Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Swedish Vampire comes to America

I was captivated by John Ajvide Lindqvist’s wonderfully chilling 2007 novel “Let The Right One In”, and the subsequent Swedish film adaptation [with English subtitles] which shared the same title. They say the main difference in Britain and America are our different usages of the English Language, because Lindqvist’s title was truncated for US audiences to ‘Let Me In’ in both novel and the upcoming US cinema adaptation.

I was delighted to attend a private screening in London [thanks to Lucy Ramsey of Quercus Publishing], of the US film version which was attended by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Now normally most of us would not be too excited by US remakes, as many disappoint. The most depressing example [for me] was the terrible mess that was the US-remade version of ‘The Vanishing’ [1993] featuring the usually reliable Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. The original 1988 French / Dutch Co-Production of ‘The Vanishing’ remains burned into my retinas as one of the bleakest looks at the banality of evil. I had high hopes for the US version as George Sluizer the director of the original was also holding the helm of the US remake. I was very disappointed as the US version was completely forgettable, and ended with a ‘Hollywood’ style action-ending. The original novel and film ‘Spoorloos’ written by Tim Krabbe and Todd Graff [respectively] remains chillingly embedded in my memory, especially the shocking climax. sums it up well –

Spoorloos represents one of the most extraordinary realisations of the psychological thriller captured on film. The heartbreaking, yet horrific ending of the film leaves the spectator in no doubt of their own vulnerability in the battle of human nature against a society in which random acts of madness occur.

On many levels comparisons can be drawn by the obsessive nature of both protagonists. The obsessive curiosity of the boyfriend, Rex (Gene Bervoets), to reveal what has happened to his girlfriend, Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege), who was abducted from a service station on route to a holiday destination, is mirrored by the abductor's, Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), own curiosity of human nature's darker side, and its ability to manifest itself through evil deeds. The abductor's approach and rationale are entirely scientific, thus allowing him to distance himself emotionally from the actual deed. This approach allows him the luxury of maintaining a seemingly happy marriage and family life, unlike the boyfriend, whose very ability to have insight and uncalculated emotions causes his ultimate demise.

Read more

If you’ve not read ‘Spoorloos’ or seen the 1998 film version, then I would urge you to seek them out. But as ever I digress.

So my verdict of the US version ‘Let Me In’?

Well I would give both the Novel and original Swedish film ‘Let The Right One In’ a 4-star rating, and the US version I would state for the record may well be even better than the source material – It’s that good. But I will warn you that the novel like the two films are not for your Grandmother, unless she likes horror stretched across the bleakest of canvases.

Though the US version is ‘reworked’ but this tinkering is carried out expertly, ensuring the bleakness and atmosphere retained. I was initially fearful that the US version would try and remove the bleakness and go for the romantic angle, epitomized by the recent surge of interest in the teenage vampire craze from True Blood, Twilight, or the SF angle of Daybreakers, I am Legend. Instead Matt Reeves, steers the move along the same thematic path of the originals. Though the pedophile angle is reduced, almost eliminated but this is done with great skill, building instead upon the theme of love / friendship between the vampire and her ‘helper’ and what it means to grow old. The film made me jump from my seat several times, as there are real shocks, and the sequences of the vampire in fast-motion staggering. This not a film for the squeamish, and if you are looking for a romantic night out, you’ll be disappointed. The tale is transported from a run-down housing estate in Sweden to a small housing estate in Los Alamos, an equally unsettling backdrop for this tale of teenage alienation. The photography is breathtaking, with the snowy backdrop perfect for seeing the crimson flow when blood is shed, and there is a lot of bloodshed. The ending closes the film in a wonderful loop and makes you think about the vagaries of friendship, and the consequences of those ties.

When I spoke to John Ajvide Lindqvist after the movie he was genuinely delighted with this version. Though he noted, and we discussed the differences from his original novel and the Swedish film [which he loved]. He told me he was delighted with what Matt Reeves and his US team had achieved. He kindly signed a copy of his latest novel Harbour and we chatted about how much we had enjoyed The World Horror Convention in Brighton earlier in the year. This delighted Stephen Jones [who was also present at the screening] - the mastermind behind the event with his organizing team.

Considering the success of Quercus Publishing with Stieg Larsson, I joked with their Chairman, David Potter saying it seems that Quercus seem to specialists in Swedish Literature. He laughed and said “….well you know we have Roslund and Hellstrom joining our stable shortly….but seriously we have plenty of non-Swedish work in the stable”.

I would recommend you explore the dark novels and films of John Ajvide Lindqvist, because his work really challenges your thinking and view of the world – The trailers for both films are below -

Let The Right One In [2009] – Trailer

Let Me In Trailer [2010]

Special Thanks to Lucy Ramsey – Publicity Director at Quercus Publishing for organising the screening and for generously hosting the John Ajvide Lindqvist reception party at WHC2010 in Brighton.

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