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Will the American mainstream get to let the right one in?

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As fan interest in, and backlash to, the American remake of ‘Let the Right One In’ has streamed in over the past year, its principals have said that fans of the original should hold their judgment. ‘If I didn’t feel a personal connection and feel it could be its own film, I wouldn’t be doing [a remake],’ director Matt Reeves told my colleague Mark Olsen last year. ‘I hope people give us a chance.’

Here’s hoping they have the opportunity.
The major management shakeup at Overture last week threw a number of previously ironclad realities into question. Chief among them was the status of ‘Let Me In,’ Reeves’ take on the Tomas Alfredson coming-of-age-vampire movie that bowled over art house and genre audiences in 2008.

The original, which examined a loner named Oskar and his tender friendship with the oddball vampire Eli, created an exquisite mood and even more exquisite ending. It picked up a hard-core cadre of fans and also caught the attention of Hammer Films, a sales agent and producer that came on board to remake the Swedish hit it long before the film developed a cult following in the U.S. Reeves, hot off his ‘Cloverfield’ debut, soon joined too. Scenes were shot, trailers were cut, and one of the many in-development foreign-language remakes finally was on its way to the screen.

But last week, in something of a surprise, it was announced that Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett, Overture’s top dogs and co-founders, would be leaving the company. Overture had been on the sales block for nearly a year, as owner John Malone and Liberty Media looked to exit the film business (and a buyer who would help them achieve that). Without that, Malone decided to retool, slim down, other euphemisms reserved for people who don’t want to be in a business anymore. Chris Albrecht, the head of Overture parent Starz, was stepping in to oversee the film division.

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All these moves threw into question several upcoming releases, most notably the Oct. 1 roll-out of ‘Let Me In.’

Sources say that Overture, which declined comment for this story, is still planning to release the film along the lines of its initial plan of 1,200-plus screens. Reeves and the film’s stars are still planning on coming to Comic-Con, so the publicity wheels are in motion, and so are the marketing ones. At the very least, the film won’t get lost on the watch of Peter Adee, the canny marketing veteran who has been bumped up to run Overture’s day-to-day operations in the wake of the McGurk-Rosett departure.

But sources with knowledge of the Overture situation also say that nothing is certain when it comes to the banner’s upcoming films, much less for ‘Let Me In.’ The fate of the vampire film and two other finished movies (Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, ‘Jack Goes Boating,’ and Robert DeNiro crime drama titled ‘Stone’) will depend heavily on Albrecht, who has several options before him.

Holding back ‘Let Me In’ would be one possible, but not likely, move, as Liberty uses the film as a bargaining chip of sorts for the several suitors who have circled Overture. (We say not likely because when you have the gun ready to fire, as the ‘Let Me In’ marketing team does, you don’t take your hand off the trigger. And it Liberty can’t find a buyer by October, it probably won’t find one anyway.)

More likely, ‘Let Me In’ comes out on schedule in October, but without as much marketing support as it might have gotten when Malone was actually keen to stay in the film business. That would keep the film confined to a narrow audience, creating a particularly ironic situation since one of the main reasons you remake ‘Let the Right One In’ in the first place is to broaden its audience.

It’s also possible that Albrecht decides to hold back ‘Let Me In’ so that the company could raise some cash for its release. (P&A investors, as these people are called, are usually among the easiest moneymen to find.) That could mean the movie indeed gets the marketing support it deserves -- it just doesn’t come out in October.

In LeBron-like fashion, Albrecht has yet to make a decision about the film on the slate in general, say people familiar with his thought processes, though in his previous life as HBO chief he developed ‘True Blood,’ so at the very least has a soft spot for vampire movies.

Long before the latest business drama, there were reasons for fans to be worried when Hammer and its distribution/co-financing partner Overture stepped in. Could you replicate the Gothic mood created by Alfredson and screenwriter-novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist -- and if you could, why would you? A trailer that highlights the horror elements instead of teasing out the metaphors for adolescent sexuality, as the first one did, gave reason for pause. (‘Among ordinary people...something wicked lives’ is part of the tagline here, and there are a couple of ‘Omen'-like shots that suggest the horror but not the heart.)
Then again, Chloe Moretz as Eli should hearten anyone who wants to see some sensitive but tough-minded acting, providing she doesn’t overdo her wiseacre persona made popular in ‘Kick-Ass’ and '(500) Days of Summer.’ Richard Jenkins, who plays a kind of father-figure/manipulator figure, is always a joy to watch. And Overture/Hammer should get credit for not aging up the characters in the scurrilous hope of piggybacking on ‘Twilight’ interest.

Even if it’s a shaky effort, the passion with which the filmmakers defended it was a reason to want to see this one through. And if nothing else, a large-scale release would call more attention to the original, an entirely welcome and necessary development -- assuming that large-scale is still possible. As Oskar could tell you, sometimes justice is a cruel monster.

--Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT


Monster with a human touch

Matt Reeves: From Cloverfield to Let the Right One In

Overture Films chiefs Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett Exit


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