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

The 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In centers on  the unique relationship that develops between two young people. 

Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) lives in Stockholm with a mother that 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 Oskar's apartment complex. Meeting Eli for the first time one snowy night, Oskar senses an immediate 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: she's a vampire, and her arrival at the complex just happens to coincide with a string of grisly murders. An elderly companion (Per Ragnar) had been collecting fresh blood to keep Eli alive, but when he is suddenly out of the picture, she 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, he finds that having a vampire as a friend has certain... advantages!

Let The Right One In is a dark film, and is so even before Eli hits the scene. At the outset, Oskar is a deeply troubled young man, a loner who fantasizes about exacting revenge on those who have 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, Oskar clips articles out of the newspaper pertaining to war, or brutal slayings, which he then pastes into a scrapbook. Oskar is clearly an angry kid on a very desperate path, and if he doesn't find a friend soon, his life will 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 been 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; after overhearing Oskar while he was “practicing” his revenge, Eli might also believe she has found someone willing to accept her unique nature. 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 to Conny, Eli has provided him with some much-needed inner strength, thus clearing the way for the two of them to become friends. 

The performances delivered by the film's two 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 - placing his hand on that of his reflection's - and without a word spoken, we sense 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, where 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.

DVD Infatuation 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.

DVD Infatuation 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.

DVD Infatuation 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!

DawkAngel 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.

CpT GoThMcLaD said...

Ssssh don't say the v word vampires are nor mentioned once in this film or the book it's based on only the remake does lol

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for the comments!

Angelo: It's absolutely one of the best horror films of the last 15 years. And I agree: the original is the way to go!

Captain GoTHMcLad: It's interesting that they avoided the word in both the movie and the novel (I never read the book). Though I'm guessing it's obvious enough what that character is, so saying "vampire" isn't exactly a necessity :-)

david said...

It's on Amazon Prime right now... with, I'm guessing, the good subtitles!! I watched it last night, awesome film, and heartbreaking in its own way....
And great review btw... I'm pleased to have found your site. I'm going to see what number movie you are at... or have you done your 2,500...? 👍🙂

DVD Infatuation said...

David: Thank you! I'm so glad you found the blog, and that you're enjoying it! I reached #2,500 back in May of 2018, but I continue to post new reviews regularly. Thanks again!