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 the screen by John Ajvide Lindqvist with very powerful direction by Thomas Alfredson. Rather than a vampire film geared to induce scares, this film is heavy on mood that will definitely terrify and touch our very hearts.
Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a 12-year old boy whose parents are separated, he collects news clippings, and who gets bullied in school by his classmates. He usually wanders his apartment grounds at night while pining for vengeance against his tormentors. One evening, he meets Eli (superbly played by Lina Leanderson), a mysterious young girl of the same age with whom Oskar forms a provisional friendship. The two become quite close, as bizarre murders begin to run rampant in their community. Eli is a girl with powers that Oskar can barely understand, and she sees Oskar as an innocent, kindly soul worth preserving. Oskar sees Eli as his friend and confidant, as he becomes attracted to her. However, Eli has been twelve for quite a long time--she is a vampire. Their world is about to fall apart as things begin to spiral out of control.
Ever wonder what would happen if a 12 year old girl is turned into a vampire at such an early age? Being an immortal stuck at this pre-teen age can become quite complicated. Well, this Swedish vampire tale attempts to answer that question. The film is a moody affair and is full of hauntingly effective emotions. The film's main focus is the relationship between Eli and Oskar, and Eli as an immortal with a tortured soul and a conscience. "..Right One" observes the naïve sensuality between pre-teens and the brutality of having to kill to survive. As an immortal, Eli is longing for companionship, there is a subtle hint that the man who brought her into Oskar's apartment complex isn't exactly her father but that definition isn't really revealed which gives Eli a sense of being an enigma.
Eli isn't a villain, but rather also a victim. It was wise for the screenplay to treat her as another casualty rather than the antagonist--her situation itself is the film's "bad guy". "..Right One" is also a thematic affair in regards to isolation, loneliness as reflected by our two leads, and an empty life to live that requires viciousness to survive. The direction has a methodical approach, as it slowly brings Eli and Oskar together, introduces the violence without any elucidation to build on the film's psychological impact. Director Alfredson cleverly plays on how each scene of violence is shown, the violence is brutal but never for a minute do we forget about feeling sympathetic to Eli's situation. He allows the sympathy to steadily build within his audience but never for a minute does he forget to hold the viewer's interest. The way the film is shot is a form of minimalism, it avoids fancy camera shots, it lingers on some scenes to convey its mood and uses a lot of perspective. The film looks gorgeous, and the atmosphere has that darkly foreboding look that exudes sympathy accentuated further by its soundtrack.
Of course, the film does have its dose of blood and gore, but it is very calculated. Most of it occur throughout the film as it builds towards its excellent climax. "..Right One" also has the usual rules that apply to vampires; vulnerability to sunlight, dependence on blood for sustenance, the usual powers, and the need to be invited to one's home. (It was quite interesting to see what happens to a vampire when they aren't invited to come in one's home). Eli kills her prey after she gets her fill, she doesn't want to turn anyone and she only kills because she has to. The performances by Lina Leanderson and Kare Hedebrant is just brilliant with their simplicity and the two never for a moment falter in showing their age. Their awkward but endearing relationship is the film's showstopper as it endears, charms, frightens and explores the boundaries of their friendship.
Now, don't think that Alfredson and Lindqvist does nothing else with the script. When we aren't watching Eli and Oskar, we become privy to the paranoid community as they talk and gossip about the murders. The film goes into poetic visceral overdrive as a mistake becomes the turning point for our young leads and all hell threatens everything and turns the wheels of destiny.
I highly doubt that this film would translate well in becoming "Americanized" in its intended remake, given its very distinct European roots (as with the case with Asian Horror). "Let the Right One In" perfectly balances visceral punch with thrilling emotions that takes its brutality into sincere purity. The film takes some chances and I commend it for asking us to forgive a child and to accept her form of evil--to give her a show of compassion and sympathy. The film is grisly, grotesque, unnervingly beautiful and gentle, and is a welcome installment in vampire lore. It features the concerns of pre-teens mixing it in with waiflike atmosphere. It is one dishearteningly stupendous art house horror film!
Highly Recommended! [5- Out of 5 Stars]
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