I came in slightly late to the game with the original film. By the time I finally saw the whole thing, it had been over-hyped to the point where I expected it to be one of the greatest things ever put on film in the history of the world ever. Needless to say, my expectations were a bit too high going into it. I still loved it and thought it was great. However, I wasn't as blown away by it as everybody else. This time, I saw this version on opening weekend.

The story now takes place in 1980s New Mexico in March (apparently it still snows during March there). Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is 12-years-old and is constantly bullied by bigger kids at school. And all he wants to do is find a way to get even. Enter Abby (Chloe Moretz), a strange young girl who walks around barefoot in the snow. She lives with her apparent father (Richard Jenkins), who goes out and kills people and drains them of their blood... specially for her. But the police are on the trail of this killing spree, headed up by a main policeman (Elias Koteas). During this, however, Owen and Abby become closer to each other, despite Abby's warnings that they can't be friends.

The movie holds its own against the original. It really does. There are some things I liked better in the original, and there are some things I liked better in this remake. So let's get the comparisons out of the way immediately. This movie isn't a shot-for-shot, but it's your basic concept-by-concept. The scenes portray the same general idea (though a lot of scenes do have a very similar look). There were five main cuts/changes from the original that I noticed in this one (NOTE: If you've not seen the original and don't know the story, skip the rest of this paragraph). First, the subplot of the townspeople/community was changed to people who just live in the same complex as Owen. I actually liked this change, as I didn't care for the townspeople angle in the original film. The second is how the father kills people; in this one, he hides out in their cars and waits for them to come to a desolate stop. Not too bad. The third is the whole segment where the main boy goes to his father's house. There's still turmoil between his parents, but he never goes to visit him. This is another change I didn't mind. Finally, the scene I knew wouldn't be shown: the castration scar. Abby says plenty of times that she's not a girl, but for those uninitiated with the story, most will infer that she means she's a vampire--not that she's a boy. There's actually the scene where he peeks on her getting dressed; they just don't show what he sees like the original does. Finally, unlike the original movie, this one basically comes straight out and tells you that "the father" was an old friend/lover, similar to how Owen is starting out. I liked this addition, despite the original's ambiguity in letting you figure it out on your own.

Anyway, now we have the comparisons out of the way, let's focus on this one, shall we? The acting is superb. Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee are outstanding. I actually forgot I was watching two kid actors (which is especially good with Moretz, who has the Hit-Girl stigma hanging over her). Richard Jenkins plays the troubled and conflicted father-figure well, too. And the main bully was just totally mean/nasty. And I was also totally into Elias Koteas' policeman character, which I don't remember being as big a role in the original, though I haven't seen it in a while. Regardless, he was great.

The cinematography was great, as well. I don't think it was as breathtaking as the original (I know, I said I would stop...), but it was definitely up there. I loved a lot of the camera choices Matt Reeves made, particularly when we had a stationary camera inside a car, so where everything else was moving expect the camera--like in a particularly trippy car crash scene. Overall, everything was great to look at in that regard. Though everything really came down to how they would film the climax, being the scene that grasped so many people in the original. For the most part, it's very similar, but the camera angle is different and there's a lot more blood. The jury's still out on which climax I preferred.

My biggest issue with the film (besides the name change) is the CGI. When Abby goes vamp-mode, they have her in some insanely disturbing and creepy makeup. It looks totally awesome (though they do give her a deeper voice to go with it, which was strange). However, when she's doing vamp-power things, like attacking people or climbing a tree or something like that, it's this silly CGI figure with monkey-like movements. You can tell it isn't real, even though there's never a close up on it. The biggest "why?" moment is relatively early on when Abby has to feed on somebody. She's already in this guy's arms, but then she starts bouncing all over him to attack him in a very CGI-fashion instead of just biting him and knocking him over. Fortunately, there are maybe only 3 or so of these CGI moments throughout the entire film, so you don't have to deal with them much.

The film is very visceral. There are quite a few blood and cringe moments in the film. Now, it's not a slasher/horror or anything like that. It's actually a very quiet film, much like the original. It's just that when one of the violent moments comes up, the violence is amped up and made much more brutal. Again, I liked this change.

The last thing I wanted to touch on is the musical score. The score is just beautiful, and it matches every scene perfectly. That's really all there is to it.

Overall, the movie is fantastic. It's a solid rival for the original. As I said before, some things I liked better in the original (from how some things were handled to how a scene was shot) and some things I liked better in this remake (certain cuts/changes). The acting is superb. The cinematography is really good, though the random CGI moments could have been toned down. This film was very well done and put together. Should people still see the original? Totally. But this was definitely a high class remake.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. I found it funny that there were quite a few 7-13-year-old girls in my showing. There was even a mom with a girl who couldn't have been any older than 5. Thankfully, they were able to keep quiet for most of the film, except for the preteens giggling at serious moments. I just felt bad for that real little girl.)

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