#51 Let The Right One In

(Låt den rätte komma in)
(2008, Tomas Alfredson)

“I’ve been twelve for a long time”

The last movie we looked at involved a young boy befriending a paranormal being. Let The Right One In does the same, only this time things are considerably less family-friendly. Instead of a sweet little film about a cute, happy alien, this is a Swedish horror movie about a vampire.

Twelve-year old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a loner, bullied at school by his peers, who spends much of his time alone in the courtyard of his apartment complex. One day, a young girl, Eli (Lina Leandersson), moves into the apartment next door, and he begins a slightly awkward friendship with her. However, as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Eli is actually a vampire and her “father” is a serial killer who procures her “food” for her.

With little knowledge of the film, it’s easy to peg Let The Right One In as an attempt to cash in the current lucrative vampire romance genre, following in the footsteps of the Twilight franchise. But any cursory glance will tell you that this is not a Twilight clone, and to call it so would be doing it a massive disservice. Where Twilight is directionless and lacks any chemistry in its central relationship, Let The Right One In is a genuinely moody experience with the ability to get under your skin. Plus its central vampire character is actually a vampire and not a prancing sparkle-fairy.

Oddly, the movie isn’t all that scary. Instead, it carries a sense of creepy unease, a sense that something isn’t quite right with the world. Perhaps this is because we’re essentially seeing the world through Oskar’s troubled eyes. This also explains why much of the killing is presented with an almost detached indifference. One major death scene in the movie is presented briefly before a door closes and Oskar, witnessing the situation, calmly walks away as if nothing’s wrong, and it’s this scene that sums up the entire movie’s attitude. Handled badly, this could make us as the audience indifferent too, but instead it’s fascinating.

The central relationship between Oskar and Eli is fantastic. The two characters have a genuine chemistry, even more impressive since it was both actors’ first movie role (and to date, Leandersson’s ONLY role). The two have an awkward relationship due to the mystery surrounding Eli, but there’s always a subtle connection bubbling under the surface that both actors successfully convey despite their inexperience.

On the negative side, some of the subplots didn’t feel like they worked as well as they should have done. The residents of the neighbourhood who notice the murders feel underdeveloped, and so it’s hard to connect with a man mourning the loss of his best friend or another character undergoing emotional turmoil when she realises her encounter with Eli has turned her into a vampire too, simply because we don’t really know these characters. This may be a flaw of the original book’s author writing the screenplay. The subplots are most likely expanded on in the novel, but with the limited time available in the movie, they feel rushed.

Ultimately though, Let The Right One In is a fantastic horror movie. It’s a much-needed antidote to the millions of generic slasher flicks pouring out of Hollywood, and its romantic elements are tied in perfectly with the horror (unlike that other vampire movie that shall remain nameless). It’s slow, and it’s detached, and for that it’s effectively creepy.

Starring Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson & Per Ragnar
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Produced by John Nordling & Carl Molinder
Music score by Johan Soderqvist
Cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by Tomas Alfredson & Daniel Jonsäter

Favourite Scene: Both instances where Eli and Oskar save each other. It sums up how far their relationship has come. Also features the aforementioned killing scene that ends up behind closed doors that I found so effective.
Scene That Bugged Me: Local resident Virginia gets turned into vampire, then gets attacked by cats. Ends up being unintentionally hilarious. Seriously, cats.

Watch it if: You really do want to let the right one in. This is the right one. Let it in
Avoid it if: You want your vampires to sparkle more

Originally posted on Blogspot Friday 27 January 2012

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Posted on April 14, 2012, in 2000s, Horror, Romance, Sweden. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Good review. I’d have to disagree about the cat scene, though – I don’t think the humour is unintentional at all. Tomas Alfredson comes from a comedy background, the three films he made before LTROI were all comedies. Ika Nord who plays Virginia is best known in Sweden as a comedic mime and performance artist. These people know comedy. It’s a dark kind of humour but it’s definitely there – just like in the early scene when Håkan gets thrown off by Ricki the poodle.

    As for the townspeople not being fleshed-out I think it’s a a balancing act. Lindqvist and Alfredson are quite right in focusing on the relationship between Oskar and Eli but the bar flies from the Chinese restaurant are important in showing the effect Eli has on the community and also to give the killings a deeper impact than they would have had if the victims were just so much anonymous vampire-fodder. They could have spent more time with Lacke, Virginia and the others but that would obviously have added to the length of the film and I think it would have suffered for it. The American re-make Let Me In of course pretty much removed the townsfolk completely which for me didn’t work at all.

    • I was unaware of Alfredson’s background – I only really research directors if they have multiple films on the list, like Spielberg or Kubrick – but the slightly comedic nature of that scene still feels a little weird in comparison to the moody tone of the rest of the film. Of course, it didn’t stop my enjoyment (I always say that as long as a film either grips me or amuses me, it’s a success), just seemed a little…off.

      The townsfolk are a difficult thing to incorporate, I’ll admit. I understand their purpose, they just seemed to be dropped in there rather suddenly. I assume they were expanded on in the novel (which I still need to read), and obviously things have to be cut or shortened for time, but they seemed to be a distraction from the main story for me personally. And to be fair, the townsfolk were in Let Me In, just in even less context. Matt Reeves just seemed to like the scene where Virginia dies so much he had to include it, but stripped out pretty much everything else related to it (bar not-Eli’s attack on her) so LTROI definitely did a better job there!

      Thanks for the comment, by the way! 😀

      • Sure, Swedish humour is probably a bit of an acquired taste. 🙂

        Yes, Reeves did include Virginia’s death scene but (IMHO) botched it by completely missing the point. In LTROI, Virginia is something of a tragic hero. When she realizes what she’s become, she decides to hold on to her humanity by chosing death by fire. In LMI, she’s robbed of her dignity and dies like a freak by a freak accident.

        The novel does indeed go into much more detail both about the protagonists and the other characters (a few of which are completely removed in the movie script). There are other major changes, like the story arc of Håkan who plays a much bigger (and more sinister) part in the novel. It’s interesting that the author was able to do such a complete re-working of the story for the film medium, he obviously had to kill a lot of darlings.

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