Thursday, October 06, 2022

Let the Right One In, on Showtime

Traditionally, vampires were tall, dark, and handsome, lustily populating hot-blooded, sexually-charged gothic horror stories. Then Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel introduced viewers to a tiny, pale vampire leading a lonely existence in a bleak, frigid Scandinavian suburb. Now, Showtime’s series adaptation relocates its story to New York City. So much for that distinctive vibe. At least there is still a twelve-year-old (looking) vampire in creator Andrew Hinderaker’s Let the Right One In, which premieres tomorrow on Showtime.

Eleanor Kane and her father Mark move around a lot, because she is a vampire. They have finally returned to New York (which always reminds people of Blackeberg, Sweden), because her dad hopes finding the vampire who attacked and turned Eleanor a decade ago will hopefully lead to a possible cure.

Of course, “young” Kane will be home-schooled and kept safely locked inside the apartment. He will do all her hunting, just like Eli’s old familiar in the film. Despite his caution, she still manages to befriend Isaiah Cole, the bullied little boy living next door. That inevitably alarms her protective father, especially when he learns Cole’s mother is a NYPD detective. Yet, he is also happy to see her finally making friends and enjoying herself.

Big Daddy Kane believes he might have stumbled across a lead during his blood-hunting, after he kills a junkie exhibiting vampire-like symptoms. For background on the new designer drug, the desperate father targets a low-level pusher, who just happens to be Isaiah’s dead-beat dad. Small world, right? This is all somehow connected to Claire Logan, a brilliant medical researcher, who just learned a few months prior she had a shocking connection to the undead.

Right, there is a lot here fans of the Swedish
Right One (or the American Los Alamos-set remake) will not recognize. Look, I do not want to always be the “Remake Cop,” but what made Alfredson’s film and the St. Ann Warehouse theatrical production so special was the chilly, austere vibe (it snowed on stage and it was magical). That is not here. Yes, it incorporates the outsider friendship that blooms between Eleanor and Isaiah, but her relationship with her father takes precedence in the series. By calling it Let the Right One In, Hinderaker is inviting these comparisons, so why not create something entirely new, or at least call it From the World of Let the Right One In or Let Another Right One In or whatever.

That would have better served the series, because once fans get past their disappointment over how the urban chaos that squeezed out all the original’s Spartan intimacy, they might appreciate the things that works. Demian Bichir is terrific as Kane, especially the way he portrays how the desperate father holds on to his Catholic faith. Based on the first five episodes,
Right One is surprisingly faith-friendly, without ever getting preachy.

Young thesps Madison Taylor Baez and Ian Forman are quite professional and appealingly sympathetic playing Eleanor and Isaiah. Anika Noni Rose and Jimmie Saito (as Cole and her partner Ben Jones) also have good cop chemistry together doing all the police procedural business.

Initially, the idea of the Nosferatu drug is intriguing, but the attempt to suggest an analogy between vampirism and the opioid is a misguided eye-roller. Ultimately, the subplots involving the Logans are simply too far removed the themes of friendship and loneliness that made previous
Right Ones so memorable—and still connects pretty well in this one too.

The recognizable elements from Lindqvist and Alfredson still retain their power, but a lot of the “new” stuff feels overly familiar from all the other vampire films and series that have come before (like
Blade II, etc.). There are a lot of worthy performances in this Right One, but the other two new vampire series, Reginald the Vampire and Interview with the Vampire both manage to be more original, while better keeping faith with their source material. Ultimately, Hinderaker’s Let the Right One In is too much like every other vampire franchise, except the one it is rebooting. It starts streaming tomorrow (10/7), on Showtime.