Let the Right One In ***
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel
Kare Hedebrant as Oskar
Lina Leandersson as Eli
Per Ragnar as Hakan
Henrik Dahl as Erik
Karin Bergquist as Ynonne
Peter Carlberg as lacke
Rated R for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language.
The themes and plot developments of "Let the Right One In" have been seen before, telling the standard coming of age story of a young boy, and how his relationship with a fellow loner allows him to realize the positives of life. The only difference is that the fellow loner that he befriends happens to be a vampire. And this is where the film begins to get interesting. After winning the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier in the year, "Let the Right One In" found a universal bout of praise from both film lovers and horror lovers alike, and its one of the better horror movies in recent memory, mostly because of the human traits found in the characters instead of them being cookie-cutter horror film characters. Overture has opted for an English remake due out sometime next year, which will probably take away all of the feeling and try to pack on the blood and gore. The film as it is has it both ways, and even handles the violence and blood very skillfully and it ends up being darkly comic instead of creepy.
The film introduces us to Oskar, who is twelve years old in the 1980's. Often bullied and teased by his peers and neglected by his divorcing parents, Oskar spends his free time looking up articles about murder and collecting them in a book. He then meets Eli, who lives around him and states that she is "twelve-more or less." While she does not go to school, the two of them start a cautious friendship, despite the fact that Eli warns him to stay away from her, and whenever she is hungry she ends up feasting on the flesh of whoever happens to cross her path.
While not being a straight out horror film, "Let the Right One Is" does have its creepy aura and is effective in its atmosphere. Winter time in Stockholm, Sweden is the perfect place and time to tell it, and works well in the scenes with blood on snow, and give cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema plenty to work with. Some of the set pieces are also uncomfortable, such as the films climatic scene involving Oskar, Eli, two three bullies, and a swimming pool, which will probably end up being the most talked about scene in the film. Another creepy moment takes place when Eli comes into oskar's home uninvited, and is then punished by having blood come out of every open space in her body.
But the film is strengthened through its dramatic moments as much as it is by its horror elements. Even if Eli was not a vampire, the film is still successful as a coming of age story about two lonely children, who find solace in each other when no one else would give them the time of day. And this part of the film, the most important part in my opinion, is made special through the two performances by Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, Oskar and Eli respectively. I often approach performances by children with caution, because if done wrong they can create a rather painful experience. But they bring the film to life, and it becomes a sweet experience instead of a frightening one, and this is an element that I fear will be absent in the United States remake.
My only problem with "Let the Right One In" consists on its familiar path. Both subplots of the film-the vampire story and the coming of age relationship story-are highly predictable and cover the standard path. Eli is eventually hunted by the town, especially when she starts to knock off inhabitants. As for the coming of age story, there is a minor exploration of sex, the two of them get into the plot changing argument, etc. The way the two merge, which is the aforementioned swimming pool scene, is creative and surprising, and would have made a better ending than the final scene/shots, which appear to be tacked on and ruins the comic punch which the pool scene gives. "Let the Right One In" is well acted and well shot, with a few very memorable moments, but fails to be anything "great" because of the familiar tracks that it crosses. But for vampire fans and cinephiles of the horror genre, it does give a gleam of hope for chills, and I do not await the English remake with glee.