budgeted Iraq-set thriller that wound up winning last year’s Best Picture, than saw this gem. And ‘Let Me In‘ has an audience-friendly bargain basement hook (vampires!), one that’s particularly en vogue right now (vampires!) and easy to sell to modern moviegoers. But nope. They didn’t, er, bite.

That isn’t what makes it one of the best movies of the year, one whose visceral power is matched by that of its emotional oomph. It’s handsomely made and assembled, enough so that all of its creative and technical principles (people like Michael Giacchino, who contributed the appropriately baroque score, and Greig Fraser, who supervised the chilly cinematography) should also score nominations. They won’t, of course, but they should.

Chief amongst the reasons why ‘Let Me In’ should win Best Picture is because horror films are, by and large, the least-awarded genre in Academy history. The last horror movie to win Best Picture was 1991′s ‘The Silence of the Lambs‘, and snooty film types will unfairly make the distinction that, “Hey, it’s not a horror movie, it’s a psychological thriller!” (Sorry, bub. Any film that features a main character who flays women and wears their skin is a horror movie. See also: ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘.)

‘Let Me In’ shouldn’t be nominated just because it’s a horror movie. But with ten spots open, it’d be nice to see a more rounded culinary palette at the Awards. The movie is good, just as good as any other this year. I would argue heartily that the emotional bond forged between a young boy in 1980s New Mexico (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and an ageless vampire (Chloe Grace Moretz) is more striking than anything cooked up in the strangely aloof ‘King’s Speech’ (so far the Best Picture forerunner, mostly because it doesn’t feature a dude slicing off his own arm)

Reeves created an emotionally resonant creature feature, a true rarity in a genre most defined by bloodletting. There is some blood, sure, but the movie has so much texture – with its Cold War setting, and more of an emphasis on the internal lives of the characters. Some critics wrongly dismissed the film as being more occupied with the “vampire” aspect than the original, but I totally disagree. Here, the characters, human or not, have fuller, more palpable expressions. Look no further than Richard Jenkins’ performance as a serial killer/protector. And Reeves wisely removed the “cat attack” sequence from the original.

These are all pluses, along with a number of other things that would make it tidy Oscar bait under different circumstances (its period setting, the young actors, the universal themes of alienation and the painfulness of growing old). Yet because it’s wrapped in the crispy outer shell of a vampire movie, it will likely be dismissed.

This is wrong for the reasons stated above, and for all that ‘Let Me In’ achieves in its 95 minute running time. It’s a Halloween thriller that made the hardened critics at my screening elicit “Awwws” and sniffles. It would have been a sensation had anyone seen it. (Not even Stephen King’s proclamation that it was the best horror film in 20 years did it much good.) A rightfully-deserved Best Picture nomination could breathe a second life into the film, which comes out on Blu-ray in February, just before the Awards. Both Academy voters and the everyday American could let in ‘Let Me In.’ If only.

10 comments

  1. Sorry, I sped read the article, so maybe you touched on this, but did this movie even see a full-scale theatrical run? I was so excited when I heard about it when Josh reviewed it at the Toranto Film Festival, and was eagerly looking forward to it, and the next thing I heard was that it was announced for Blu-Ray. I am actually doing a blind buy of it (Okay, not completely blind, I own “Let The Right One In”). Just wondering if it did get a full-scale release, and why I heard nothing about it when I was eagerly anticipating its release.

  2. Callenby

    I haven’t seen this, but the Swedish original is my favorite vampire film since Murnau’s Nosferatu. If Let Me In half is as good as Let the Right One In – or especially if it’s an improvement – I would love to see it on the list.

    It won’t, but not because it bombed, but because it was a wide release and bombed.

    Besides, if the filmmakers really wanted it to be nominated for an Oscar, they would have made it a love story about two inter-gender Nazis, one of whom is autistic.

    • Let The Right One In just barely misses being number one in my book. I LOVE the original, but I would have to say Interview With The Vampire is my favorite Vampire movie. I just wished that Queen of the Damned didn’t suck so much, and would LOVE to see a movie based on The Vampire Lestat. But yeah, Interview With the Vampire is, hands down in my book, the BEST vampire movie. You have an AWSOME original story, a good screenplay that, while a few changes were made from the book, stayed pretty true to it, a great director and awsome actors. Tom Cruise, Antonio Bandaras, Bradd Pitt, Christian Slater, and an absolutely stunning performance by Kristian Dunst, who won a Saturn, a BSFC, CFCA, MTV Movie Award, and a Young Star Award. Truely an amazing movie.

      But Let The Right One In is by far my second favorite movie, beating all other vampire movies put together by miles!

  3. Such a captivating love story. This was one of my favorite movies this year. With 2010 being so lackluster in the way of halfway decent movies, I think LMI has a fighting chance to be nominated.

  4. ilovenola2

    Drew, I’m with you all the way on this one. I expected disappointment with “Let Me In” as I failed to see the necessity of remaking such a superb film as the original. But I agree 100% that the remake deserves an Oscar nomination. (However, I wish the remake had retained the trully electrifying “cat attack” sequence.

    As far as “Oscar” goes, “Let Me In” would deserve a Best Picture nomination even if the Academy would get its balls back and return to the more sensible 5 nominees as before.
    Pandering to the “Twilight” crowd by expanding..nevermind… that’s another story!

  5. What killed this remake for me, was that it tried to copy key moments from the Swedish original and cheapened and ruined them as a result. Do we see Abbey as an older version of herself? No, we get Vampire face! Do we see the woman gradually turn into a vampire, and burn in her bed? Not before gory Vapire self feeding! Cheap cheap cheap! Let Me In has none of the class of Let The Right One In and therefore is a pointless movie.

  6. Tom

    Sorry man, I have to disagree about the Oscar buzz. There was nothing wrong with the Swedish film, and it didn’t need to be remade a couple years later. ‘Let Me In’ might very well be well made, but it does replicate A LOT from the original, which really isn’t original at all when you look at it that way.