Monday, February 06, 2023

Let the Right One In – Season 1 – review

Director: Various

First Aired: 2022

Contains spoilers

Some time ago I wrote an article for online magazine Vamped entitled Defending Abby: Nothing Wrong with ‘Let the Right One In’ Remakes. It addressed the unjustified, in my opinion, vitriol Let Me In received – a film I still feel is one of the best vampire films ever made and superior to the also superb Swedish film Let the Right One In.

I also addressed the hate a proposed TV adaptation was getting, sight unseen. Indeed so sight unseen that I do not believe that this adaptation is the one they talked of at that point, rather that this is so far removed, time-wise, it is a different adaptation. I still believe that there is room for more adaptations of the book and I believe that a series that took not only the vampire premise, but also some of the real world horror addressed in the novel, would be one of the darkest TV series ever made.

peeking out the case

This adaptation is not that and, unfortunately, I think that this adaptation draws very short of what it should be. Indeed, it took me a while to get through the series as it failed to hold my attention and, though late to the show, I was far from surprised when I heard that it had been cancelled before I finished watching it. Now I do not believe that an adaptation has to embrace all from the source material, especially when the timeframe and location are radically changed, but there were some elements of this where the choices were ill-conceived and it was worse for it.

Madison Taylor Baez as Elanor

So, our Eli/Abby character is now Elanor (Madison Taylor Baez), who was 12 when turned. However, that turning took place only 10-years before. This means that she is not the vampire of great, but undetermined, age of the two films. I realise the book keeps her mentally at the age of turning so there was no need to play the character older, but the short time frame didn’t gel. More so because her companion Mark (Demián Bichir) is actually her father. The predatory nature of the Håkan character of the book and to a degree the Swedish film, and the grooming of her companion, which the US film explicitly suggested, are gone. As she is Mark’s daughter, we know that the gender queering/trans element that was in the book (and shown in a “blink and miss it” moment in the Swedish release, whilst virtually lost in the US film) has been totally removed.

Ian Foreman as Isaiah

The Oskar/Owen character is now Isaiah (Ian Foreman) and whilst bullied, like his counterparts, he has none of the internal darkness that the other incarnations had (in fact quite the opposite). Nor does he fight back against the bullies, with Elanor’s guidance. Rather she swoops in and solves the bullying with a quick confrontation and broken finger early in the season. Isaiah’s father (Ato Essandoh) is a recovering junky (and active pusher) who goes missing (murdered) early in the season and his mother an homicide cop (Anika Noni Rose) who happens to be working a case of brutal, animalistic attacks.

vampire ape

These attacks are by junkies who are using a new drug that gives them some vampiric side effects – with the inventor (Claire Logan) using it to fund herself as she searches for a cure for vampirism for her brother (Jacob Buster). The idea of vampire-like drugs has been done before, of course, and the idea that this vampirism is a virus didn’t sit well with the supernatural elements (like needing to be invited, which still causes haemorrhages if it doesn’t happen). The vampires burn in sunlight, which again feels rather supernatural given the ferocity of the blaze (this is an inferno, not extreme sunburn) and do not seem to be able to self-heal. The vampire-like drug-users seem to be forgotten really quite early on in the season but we do get vampire apes (though not much more than them being interesting window dressing as they are lab animals). The first half of the season has two timelines out of kilter and doesn’t tell you until they converge but that was not a massive issue.

crispy vampire

The series just didn’t work well for me – for instance Demián Bichir is a fine actor but the character’s actions (which have been occurring for 10-years) are utterly at odds with his Catholic sensibilities and guilt (made manifest towards the end of the season by the hallucinations of a mocking Catholic priest (Michael Patrick Thornton)). The father/daughter dynamic is meant to be a public display, reversed in private, but it was the actual relationship. Overall, the worst thing is, I just didn’t care for the characters… at all. 4 out of 10 is generous. It might help if you can divorce it from the source, but it wasn’t like one of those vehicles that are nothing like the source but still brilliant, and it certainly showed an abject failure to understand what made the source so powerful. I still say a decent TV adaptation would be welcome – although this might have put a nail in that coffin for a while.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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