Cloverfield director Matt Reeves appeared at the SXSW Directing the Dead panel this afternoon, where he joined directors Neil Marshall, Ti West, Robert Rodriguez and Ruben Flesicher to discuss the ins and outs of horror filmmaking. During a discussion about the current spate of remakes, Reeves offered a few insights about Let Me In, his upcoming remake of the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, and answered some of the potential criticisms of tackling such revered source material.
“I think it ultimately comes down to your sort of respect and commitment to the material,” Reeves said to a packed auditorium on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center in Texas. “If I were on the outside, I would be worried about just the same things - that there’s a kind of bastardization of the material. Would you take it and just add explosions or one-liners and do whatever might Americanize the story. In my case, I so responded to the story [and] it actually was way in advance of when the original film came out here.”
Reeves revealed that he was so enthusiastic about the novel that he wrote its author to seek his blessing. “I read the novel and I wrote to the author, John Linquist,” he said. “I said the thing about it was it just so reminded me of my childhood. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I wrote to him and I said, ‘I’m so drawn to this material. They’re talking about doing a remake. I just want to say that I’m really drawn to this but I’m drawn to it not because it’s a great genre story, which I do believe it is and I think what Tomas did with the movie was fantastic, just brilliant.’ I said it was really about my personal connection to it.”
“He wrote me back and he was very, very kind,” Reeves continued. “He said, ‘Listen, I have to tell you I’m a big fan of Cloverfield and it’s because you’ve taken sort of an old story, tried and true, and done it in a fresh way. That’s what I tried to do with this but I’m much more excited to know that it affected you personally because it’s my autobiography.”
So in love was Reeves with the material when he initially saw Let the Right One In that he insisted that any remake, whether he directed it or not, should not change several elements that he thought were key to its success – including the fact that it was already a great movie to begin with. “The people who gave me the film to look at in the first place, I had just finished my film, I’d been trying to get some things made, and they said, ‘Take a look at this film. We think you might respond to it. We want to try and get the rights from the Swedish producers. Maybe you’ll want to make the kids older. Who knows what you want to do?’ I watched it and said, ‘Well, here’s my response. Number one, if you make the kids older, you literally ruin the film. So please don’t do that. Number two, I’m not sure you should remake this film’ was my response. Then I read the novel and it just sort of dug into me.”
Reeves said that's what was key to him in reinterpreting the material is what he believes are integral to any remake. “I think it comes down to, in terms of doing a remake, what your intensions are,” Reeves said. “Whether you are interested in running roughshod over something or whether or not you are trying to bring something of yourself to it and being committed to and respecting where it comes from. I have such tremendous respect for that story. At the same time, it so resonates with me personally and I thought there’s an interesting opportunity.” Reeves also observed that his film will not replace either the original film or the novel.
“The original will always exist,” he said. “You’ll always be able to see that film. I think it’s kind of a masterpiece. It’s a beautiful film. The book also will always exist. This is another interpretation of that story which hopefully people will give us a chance, and they’ll take a look at and see how they feel about it but it is very intentioned in a sort of respectful way, while at the same time hoping to bring something new.”