Let Me In is a US remake of the Swedish film Låt Den Rätte Komma In - Let The Right One In.
That film was based on a bestselling vampire fiction novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, published in 2004 and translated into several languages, including English. The original film garnered huge critical acclaim when it was released in the UK in 2009 and it was nominated for the Best Film Not in the English Language BAFTA as well as winning the equivalent category at the British Independent Film Awards and the London Critics Circle Film Awards in the same year.
Unusually for a subtitled horror film, Let The Right One In also saw reasonable audiences in the US, taking over two million dollars by the end of its limited cinema release and generating strong DVD sales. The success of the film saw the rights to the novel and screenplay bought by Hammer Films and an English-language remake was quickly commissioned. The directorial helm was originally offered to Thomas Alfredson, director of the Swedish-language version, but, when he refused, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was brought on board to direct and to write the screenplay.
Let Me In relocates the action of the original film from Stockholm to small-town New Mexico and tells the story of Owen, a lonely and bullied twelve-year-old boy who develops a friendship with the mysterious Abby. As the pair get closer, it becomes apparent that Abby is a vampire and needs fresh, human blood to survive.
The film was submitted for classification in September 2010 having previously been the subject of an advice viewing by the BBFC. Advice viewings are a service available to distribution companies who require an indication of what category a film is likely to achieve based on a version that might well be incomplete (with missing scenes or with special effects to be added). The advice given is informal and the BBFC reserves the right to classify a work at a different category to the one advised when it is formally submitted in the completed version intended for release.
The film arrived with a 15 request, the same category awarded to the Swedish version, Let The Right One In. The BBFCinsight for the original version reads ‘Contains strong bloody violence and language’.
When classifying Let Me In, examiners noted strong bloody violence, horror and language as the principal classification issues. The film also contains nudity, bullying and a dark theme.
There are several scenes of strong bloody violence throughout the film. At 15, the BBFC Guidelines state that 'violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable'. The BBFC Guidelines for horror at the same category state that 'Strong threat and menace are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised'.
Notable scenes include an early murder, when the victim is strung up in a forest and drained of blood, which Abby’s guardian collects in a bottle. The incision in the man’s neck is masked by his body, but there is a lot of gushing blood and the scene immediately placed the work at a clear 15. However, examiners did not feel that this constituted one of the ‘strongest gory images’ and there is no sadism or terrorisation as the victim remains unconscious throughout. The film’s climactic scene, when Abby attacks Owen’s bullies at a swimming pool, also contains a lot of blood, with red liquid fanning out in the water and clouding around the dismembered body-parts of the victims. The images are brief and, again, were not felt to go beyond the 15 level.
Let Me In also contains a couple of scenes of clear bloody injury, the strongest of which is probably that in which a woman who has survived a vampire attack becomes a bloodsucker herself and begins gnawing at her own arm. As a nurse pulls back the curtains, light falls on the woman and we see her pulling bloody flesh between her teeth. The scene is very brief as the daylight immediately causes her to burst into flames. Strong injury detail is also seen after Owen hits his bully around the head with a metal pole, splitting his ear. Again, the strong injury is on screen for such a short time that this didn’t appear to ‘dwell on the infliction of pain and injury’.
As the violence and horror in the film take place within the very clear context of a vampire fantasy, examiners acknowledged that the likely audience would expect this kind of bloodletting. They noted that the violence ‘is not inflicted to gratify sexual or sadistic urges or to provide such gratification to the viewer’ and decided that the similarity that the violence and horror bear to that in the film’s Swedish-language predecessor, allowed it to pass at the same category, 15.
The film contains eleven uses of ‘f**k’ and this strong language also placed the work at 15, where BBFC Guidelines allow for 'frequent use of strong language (for example, 'fuck').
Examiners also noted that the film contains some moderate breast nudity, in a scene in which Owen spies on his neighbours, and that the theme of bullying is explored. Neither of the issues affected the classification decision.
Although much of the film is very similar to the Swedish Let The Right One In, some of the earlier film’s stronger tonal moments are missing from the English language version.
In the Swedish film, as in the book, we are led to believe that the young vampire character, Eli, is a castrated boy and we briefly catch a glimpse of his/her mutilated genitals as he/she gets changed. In the US version, no mention is made of this and we are left to assume that Abby is, and always was, a girl. The relationship between the Abby character and her guardian is also simplified in the US version of the film. In the book, the guardian character is a paedophile and there are hints in the Swedish film at an inappropriate relationship between the two characters. However, in the US version, we see an old photo-booth image of Abby and her guardian as children together and assume they shared a similar relationship to the one she has with Owen. The differences between the two films are likely down to cultural sensitivities and it is unlikely that the film would have been financed in the US had it explored, even in passing, subjects such as genital mutilation and paedophilia.
Let Me In was passed 15 with the BBFCinsight ‘Contains strong bloody violence, horror and language’ and the expanded version explaining the issues in detail.
The film was passed at the same category for its DVD release and was selected for National Schools Film Week in 2011.