Thursday, December 29, 2011

#500. Let The Right One In (2008)

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar

Tag line: "Eli is 12 years old. She's been 12 for over 200 years and, she just moved in next door"

Trivia:  Almost every scene in the movie contains the color red or red/orange

Let the Right One In, a 2008 Swedish Vampire film, is about the unique relationship that develops between two young people. Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) lives in Stockholm with a mother who barely notices him. Slight-of-frame, Oskar is bullied at school, and is in dire need of a friend. Enter Eli (Lina Leandersson), who recently moved into the same apartment complex. After meeting her one snowy night, Oskar feels a connection with this unusual girl, and is comfortable enough to reveal all the terrible realities of his life to her. But Eli has a secret of her own, one that, quite possibly, stretches back hundreds of years. You see, she's a vampire, and her arrival at the complex coincides with a string of grisly murders. An elderly companion (Per Ragnar) had been collecting fresh blood to keep her alive, but when he's suddenly out of the picture, Eli is left to fend for herself. Oskar does eventually uncover Eli's secret, and isn't bothered by it in the least. On the contrary, having a Vampire as a friend has certain advantages!

Let The Right One In is a dark film, and only a portion of its darkness can be attributed to Eli's "condition". At the outset, Oskar is a deeply troubled young man, a loner who fantasizes of exacting revenge against those who've wronged him. He acts out scenarios, practicing what he would do to the bullies at school if only he had the strength to stand up to them (in one scene, he tosses threats at a tree, pretending it's a classmate, then stabs it repeatedly with a pocket knife). What's more, he clips articles out of the newspaper pertaining to war, or brutal slayings, which he then pastes into a scrapbook. Oskar is an angry kid on a very desperate path, and if he doesn't find a friend soon, his life will undoubtedly take a disturbing turn. 

This is where Eli, the strange young girl who only comes out at night and “smells funny”, enters the picture. When they first meet on the playground, Eli hasn't “eaten” for days, and is looking poorly, yet she doesn't kill Oskar, even though he would have made for an easy victim. Trapped in a girl's body, it's possible Eli longs for somebody she can relate to, who will afford her the opportunity to live as a child.  But there's more besides. Having overheard Oskar when he was “practicing” his revenge, Eli also believes he might be able to accept her unique nature, as well as the fact she has to kill to survive. Eli encourages Oskar to stick up for himself, to fight back against those tormenting him, and soon after, he has a run-in with Conny (Patrik Rydmark), the classmate who continually picks on him. By giving Oskar the courage to stand up for himself, Eli has provided him with some much-needed inner strength, thus clearing the way for the two of them to become friends. 

The performances given by the film's young stars are nothing short of amazing, each bringing a vulnerability to their character that is, at times, quite heartbreaking. The movie opens with Oskar gazing out of his apartment window, his reflection staring back at him. He reaches up and touches the glass, as if placing his hand on that of his reflection's, and without a word spoken, we feel his loneliness.  We see it in Eli as well when Oskar asks how old she is. “Twelve – more or less”, she says, to which a baffled Oskar responds, “Don't you celebrate your birthday? Your parents... they've got to know”. From the sadness in her eyes, it's clear Eli doesn't remember her parents, either. 

Make no mistake: there's plenty of horror in this movie (Along with an early scene where Eli's companion murders a man and drains his blood, there's a chilling moment under a bridge, during which we get a glimpse of Eli's monstrous side). But its the bond between Eli and Oskar, a couple of children forgotten by the world, that will stay with you once the credits have rolled. Let The Right One In is their story, and it is told brilliantly.


Klaus said...

Just when you think a genre is pretty much exhausted....something like this comes along. One of my favorite horror films.

Dave B. said...

Klaus: Thanks for stopping by!

This really was a shot in the arm for the Vampire genre, and proof positive that there are still original ideas out there.

It's one of my favorites as well. I love it!

Thanks again

Anthony Lee Collins said...

That's the thing. You think, "I am so sick of vampires!" and then this comes along. What a great film. I think the use of music is underrated, too. I saw the remake, and it is similar in a lot of ways, but the music is annoying, which made me realize how perfect the music is here, and how perfectly it matches the visual composition.

Also, from a genre standpoint, I like it because it is not at all romantic about vampires. It is, in its way, a very romantic film, but it pretty clearly shows what a terrible life it would be to be a vampire. As you point out, throughout the film Eli is desperate not to attack Oskar. She wouldn't wish her life on anybody, let alone somebody she cares about.

Dave B. said...

Anthony: Exactly! If some thought is put into Vampire films (or any genre or sub-genre, for that matter) instead of trudging out the same old thing, then something wonderful like this film will be the result.

As for the remake, I understand many people don't like subtitles, but (and I don't do this myself), the DVD/Blu-Ray of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN does have an English dub track, and THAT is still better than the American remake (which wasn't bad...just unnecessary).

And yes...we see the tragedy that is the life of a Vampire, and not the supposed "glamour" so many other films build around the condition. When she DOES turn someone, it's only because she was interrupted before finishing them off.

Excellent comment. Thanks for posting it!

Anthony Lee Collins said...

As you may be aware, there was a period of time (with the first DVD release) when the dubbed version was better than the subtitled version, since they used cheap (badly-translated) subtitles for the first DVD release, but the dubbed version was taken from the theatrical subtitles, which were much better. The second release of the DVD uses the theatrical subtitles.

If anybody wants to check this movie out (and I think you should :-) ), be sure to check the DVD box: back cover, lower left, it should say "SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH." If it just says, "ENGLISH, SPANISH," pass it by, or watch the dubbed version.

Klaus said...

I hadn't realized that about the subtitles - i'll have to check which version i have. Thanks for the heads up.

Dave B. said...

Anthony: I actually purchased the "bad" subtitles version of the DVD (I've since upgraded to Blu-Ray, which has fixed the problem), and while I never listened to the English dub track, I'll definitely take your word that it was better than the titles (it couldn't have POSSIBLY been worse).

Thanks for the heads-up on how to spot the inferior version. That's a real help for anyone looking to pick it up!

Klaus: If you do have the "bad" subtitles, the Blu-Ray corrects the issue (and this is a film worth having on Blu-Ray, IMHO).

Thanks, guys!

Angelo Bell said...

This is one of my favorite horror films. I was riveted to the screen the entire time. I must prefer the original version than the American remake too. **highly recommend.