March 25th, 2009

Godzilla Breath

Let the Wrong One In

Just when you think maybe there's hope for the U.S. film industry, just when you think maybe they don't completely underestimate the intelligence of their audience and treat everyone like beer-guzzling man-children who can't focus on something for more than two seconds, they find a way to prove they can fuck anything up. Including one of last year's finest films, Let the Right One In, which Magnolia imported from Sweden.

Good on Magnolia, you might say. Kudos to them for finding this smart, stylish and atmospheric horror-drama (drorror?) movie and bringing it to our shores, you might say. And yesterday I would have been right there with you. Today, however, is a different story. Because today brought us this news item about Magnolia's recent DVD release of Let the Right One In.

[T]he discs featured different subtitles than were seen on LET THE RIGHT ONE’s domestic theatrical prints and advance screeners; they were significantly simplified, with the subtleties and meaning of numerous dialogue passages altered or lost. [This] report sparked an instant outcry among fans, many of whom expressed their displeasure to Magnolia.

And rightfully so. I'm no mind reader, but I don't think you have to be one to figure out why Magnolia did this. Let the Right One In had a limited theatrical release, playing mostly in a handful of art houses around the country. But the DVD is a different matter. The DVD is a movie's rack-sized paperback compared to the theatrical release's expensive hardcover, it's the mass market version of a film. And so I reckon they thought that in order to hit not just the home video art movie audience but also the horror audience, it would be a good idea to simplify the subtitles to the point of banality. Because, though art house audiences are fine with subtitles, horror audiences apparently are not, and need to be treated with kid gloves, given an extra bag of Cheetos and a comforting pat on the head: Don't worry, horror fan, the subtitles won't make you think too much or take away from the gore scenes. I call bullshit.

Not that Magnolia would ever admit to thinking such a thing. In a statement released in response to the fan outcry, Magnolia tries to make it seem like it was an artistic choice.

“We’ve been made aware that there are several fans that don’t like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR,” a Magnolia rep said. “We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans’ feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version.”

Great news, right? A new version of the DVD with the "proper" subtitles to replace the "simplified" one? Guess again, all you suckers who loved the movie so much you bought the DVD already!

Unfortunately, as of now, those who have already purchased LET THE RIGHT ONE IN will not be able to trade in the first pressing for a replacement. “There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available, however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH.”

You know what this means. I don't even have to spell it out for you. You can feel it in the pit of your stomach.

It means that if you want to own the "proper" version of the movie, you have to pay Magnolia, the company who treated you like a drooling, illiterate half-wit, again.

And you thought this shit only happened with George Lucas movies and Microsoft products, right?