Showtime’s Adaptation of Hit Novel & Film Lacks Bite

Dec 28, 2022

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel “Let the Right One In” has already been adapted three times, first, and most successfully, as a wildly acclaimed Swedish film by Tomas Alfredson in 2008. The Hollywood machine quickly turned that around and retitled it “Let Me In,” directed by Matt Reeves, for an underrated English-language version in 2010. It was even given a stage adaptation in Scotland in 2013, where it got some decent reviews. A television series felt kind of inevitable, and TNT had one ordered to premiere in 2017, but that version fell apart, which brings viewers to the 2022 Showtime iteration of the beloved tale of a child vampire, premiering on the cable network and its streaming service on October 9. Clearly, there’s a lot of rich material in Lindqvist’s source that inspires all these creative voices to seek to interpret it, but the people behind this version of “Let the Right One In” lose their way in the darkness, never finding the pulse of a show that’s morbidly dead on arrival.
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“Let the Right One In” starts in a familiar place but then spins off to add its own characters and mythology to this world. However, the foundation is still a vampire child and her protective guardian. In this case, the girl is Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez), who has been on the road with her father, Mark (Demián Bichir), for the last decade. They’ve been seeking a cure for the 12-year-old’s condition, the one that requires fresh blood to stay alive, and they’ve returned to New York City to follow rumors of creatures of the night stalking the streets of the city that never sleeps.
Said creatures have left some truly mangled bodies for a police officer named Naomi Cole (Anika Noni Rose), a single mother who lives with her son Isaiah (Ian Foreman). Of course, Mark & Eleanor end up moving in next door to Naomi & Isaiah, and the two children become fast friends, a pair of outcasts who see something familiar in one another. Once again, bullying plays a central thematic role as the magic-loving Isaiah faces down some truly awful classmates, and Eleanor gets involved in protecting him. Meanwhile, Mark gets a job again at a restaurant he helped found with a buddy named Zeke (Kevin Carroll), who knows about Eleanor’s condition and ends up working with Mark to protect her. And maybe even feed her.
“Let the Right One In” is truly divided into two halves as the story intercuts between the relatively familiar set-up from Lindqvist’s novel and something inspired by it instead, the tale of a sister trying to save her bloodsucking brother. When she was young, pharmaceutical magnate Arthur (Zeljko Ivanek) told his daughter Claire (Grace Gummer) that her brother Peter (Jacob Buster) was dead, but that turned out to be a lie. Claire discovers that Peter is a lot like Eleanor and that dad has been working for years trying to find a cure of his own. When he discovers he has a terminal diagnosis, Arthur brings Claire in on the project, and she endeavors to fulfill his mission with the help of a loyal assistant named Matthew (Nick Stahl).
There’s clearly a lot of talent involved in the production of “Let the Right One In.” Bichir has always been a vulnerable performer, someone who can balance the strength of a father who is willing to do anything with a human frailty that makes his plight feel genuine. He’s very good here, but he’s just not given enough to do. One could say that about everyone in the cast. It’s a show that’s constantly failing its performers when it comes to screenwriting, largely because it’s not a concept, even with the added characters, that can support a multi-season television series. There’s something immediate about the story of “Let the Right One In” in book and film form that simply slips away in the show, a program that lacks urgency in every scene. The languid pace leaves performers like Gummer, Rose, and Carroll out to dry, forcing them into conversations and plot points that feel dragged out just to get to a 10-episode season order.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about “Let the Right One In” is that the kids are the main reason to watch it. Foreman is charming in a way that gives the show life when he’s on-screen that it desperately lacks when he’s gone, and Baez has an immediacy that the show too often lacks. The scenes between Isaiah and Eleanor feel the most organic and believable, two kids stumbling their way through the world, even though one of them is immortal. The show is too often pretentious and self-serious, but enough of that falls away when Baez and Foreman are allowed to just build their relationship, which is really the key to every version of this story.
The real problem with “Let the Right One In” could be how often it strays from its source. The material with Gummer & Stahl is generic, boring genre TV stuff that just never takes emotional hold. Halfway through the season, these characters have no shape at all beyond what they’re doing with Peter. And while there is some interaction between the two halves of the show, they largely stay divided. Sure, they’re thematically connected by family members trying to cure and care for their vampiric loved ones, but that’s not quite enough to justify how much this arc steals focus from what works about the show. It’s just boring.
And that’s the biggest issue with this long-delayed version of “Let the Right One In”—it’s dull in ways that the book and films (and probably play) never were. Could it find some life again in the back half of the first season or in future ones? Possibly. The cast is definitely up for the challenge. If only the writers would give them something to sink their teeth into. [C]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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