‘Let the right one in’ could have just died

Showtime’s ten-episode series aims to recapture some of the horror and intrigue of this new classic story, but fails on most levels.

Let the right one come in the series

Showtime

By Valerie Ettenhofer · Published on October 10, 2022

John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the right one in is a disturbing story that, along with a child vampire, also includes an adult predator. Thomas Alfredson The acclaimed Swedish film adaptation loses some of the book’s narrower elements in favor of an artistic and dark story of loneliness and love. Matt Reeves’ remake, let me in, streamlined Alfredson’s new classic for American audiences. A new Showtime reboot marks the third on-screen adaptation of the captivating story, but unfortunately, the latest iteration is a mostly unrecognizable slog.

Penny Dreadful writer Andrew Hinderaker created the new Let the right one in, a ten-episode series that bears only the faintest resemblance to any version of its source material. This time, a chef named Mark (Demián Bichir) kills to feed his vampire daughter, Ellie (Madison Taylor Baez), in New York City, but much more than the location of the story has changed. The series not only gives Mark and Ellie a tragic family backstory, but also overloads its screen time with several unprecedented arcs, many of which add little interest to the story.

Grace Gummer plays an alienated genius who experiments on primates to save the life of her vampire brother. Anika Noni Rose plays an NYPD homicide detective who happens to be the paranoid (though the series presents her conspiratorial thinking as savvy) mother of Ellie’s bullied new friend, Isaiah (Ian Foreman). There’s also a pill on the street that appears to dose addicts with vampire-like abilities. Yeah, it definitely isn’t Let the right one in that you know and love.

The show’s biggest flaw is that it cares more about plot than mood, veering away from the painful loneliness, profound sacrifice, and all-too-human bloodlust that made the original compelling in favor of a story bogged down by its own lackluster stories. Unfortunately, it also suffers from some mediocre scripts. Even among procedurals, the so-called banter between Rose’s Naomi and her detective partner feels borderline self-parody, and it’s impossible not to get hung up on why this project would ever choose to have cops do speculative walk-and-talks in the first place.

If an actor seems stilted, it could be a casting problem. But if several actors, including Tony winner Rose and former Oscar nominee Bichir – two enormously talented performers – seem to miss the mark, there are problems with the script or the director. Bichir salvages some of his screen time, and the show’s focus on a parent’s selfless love and the toll it takes is perhaps its best quality. That is, apart from the young star Madison Taylor Baez, who is far from the highlight of the series. In just her second on-screen role (she also played young Selena in Selena: The Series), Baez is confident and riveting, always the most interesting subject on screen whenever she appears. Her Ellie is less aloof than previous versions, but if the six episodes available for review are any indication, she’s just as capable of dark deeds.

It’s hard to parse this story from the indelible versions that came before it, but if viewers come to it cold, unaware that there are any superior variations of this story, I’m still not sure the story would be a success. With the exception of a backstory episode late in the season that includes some beautifully executed surprises, very little in this story isn’t obvious. If a man hatches a plan to finally show up to his son for the first time in years, you better bet he ends up stumbling into the exact twist of fate that makes it impossible. If an officer has a bad feeling in her gut, she’s probably right. If there’s a breakthrough in the lab, you know it needs to be tested on humans. Very little here is unpredictable, and the result is a mostly lifeless watch, even exempt from any comparison to previous adaptations.

Any saga about a girl vampire with a father who murders to keep her alive is a rich text, but instead of creating an iceberg of a story with its most significant parts beneath the surface, Let the right one in splashing them in our faces from one moment to the next. It’s a show that explains pretty much everything, and the only glimpses of character interiority we get are via shadowy performances by Bichir and Baez that still sometimes shine through despite the lack of ennobling circumstances.

Like a vampire who didn’t ask to be born, Let the right one in keeps resurfacing against better judgement, and it seems to lose more and more of its essence in the process each time. The original text is not without its flaws, and its best parts have been translated to the beautiful screen twice before. Not only was it never due for a remake, but it really never got one: this story has so little of the original’s DNA that it might as well just use a different title. Despite its title, Let the right one in most deserve to stand out in the cold.


Let The Right One In debuted on Showtime on Friday, October 9. Watch out for series trailer here.

Related topics: Let the right one in

Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV lover and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics’ Choice Association’s television and documentary departments. Twitter: @aandeandval (She her)

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