‘Let the Right One In’ review: The Showtime series is a smart extension

After John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel, Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film and Matt Reeves’ 2010 remake, Andrew Hinderaker manages to reshape history in a new direction.

Like a vampire impervious to exposition, “Let the Right One In” is one of the very few stories to not only survive multiple adaptations, but to thrive with each new iteration. The book that started it all, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel, became a best-seller before the author worked with Tomas Alfredson to create what Roger Ebert later called “the best modern vampire movie.” . Then Matt Reeves came along with the inevitable American remake, and even 2010’s “Let Me In” received rave reviews. Yes, some have cited redundancies between the two horror films, but seeing a strange tale of loneliness reach a wider audience – without the core complexities of the original being dumbed down or belittled – proved more important than anything. overlap.

Yet after three recitations of a tender friendship between a bullied 12-year-old boy and his vampire neighbor who looks as a teenager, other narratives demanded significant changes — and Showtime’s new series of the same name, “Let the Right One In,” brings many changes. On the one hand, the often enigmatic father figure of previous entries is sharply defined, as Demián Bichir largely fills the spotlight with his character. As a result, the “children’s” friendship is just one of many relationships developed in showrunner Andrew Hinderaker’s series, which places greater emphasis on parent-child dynamics through the initial six episodes.

Such extensions make sense for an ongoing TV show, and even a clunky C-plot about a big pharmaceutical family’s attempts to cure vampirism manages to stay on theme. At times, “Let the Right One In” conforms too much to TV’s prestige book (a standalone episode later in the season fails to capture what makes similar entries so powerful), but it still explores the nuances of gray between good and bad, as well as the loneliness that can plague unfamiliar children and career-minded adults. Best of all, it’s an elegant production, which deftly juxtaposes the intimacy of its personal relationships with particularly vicious and visceral vampire attacks. Horror fans should be as happy as those who only know the franchise, especially if the first season ends with the bold choices predicted by previous editions.

Madison Taylor Baez in “Let the Right One In”

Emily Aragones/SHOWTIME

Mark Kane (Bichir) finally returns home. After 10 years of wandering from place to place, the once-coveted chef returns to the Big Apple with a trunk containing his most prized possessions – well, a prized possession. When Mark throws his arm across the dark chest and taps his fingers along the side, something inside claps back. Later, after dragging the storage bin to his new apartment, where he darkens the windows and refuses help from a kind neighbor, he opens the trunk to reveal: his daughter, Ellie (Madison Taylor Baez).

Ellie, as you may have already guessed, is a vampire. His eyes glow in the dark. She can climb just about anything and moves quickly. And yes, she drinks blood – human blood, which her father supplies her with his own arm as soon as she emerges from her makeshift travel coffin. Mark and Ellie have been on the run for a decade in order to protect them both: Ellie can’t be discovered (for obvious reasons), and the methods Mark uses to feed her mean he can’t be discovered either. . But New York has been plagued by a slew of murders. Penn Station is all but abandoned as tourists choose to avoid America’s top destination for fear of never returning home. But a town’s pain is Mark and Ellie’s gain, as the resourceful dad thinks he can keep his daughter well-fed without raising too much suspicion by blaming her murders on the unknown serial killer.

But what Mark doesn’t realize is that his nice new neighbor is also an NYPD homicide detective. Not only does Naomi (Anika Noni Rose) investigate the multitude of deaths, but she also has a young son, Isaiah (Ian Foreman), who appears to be the same age as Ellie. Soon, the two children befriend each other out of empathy and necessity; Isaiah has a natural buoyancy to him – the sweet energy of a little boy who just wants to show off his magic tricks. But that same nerdy good nature makes him a bit of a social pariah and the target of bullies, and (as in previous versions of “Let the Right One In”) that’s where Ellie comes in – as a faithful friend and fierce defender.

Despite its broader focus and a proliferation of characters, “Let the Right One In” is still invested in how circumstances can create various forms of loneliness and how they are all overcome through the kindness of others. In this and every other respect, casting Bichir is a brilliant decision. The Mexican actor exudes skill and compassion in equal measure. You believe he is capable of killing without getting caught, just as you feel the pain of taking a life to preserve his daughter’s. Hinderaker’s scripts also don’t skimp on the practical difficulties of getting away with murder or the emotional toll it takes on Mark, as each just builds more walls around a man who already lives in an apartment without windows.

Let the good in the Showtime series Kevin Carroll as Zeke Dawes in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN,

Kevin Carroll in “Let the Good In”

Francisco Roman/SHOWTIME

Ellie, Isaiah and Naomi deal with similar forms of self-isolation and social isolation, and the series advances each of her relationships – father/daughter, mother/son, brother/sister, new and old friends – by highlighting the importance and uniqueness of these shared ties. (It’s amazing how quickly Bichir and Kevin Carroll — of “The Leftovers” fame — create a camaraderie strong enough to endure the unimaginable hardships involved in protecting a vampire child.) But “Let the Right One In “is not a horror show without scares. The opening scene sees a vampire go up in flames (in a bit of an homage to several scenes from the original film). Blood flows from eyes, ears and hair follicles. Bodies are drained into buckets and necks are not just pierced, but chewed. Life may be about relationships, but in this world it’s also sustained by wild, often uncontrollable violence.

Director Seith Mann captures much of the action through similar contradictions. Yet conversations are interrupted by rapid movements. Towering shadows are separated by pale yellow lights. Rather than using black and white to represent good and evil, the color palette promotes the proper contrast of night and day. A revealing confrontation is framed in an ultra-wide shot, where the two battling subjects are centered in a swirling mix of what can be seen under streetlights and what’s hidden in the dark – you don’t know who.” should ‘win, just like you’ I don’t know if it’s better to move towards the light or further into the darkness. (Yellows are cleverly placed throughout the series, such as in Ellie’s bedroom — aka, a windowless bathroom lined with sunny tiles.)

“Let the Right One In” doesn’t capture as distinct an atmosphere as Alfredson’s film, nor did it exemplify its unforgiving depths or fiery heights. Hinderaker tends to provide explicit answers where the story can be better served by subjective fan interpretations, and not every member of the ensemble can match Bichir and Carroll’s command. But with three episodes remaining in the first season, the ending is poised to push things to accommodate the extremes, and the set-up, while sometimes overly polished, is confident and compelling. (For what it’s worth, I got through six episodes.) Showtime’s series won’t convince anyone it’s the best adaptation yet, but there’s still reason enough to welcome Ellie into your home.

Category B

“Let the Right One In” premieres Sunday, October 9 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. New episodes will be released every week, and the first one is available for free.

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