flipside movie emporium
   
home | movie review archive | features archive | about | forum

Let the Right One In   A-

Magnolia Pictures

Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist (based on his novel)
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm.

Review by Rob Vaux

Let the Right One In isn't strictly a horror movie, although one of its two main characters is a vampire. A big part of the joy comes in watching how it flirts with the conventions of horror movies without quite stepping over the edge. It uses the patterns of a coming-of-age story as a counterweight: My Life As a Dog written by Anne Rice. The results are certainly in keeping with this spooky Halloween season, but establish a unique and original rhythm all their own.

The vampire in question is Eli (Lina Leandersson), a self-described 12-year-old who has been 12 "for a very long time." She travels across Sweden with a strange human servant (Per Ragnar) who does the wetwork for her -- cutting victims' throats and draining their blood into five-gallon containers to store for later -- while she remains comfortably ensconced in their barren apartment. The sun only shines a few hours a day this far north, keeping Eli far safer than she might be in warmer climates. But boredom eventually forces her outside, where she meets her new neighbor Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) -- a frail, sensitive boy who makes easy pickings for the local bullies. Their friendship develops cautiously at first, but quickly deepens once Oskar figures out who and what she really is.

Director Tomas Alfredson places great emphasis on the unspoken, using inference and oblique approaches to get his point across. Eli's supernatural abilities are rendered through nifty camerawork and old fashioned sleight-of-hand (seeing her knocking on Oskar's window before revealing that it's two stories up, for example) and while the violence is ugly, it largely takes place off-camera. Let the Right One In embraces the classic checklist of vampiric behavior -- sunlight is fatal, if you're bitten and survive you'll become a vampire yourself, etc. -- but conveys the particulars solely in visual terms. Scenes such as the morning-after surprise of one of Eli's wounded victims (Karin Bergquist) or the effect on Eli when she steps into a home where she hasn't been invited make a welcome break from the usual expository dialogue which most vampire films indulge in.

Adamson bolsters it with a starkly silent atmosphere. The snow-covered ground is always lit up like a city park, while the sky above is pitch black, suspending the characters between two perfectly bisected halves. In contrast, the story itself entails myriad shades of gray: no heroes or monsters, but a familiar, messy reality heightened by the fact that one of these characters drinks blood to stay alive. Rather than conflicting with the imagery, it forms an almost perfect counterpoint, allowing the film's visual distinction to enhance and accentuate the plot. Let the Right One In contains few moments of overt terror, relying instead on an undercurrent of edginess to convey its supernatural tone. The aftereffects of violence can be striking and there are more than enough clever sequences to delight fans of the genre (watch for a terrific shot in a municipal swimming pool towards the end), but Alfredson has no interest in scares for the sake of scares. Instead, he combines Eli's gruesome lifestyle with a slice of adolescent sweetness straight out of John Hughes. Oskar's helpless anger hides a supremely thoughtful boy, ignored by adults and brutalized by his peers. Eli, for her part, is painfully aware of her tenuous grip on humanity, constantly threatened by animal instincts which demand that she kill to survive. Their connection to each other comes with none of the forbidden sensuality so often associated with vampires. Instead, it conveys simpler links of kindred emotions and shared understanding... colored by the ominous possibility that Eli may be manipulating Oskar for her own ends.

Those who believe that horror consists solely of the Saw movies and their ilk may be confounded by what they see here. It certainly marches to its own obliquely Scandinavian tune and not everyone will get in line with it. But it also demonstrates a quiet lyricism which sets it apart from its contemporaries, settling over the viewer in alternating layers of creepiness, nostalgia, loneliness, and fulfillment. Let the Right One In never manipulates us or thrusts itself upon us, content to let us discover its treasures on our own. In the process, it quietly pushes the envelope of what stories like this are supposed to be: a feat more shocking than a thousand Hollywood boogeymen. After hundreds of years of vampire stories, people can still find new things to say about them. No wonder the little bloodsuckers live forever.

Review published 10.23.2008.

Also read: Q&A: Tomas Alfredson.

IMDb | buy it at Amazon.com

Image

Image


Amazon.com

Watch Now

Buy the DVD

Buy the Blu-ray

Buy the Book




home | movie review archive | features archive | about | forum

Flipside's archive features over 1,000 movie reviews and articles.

contact | copyright | privacy | links | sitemap

Flipside Movie Emporium: Movie Reviews & Commentary
© 2000-2008 Flipside Movie Emporium. All rights reserved.



Facebook    Twitter    Google+