Feature photo credit: (L-R): Madison Taylor Baez as Eleanor and Ian Foreman as Isaiah in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, “Anything for Blood”. Photo Credit: Francisco Roman/SHOWTIME.
Like Jim Mickle’s 2013 We Are What We Are and Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria, Showtime’s Let the Right One In is more a successful reimagining than a remake of the 2008 Swedish film of the same name, becoming its own entity with characters viewers can become emotionally invested in.
Discerning horror audiences know that the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In has become a classic. Based on the brilliant novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the film brings in themes of police drama, latchkey kids, and classic horror tropes that meld beautifully within this understated story about a lonely child vampire and a bullied boy. The 2010 remake, Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Khodi-Smith McPhee and Richard Jenkins, was solid and brought in some aspects of the novel not used in the original film, winning over many critics. There was also a stage adaptation, bringing a new 3-dimensional representation that would have been quite a show to see. In 2022, The Showtime series created a whole new animal with a whole new set of stakes (no pun intended), and I’m here for it.
Mark Kane (Demián Bichir) and his daughter Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez) move into a new apartment in New York. They aren’t friendly and keep to themselves. Isaiah Cole (Ian Foreman) and his mom Naomi (Anika Noni Rose), an NYPD detective, live next door. Isaiah is a sweet kid, obsessed with magic tricks and mercilessly bullied. A chance encounter with Eleanor, or Ellie, starts a burgeoning friendship and fierce, inexplicable bond. The only problem is that Ellie is a vampire. She’s 20 years old in the body of a 12-year-old, and her father, Mark, is determined to find a cure. His research takes him into an intricate web of big pharma, old friends and a complicated relationship with Isaiah and Naomi.
Foreman and Baez have such a wonderful, sweet rapport that makes me hope they’re best friends in real life. As a child-free person by choice, Foreman makes me wish Isaiah was my kid, eliciting from me a fierce protectiveness that Ellie enacts effortlessly. They are the show’s driving force, and the peripheral story arcs orbit their pure relationship in a smart and effective way. The rest of the cast is quite satisfying too. Grace Cummer as Claire Logan, a woman estranged from her big pharma father, Arthur Logan (Zeljko Ivanek), and Jacob Buster as her brother Peter make up a wealthy family also dealing with the vampiric affliction. Kevin Carroll as Mark’s best friend Zeke plays out more as the duo’s devoted extended family, and actor Nick Stahl is back too, starring as Matthew, the ex-military bodyguard to Arthur Logan. Stahl still has a place in my heart as Ben Hawkins from the hit and gone to soon series Carnivale. Let’s not forget Rose, whose solid performance was only made better by sneaking in a chance for her to sing to remind or introduce people to her Tony-award-winning talent.
The fact that these characters are people of colour isn’t lost on me. Finding horror and genre films and TV shows with well-rounded POC characters is my whole raison d’etre, and a show that brings in any representation will get me watching a few episodes to see if they get things right, and it does here. Showrunner Andrew Hinderaker created a believable world where a Latine family experiences a supernatural tragedy and a Black single mom who’s a cop deals with her sweet nerdy son missing his struggling father and the lost family unit. Both these families deal with human and not-so-human issues. The moral code by which characters live is on a sliding scale, and viewers may question them, but at the heart of it lies the bond between a parent and their child. It’s warmer and fuzzier than the original film by leaps and bounds, but for this series, it works. I’ve noticed films like My Heart Won’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, Bones and All, and We Are What We Are all come from a position of class division too. These people aren’t wealthy and move within the invisible masses who get by in a capitalist society. The parallel storyline of a family of means experiencing the same predicament as Mark and Ellie is also really clever and highlights this point.
Some life experiences can be universal, but I understand when a show has to be translated for North American audiences, where viewers are from a racially mixed demographic. That leads to the whole problem because I’m not sure Showtime shares a competitive number of POC viewers, especially since they’ve teamed up with BET (SHOxBET) to target Black audiences, which might skew ratings and force a series like this to the overflowing “Shows with POC Representation But Died Due to Low Network Ratings” graveyard, but that’s not exactly what happened. A merging of channels into Paramount+ has cancelled the show, with the option to perhaps be revived at a later date. Several outlets cited that the show is being shopped around since it took years to make it to the small screen.
Let The Right One In has a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, perhaps because diehards don’t want the source material messed with, even though there are nuggets of the original film spread out through the episodes. I completely understand this type of loyalty, but like the 2018 version of Suspiria, the series is reworked to have its own identity so that it can be continued—not a small feat by any means. I admit that the first episode left me lukewarm, but after watching more episodes, the show has heart, chemistry within the cast and countless nail-biting moments. The team of writers–which includes Mfoniso Udofia, who is also an executive producer, and Ren Dara Santiago, both people of colour—painstakingly intersects stories and timelines to create a flow that pulls you into a relentless current of events.
The low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes make me wonder if some critics are biased because the characters aren’t typical stereotypes, or perhaps they didn’t give the series a chance and tapped out early. I can at least take comfort in the audience score at a healthy 86%, so here’s hoping that stands for something. A few scenes will also connect with POC viewers, which might explain the high audience score, like when Mark gets into a fender bender rushing back to Ellie. A white Karen stander-by, plus Mark’s treatment by the cop who intervenes, is indicative of a POC’s guilt-by-skin-colour experience.
It’s a terrible shame that such a well-crafted show has fallen due to big business mergers and mixed reviews. I suggest anyone interested should check the series out while it’s still available. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, invested and witness some great storytelling; overall, we desperately need this type of show in genre TV, and who knows? Let The Right One In might prove to be just as resilient as its vampire cast, released from the shadows and living another life on a more stable network.
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