Review: Let The Right One In

First of all, I’d like to thank all of you as this blog passed 5,000 hits. I fully realize a lot of those hits are quick “hit and runs,” but it’s still nice for a little blog that could. I hope to keep this thing going in the future and keep adding new readers as time goes along. I definitely enjoy the interaction this blog provides as well. Lots of talking to you all about movies through various means of communication! Yes, that was my “I couldn’t do it without you all” speech. Lame, I know.

TCM was killing it this weekend. On Saturday I got to see Reds with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton about a radical journalist trying to bring Communism to America post World War I. Oh, a taboo subject! They followed that with A Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean. Great movie about teen angst that’s still relevant in this day and age. As teenagers, we tend to think our parents just don’t understand what we’re going through. This movie shows that teens have been having the same issues for a very long time.

Last night was a triple-header for me with The Best Years of Our Lives about men returning home from World War II and adjusting back to life at home and their difficulties in doing so. This is another movie relevant to today (see my review of The Hurt Locker). Then came Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly about a silent movie star making the transition to “talkies.” This musical is a load of fun, memorable songs, and Debbie Reynolds is an absolute joy. Lastly, I watched Sunset Boulevard with William Holden and Gloria Swanson. This, too, is about a former silent film star grasping on the hope of one last chance. The narration is unique and Billy Wilder’s direction is superb.

As you can tell, this movie was requested by a jelli friend (who you can follow on twitter). I enjoy doing these request reviews. It gives me incentive to watch movies that are far down on my list or not even on the radar for me. Yes, even if it is something like The Karate Dog.

Well, enough babbling…

Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In) (2008)

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, and Per Ragnar

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

It goes without saying that vampires are in vogue. From “True Blood” to a movies like The Vampire’s Assistant to the Twilight phenomena, vampires are everywhere. This shouldn’t be surprising as vampires (most notably Dracula) pop up every so often. Of all the classic Universal monsters, it is the vampire that holds a place dear in our hearts (see the box office failing of this year’s The Wolfman for comparison). The best entry in the latest vampire craze is this little movie out of Sweden.

Let the Right One In follows a twelve year old boy named Oskar (Hedebrant) who lives in a suburb just outside of Stockholm, Sweden in 1982. Oskar has it tough. His parents are divorced (his mother is constantly working, his father is an alcoholic) and he doesn’t really have any friends. In fact, he’s the main target of bullies at school. Like many kids, he never complains, he just goes through it all with seemingly his scrapbook (he has a fascination with crime scenes) being his only consolation.

This all changes when he meets his new neighbor, Eli, who is not all what she appears to be (in more ways than one). Eli is also twelve (“more or less”) and lives next door with her father Håkan (Ragnar). Oskar has his reservations about Eli from the get go. He only sees her at night, she sometimes smells “funny,” and she’s often barefoot in the snow (not to mention a really cool slight floating act off a jungle gym which you can miss if you aren’t paying attention). That really doesn’t matter because in Eli, Oskar has his first real friend and his first case of puppy love.

Along the way, Oskar is given the confidence from Eli to stand-up to his bullies, we see who Håkan really is and what he’s up to, and we meet some local town people who run into Eli one-by-one. No, Eli is not a “vegetarian,” ladies and gentlemen. Of course, Oskar figures out the puzzle of what Eli really is (almost too late), but he seems to shrug it off. Much like Twilight‘s Bella, Oskar is in too deep. He’s found the one person in the entire world that he “likes a lot.” He isn’t about to let that go, vampire or not.

Like every other movie of this sort, the vampire is symbolic. In most cases, the vampire is about rape and sex (or abstinence in the case of Twilight). This is a bit different. Here, the vampire is loneliness and young love. Eli and Oskar both live mostly solitary lives before they find one another. Oskar has a life without much of a family or any friends to speak of. Eli only has Håkan. Their bond is innocent. They are there for one another when no else is (including two encounters toward the end of the movie). Whereas Twilight‘s romance is head over heels whirlwind, this is something else. Something much more pure. Something void of hormones.

This is not a “scary” movie. Nothing comes out and jumps out at you. There’s a good amount of blood (it IS a vampire movie, afterall), but Eli never appears out of nowhere to startle the audience. The “jump” factor isn’t the point of the movie. The film is shown in the point of views of Eli and Oskar. We aren’t the fodder here, so we don’t need to be startled. Alfredson is very creative with what he does and doesn’t show, especially with a $4 million budget. He remembers the golden rule of horror: whatever you can show me is nowhere near as bad as what I can imagine. The climax is wonderfully filmed in this matter. We don’t really see what’s going on, but we do see the after effects and we definitely understand the events occurring, despite our lack of vision. American horror film directors take note of this scene: this is how you do it.

While Alfredson controls the slow pace masterfully and has unique ways of telling the story, all of that would be for naught if the leads don’t work. Thankfully, they do better than anyone could have hoped for. Hedebrant is great as Oskar. He is completely believable as that “kid next door.” You feel for him during all his troubles and root for him to get past them. Leandersson’s portrayal as the eternal Eli is fantastic. Her emotions are spot on, including her vicious streak when hungry (or while protecting). It is just a outstanding performance that needs to be seen by everyone.

Bottom Line: The Twilight comparisons are inevitable. I made some of my own as you noticed. Here’s the biggest difference: Twilight is a cheesy train wreck; Let The Right One In is a gem and fresh take on the genre. It goes beyond horror; it is a tale of young love that just so happens to have a vampire in it. Tomas Alfredson has shot a gorgeous movie and the leads are both incredible. There is an American remake in the works (Let Me In) which has me a bit worried. Chloe Grace Moretz may have been Hit Girl, but she has the giant shoes of Lina Leandersson to fill. I hope she succeeds.

9.5/10 (Highly Recommended).

Thank you for the request, @ridinkeydonkey!

A note: I’ll be working on this blog over the weekend attempting to make this more like a site. Hopefully it’ll be easier to navigate as I move these posts into their page while providing links to them on the homepage. We’ll see.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday with a new member of my meaningless Hall of Fame. This character provided one of most iconic images in movie history and provided women with a new look to seek: the little black dress. Any guesses?

Until then…

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