An old-fashioned yet very modern vampire film...and so much more! 4.5 stars.
Jan 2, 2009
Finally coming to the little "art house" movie theatre in our city (Albuquerque) was a little Swedish film I had assumed I would have to see on DVD someday: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Thank goodness I was able to get in during its five-day run...it's a real treat.
This is a horror movie that is also simply a romantic drama and sometimes a very dark comedy. It hews closely to "vampire conventions" yet turns them pretty neatly on their heads at the same time.
12 year old Oskar is a shy, weak awkward little boy. Not surprisingly, he is prime target for school bullies and also nurses some pretty deep fantasies about exacting bloody revenge on his tormentors. He drags through his colorless days (the film is set mostly in and around an apartment complex in a rundown suburb of Stockholm during the early `80s...and it's snowing ALL THE TIME) with little to interest him. He lives with his mother, who doesn't seem to be home much, and only seems to enjoy occasional visits to his father out in the country.
One day, some new neighbors move in next door. A middle aged (closing in on old) man and a 12 year old girl, Eli. I don't think I'm spoiling much if I let you know now that Eli is actually a vampire, and the old man is her Renfield, the human who takes care of her during the day and helps acquire blood. While Oskar doesn't figure this out for a while, the viewer picks up on it pretty quickly.
Here's what great: the vampire in the film is stealthy, thirsty for blood and very strong (just like in all the "old school" vampire films). She is also vulnerable to daylight, and her bite, if you aren't killed by being completely drained and having your neck broken, will turn you into a vampire. There's none of the toying around with what defines a vampire as we've seen in the last couple of decades worth of vampire films. Yet the movie shows us Eli as a person who is capable of human vulnerabilities and most importantly, human caring, loyalty and affection.
The film shows us the slowly developing friendship between Oskar and Eli. These scenes are handled with great delicacy and if you took out all the vampiric elements, you'd still have a nice story about the blossoming friendship / love between two lost 12 year olds.
The film also shows us just how mundane the details of being a modern vampire are. The acquiring of blood, the darkening of windows in a modern apartment, etc.
And when there are bursts of violence, they are thrilling in their abruptness and ferocity. The sound editing is great, and while the movie shows you very little of what is happening, you don't feel like it is skimping either. You are able to conjure up all you need to give yourself a decent case of the willies.
The two young actors in the lead (Kare Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli) are terrific. They are very natural and unforced...they feel NOTHING like Hollywood child actors. They are not perfect physical specimens...but the both exude a particular brand of innocence that can only come from a child just barely, but not quite, pushed over into adolescence. Even the bullies in the film, while certainly not carefully fleshed out, are not cardboard characters. They are all the more menacing because they seem completely possible.
This movie will make you laugh as you shudder. It will make you feel warm and sentimental, even when something brutally violent is happening. There is nothing simple about this seemingly simple story.
It is VERY slowly paced. While it held my interest throughout and certainly captured me emotionally, I must also admit to a little squirming in my seat from time to time. Part of it stems from the fact that the movie is set in such a bleak time and location. Snow falling on gray, industrial looking dwellings and schools. A washed out palette was used overall, and this made the film seem oppressive. While very effective and highly believable, that isn't necessarily the stuff that ENJOYMENT is made of. But these feelings were fleeting and only sporadic.
This is a somewhat challenging film, not just because you have to read subtitles (which frankly shouldn't be considered a challenge at all), but because it demands that you see the world from a slightly different point-of-view and to show sympathy for a vampire and a 12 year old boy with murder in his heart. But if you remember that this is, after all, fiction...I don't think you'll have any moral qualms. I didn't!
There are many more elements that come up later in this film, but I don't want to hint at them for fear of spoiling its many pleasures for you. Just suffice it to say that if what you've read above intrigues you about the film...you won't regret seeing it. For me, one test of the worth of a film is if I find myself thinking about it days later. It's been awhile since I saw LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and I can still feel many of its moods and picture many of its scenes as though I had just walked out of the theatre. By that measure, and many others, this film is a great success and highly recommended.
**** out of **** Even if "Twilight" seems to be most popular when it comes to Vampires in any form of media, it's good to get a nice, big breath of fresh air. And for me, that refreshing, long breathe was "Let the Right One In"; which by all means is the best Vampire movie since probably "Vampyr", "Nosferatu", and Herzog's remake. This is a moving, artistic, and powerful film that does not succeed because it is about vampires; but rather because it is sweet, tender, and even … more
This is not a book for the faint of heart. No sexy Edward Cullen here. No vamps who are actually nice guys and no good girl heroes either. In fact, this vampire isn't even sexual. The novel is not particularly clear on this point, but I deduce that Eli, the vampire, was once a human boy. Now s/he sometimes appears to be a boy and other times a girl. There is no sex and certainly no love. Couple this old school vampire with a cast of unappealing human characters: an alienated … more
I hate vampire movies. I think we have reached the Vampire Event Horizon--one more vampire movie and all of movie-hood will be sucked into the black hole. That said, I liked this movie that just happened to have a vampire in it. This is a story of friendship and protection, not lust and sex. So if you want that kind of vampire movie, there are 180,097 x10 to the 35 vampire movies to choose from (which means that every atom in the universe has 5 vampire movies attached to it. I'm not kidding about … more
Ooowie...really creepy. Not so scary - but creepy creepy creepy. Just how does a twelve year old girl vampire survive? What seduction skills has she learned, and how does she draw a new fly into her web? Let the Right One In might be the best vampire movie I've ever seen, despite the revenge scene that seems to belong to another movie as it clashes against the small and careful character of the rest of the movie.
I have always had a strong fondness for vampire films. Honestly, much of the vampire films these days are full of cliché and while most of them does attempt at something original, they all have one common denominator; to induce HORROR. Well, Sweden seems to have mastered an original take on the vampire lore and yes, this film has been marked to be "Americanized" very soon. "Let the Right One In" is a film adapted from the novel and written for … more
It would seem LTROI has managed to captivate quite a few moviegoers everywhere & has enthralled it's audiences which amazes me. I actually was quite stoked about the idea of a really cool vampire flick which seemed to do so well with both audiences or critics alike & was even hoping to catch it on the big scream last year. Boy, I was in for quite a shock. This one is basically a snoozer & it took me three consecutive attempts to watch it all the way through. … more
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (a film review by Mark R. Leeper) CAPSULE: With marked similarities to CARRIE, this is a Swedish vampire film. Oskar, the most bullied boy in school, makes friends with a girl who appears to be his own age, but is somehow different. The somehow is that she is a vampire, living a life as isolated in her way as Oskar is in his. The two form a bond against a background of vampire-related killings. In spite of the fantasy motif this is a serious … more
From the country that brought you Ingmar Bergman, Ikea, and the Noble prize, Sweden, comes an amazing horror film. The Vikings would be proud of this film! This one will put you on the edge of your seat and then scare the begeezes out of you. At the most simple level it is the vampire story. The new twist, the vampire is around 12 years old and the story takes place in the land of very long winter nights, Sweden. This is a fairly slow moving film with scare points put in at … more
The enduring popularity of the vampire myth rests, in part, on sexual magnetism. InLet the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson's carefully controlled, yet sympathetic take on John Ajvide Lindqvist's Swedish bestseller-turned-screenplay, the protagonists are pre-teens, unlike the fully-formed night crawlers of HBO’sTrue Bloodor Catherine Hardwicke’sTwilight(both also based on popular novels). Instead, 12-year-old Oskar (future heartbreaker Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) enter into a deadly form of puppy love. The product of divorce, Oskar lives with his harried mother, while his new neighbor resides with a mystery man named Håkan (Per Ragnar), who takes care of her unique dietary needs. From the wintery moment in 1982 that the lonely, towheaded boy spots the strange, dark-haired girl skulking around their outer-Stockholm tenement, he senses a kindred spirit. They bond, innocently enough, over a Rubik's Cube, but little does Oskar realize that Eli has been 12 for a very long time. Meanwhile, at school, bullies torment the pale and morbid student mercilessly. Through his friendship with Eli, Oskar doesn't just learn how to defend himself, but to become a sort of predator himself, begging the question as to whether Eli really exists or whether she represents a manifestation of his pent-up anger and resentment. Naturally, the international success of Lindqvist's fifth feature, like Norway's chillingInsomniabefore it, has ...