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LET ME IN – Michael Giacchino

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Let Me In is the American remake of the underground hit Swedish vampire movie Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In), which was released to great acclaim in 2008. Directed by Cloverfield helmer Matt Reeves and set in the 1980s, the film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen, a bullied and lonely young boy who lives in a rundown tenement in New Mexico with his mother (Cara Buono), who is in the midst of a divorce. One day, he makes friends with an equally lonely young girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz), who has moved into the same apartment block with her elderly guardian (Richard Jenkins). Despite being initially hesitant, the two develop a gradual friendship; but Abby harbors a secret – she is a vampire, and has been responsible for the spate of murders being investigated by a dogged detective (Elias Koteas). Despite being a remake of what many consider a superior European film, Let Me In has garnered a great deal of praise, for its performances, for its proper adherence to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s original novel, and for Michael Giacchino’s chilling score.

Giacchino wrote the rampaging “Roar” overture for director Reeves on Cloverfield, and of course has become a composer-de-jure for his Oscar-winning work on Up and the box-office smashes The Incredibles, Star Trek and Ratatouille. Although some his scores in the past have included some tense and horrific moments, Giacchino has never really tackled a mainstream horror film before in this way. It’s new territory for him, and those who warmed to his music for those aforementioned films, or his rousing Medal of Honor video game scores, may find the music in Let Me In a little hard to stomach; parts of it are very dissonant and frightening indeed, and although it clearly works in the context of the film, and despite some occasional tender moments, much of it will take listeners less experienced with this sort of thing a while to appreciate.

The opening cue, “Hammertime”, is little more than a sustained series of chords for voices and harp, but the effect is bone chilling, and sets the scene perfectly. The subsequent “Los Alamos” features stark, lonely brass chords, slithering string effects, and an overall sense of disquiet and anxiety, the style of which also appears in later cues such as “Bully Thy Name”, “Dread On Arrival” and the shocking finale “The Weakest Goes to the Pool”. It’s ironic that, more than anything, the darkest and angriest music represents Owen’s home town and the bullies within it, not the seemingly more alarming threat of the vampire next door.

The opening few harp notes of “Sins of the Father” make you think it’s going to launch into a performance of Edward Scissorhands, but nothing could be further from the truth, as it instead embraces a dark, staccato rhythm which eventually develops into a chilly-beautiful string theme which forms the core several later cues, and illustrates the unusual symbiotic relationship between Abby and her ‘Father’. The aforementioned “Dread On Arrival” reworks the Elfmanesque harp motif for desolate timpani hits in a cue which is almost unbearably suspenseful, building up a palpable sense of apprehension as it progresses through its 6 minute length, and which resembles some of the darker parts of his Lost TV scores, especially from the rounded brass writing and chattering string runs.

The cues which accompany some of Abby’s more nefarious nocturnal activities – “The Back Seat Killer”, “Killer In-Stinks”, “Polling for Owen” – are exercises in dread, building layer upon layer of tension through dense piano chord clusters, scratchy string effects, ghostly whispered harp waves, and occasional choral interludes. “Acid Test Dummy” and “Blood by Any Other Name” up the ante even further by incorporating frantic Latin chanting, a more urgent rhythmic element, and some vicious orchestral stingers, making them some of the most challenging cues in the score.

A sense of curious innocence permeates “Peeping Owen”, especially when the angelic boy’s choir enters the cue half way through the cue. Later, the voices work their way into the otherwise calm and soothing “Asphalt Jungle Gym” and the latter half of “Invitation Only”, the former marking the first meeting between Owen and Abby on their apartment’s dilapidated playground, but which turns much more sinister as the cue progresses. The choir is used to less angelic effect in cues such as “Visitation Rights” and the hellish “Virginia Territory”, where instead of accompanying childlike inquisitiveness, it seems to be lamenting for Abby’s victims – or Abby herself? – through it’s ethereal Latin lyrics and distant, shadowy mood.

Conversely, the second half of “At Your Disposal” and later cues such as “New Day on an Old Lake” are unexpectedly light and playful, with buoyant woodwind motifs atop a bed of childlike percussive moments for celesta, xylophone and piano which are quite charming. Additionally, cues such as “Neighbors of Love”, “First Date Jitters”, the wonderfully-titled “Owen Remember Thy Swashing Blow”, and the conclusive “Trained and Steady” have a hesitantly romantic violin theme, still mired in the subdued sonic world of the rest of the score, but with a much more conventionally beautiful tone. “Parting Sorrows” and the “End Credits” swell into a dark orchestral crescendos, and stand as the most traditionally attractive cues on the album.

If one was to compare Giacchino’s music for Let Me In to anything, it would be a combination of Christopher Young’s most sophisticated horror writing, filtered through a little bit of Danny Elfman and a little bit of Bernard Herrmann, especially in the orchestrations. The one thing it doesn’t resemble at all is Johan Söderqvist’s score for the original Let The Right One In, and in some way’s that’s where Giacchino’s score is a tiny bit lacking: with the exception of the liturgical “End Credits” there is no cue that matches the simple beauty of “Eli’s Theme” from that score. Giacchino’s horror and suspense cues are infinitely superior to Söderqvist’s, and as an overall experience Giacchino’s score is better, but Söderqvist’s themes have more heart, and seem to capture core of the relationship between the boy and his vampire friend in a more tender and intimate way.

Having said that, Let Me In is still a very impressive work, which mixes the gentle fragility of the central relationship with Abby’s shockingly violent double life expertly. It’s also another feather in the cap for Michael Giacchino on a personal level, proving that he has the composing chops to succeed in any genre attempts.

Rating: ****

Buy the Let Me In soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Hammertime (0:57)
  • Los Alamos (2:18)
  • Sins of the Father (2:15)
  • Peeping Owen (4:03)
  • Bully Thy Name (1:35)
  • The Back Seat Killer (1:39)
  • The Blood Flood (1:40)
  • The Asphalt Jungle Gym (5:37)
  • At Your Disposal (4:39)
  • Neighbors of Love (3:05)
  • First Date Jitters (2:52)
  • Killer In-Stinks (2:20)
  • Acid Test Dummy (1:03)
  • Visitation Rights (5:08)
  • New Day On An Old Lake (1:37)
  • Polling for Owen (2:36)
  • Owen Remember Thy Swashing Blow (1:16)
  • Blood By Any Other Name (1:37)
  • Regarding Evil (3:46)
  • Let Me Out (1:16)
  • Virginia Territory (1:42)
  • Invitation Only (2:13)
  • Dread On Arrival (6:14)
  • Parting Sorrows (2:54)
  • The Weakest Goes to the Pool (3:44)
  • Trained and Steady (Film Version) (2:16)
  • End Credits (5:57)
  • Trained and Steady (Original Track) (2:16)

Running Time: 78 minutes 35 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-7053 (2010)

Music composed by Michael Giacchino. Conducted by David Sabee. Orchestrations by Andrea Datzman and Chris Tilton. Recorded and mixed by Steve Smith. Album produced by Michael Giacchino.

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  1. October 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I think there’s some decent music here, but the album is ruined by the running time. 79 minutes is 45 too many.

  2. October 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I’d agree with that. 30 mins of pruning some of the dead wood would make the album a more satisfying listen, and probably a little less repetitive. The music is all good; but, you’re right, listening to the whole thing is a bit of a slog.

  3. mastadge
    October 20, 2010 at 7:28 am

    I liked the score a lot, and I’d like to see Giacchino continue to explore various genres, but I agree that it didn’t need to be so long. Also, that one theme (in “Neighbors of Love” and elsewhere) sounds very much like “Labor of Love” from STAR TREK, which distracted me a bit. Still, one of the best scores of the year and the best horror score in some time. Does DAYBREAKERS count as a horror score? If so, this is the best since that.

  4. taptup
    October 30, 2010 at 3:30 am

    “Söderqvist’s themes have more heart, and seem to capture core of the relationship between the boy and his vampire friend in a more tender and intimate way.”

    And this is what the film is about, that’s why I prefer the original score.

    • Jens Dietrich
      November 11, 2010 at 10:52 am

      Reminds me of the Mark Kermode comment about how the Swedish original is a film about children that happens to have vampires in it, whereas the American remake is a film about vampires that happens to have children in it.

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