Movie: "Let The Right One In"
Year: 2008
Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Writing credits: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 9/15/2009

Plot: A lonely 12-year-old boy in Sweden befriends the awkward, odd girl who's moved in next door. Only thing is, she's a vampire.

Review: Let the Right One In is probably the most beautifully filmed vampire movie I've ever seen. Though if you're expecting lots of blood and guts, or to be frightened, you're going to be disappointed, because this is romantic horror that owes more to the gothic classics than to the blood-spattered shock flicks of recent decades (I could get more specific about the story but I don't want to spoil things).

Director Tomas Alfredson had never made a horror film before, and was reluctant to show a lot of gore or violence, which is evident in watching the film, but ultimately I think that serves the final work quite well in a "less is more" kind of way. Much of the violence is merely hinted at or barely shown on screen, and this makes the few bits of violence the camera lingers on that much more effective. John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote the original novel and the screenplay for the film adaptation, and though my understanding is that a number of things changed in the film, the author is apparently fairly happy with how it turned out.

Being that this is a vampire movie, much of it occurs at night, and the lonely, snow-blanketed landscape of Sweden's Blackeburg suburb provides a striking and beautiful backdrop to many of the film's scenes. The main protagonist, Oskar, is only 12 years old, bullied by his classmates, lonely and dissatisfied with life. He meets his new neighbor Eli, an odd girl who appears to be the same age as him, but is actually much, much older. Both characters suffer from immense loneliness (which the film's frosty setting truly punctuates quite well), so it's no surprise that they begin to develop a connection between one another.

Eventually Eli's adult living companion, Hakan (whose relationship with Eli is never truly explained--I took him to be a ghoul servant, but apparently in the novel their relationship is more...disturbing), gets caught by the authorities on one of his blood-harvesting quests, which causes the heat to turn up on Eli, and as you might expect, everything turns to shit from there.

There's surprisingly little blood here for a vampire movie, but there's a wonderful scene in which we see what happens when a vampire enters a domicile uninvited, and the results aren't pretty (well, actually, from a filmmaking standpoint, they are). The climactic (and probably most "horrific") scene in the film is visually stunning, but doesn't quite make sense from a logical standpoint, as it requires a character mostly seen off-camera to remain frozen in place when the events occurring around him would result in a flight response. Unless the character was frozen in fear, which might have worked if we'd seen his actual response to the situation. But for that to happen would ruin the visual effect of the scene. Ultimately it's a compromise where the story gives way to the art, and though it's a flaw in the final piece, I find myself able to forgive it easily enough, because I value the artistry in that visual moment more than I need for it to make sense.

I'm distressed to learn that there's going to be an American remake of this film, which I feel is completely unnecessary, and despite director Matt Reeves' assurance that he's going to treat the source material (film and novel) with respect, the fact that he only has the bombastic (but enjoyable) Cloverfield under his directing belt doesn't exactly instill me with hope that he'll capture the subtle, understated nature of the relationship between the Oskar and Eli characters. Part of this film's strength is in the way it doesn't tell or show you everything. American filmmakers could learn a lot from that. I highly recommend seeing the original instead of waiting for the remake (or at least first), but be aware that on DVD there's a crappy subtitled version where they translate the movie as if we're babies, and the original theatrical version, where they do not (which will be released on DVD soon, if not already).

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Spiral Out
Sep 15th, 2009, 06:11 AM
I hear tell that the American version is changing Eli's name to something less androgynous. "Her" name will be Abby.
Forum Virgin
Sep 15th, 2009, 08:21 AM
It's a great movie, and an even better book, although i like his second book, Handling the Undead, more.
Oh, and i just have to mention this: I know the actor who plays the bully's big brother.
drifting in the void
Sep 15th, 2009, 09:47 AM
Very nice movie indeed and another one that doesn´t need an american remake

I still remember "Quarantine" which was just REC all over again...just replace the spanish actors with american ones and move the scenario to LA and PRESTO!
Jason's a Furry! Run!
Sep 15th, 2009, 01:46 PM
Originally Posted by eric-the-ded View Post
I hear tell that the American version is changing Eli's name to something less androgynous. "Her" name will be Abby.
Didn't take long for them to start missing the point.

I love this movie, moreso than the book. It's haunting and quiet, something to study and watch all at once. And such interesting characters and ways to see them (I prefer how the movie presents Hakan and Eli's relationship than the book, it leaves more to the imagination. I sorta see him as an adult Oskar, which is rather depressing when you think about it). The tender romance feels real, and the blood is effective when it comes (the scene you mention of a vampire entering uninvited is my favorite in the movie). Ending kicks ass as well, and I think it does work (Eli just moves really, really fast).

Also, I can confirm that the good subtitles have been released on DVD. Magnolia, desiring the whole issue to be swept under the rug, just didn't bother to tell anyone about it. Just serch through recent stacks of the DVD at the store, look for the one that says Subtitles: English (Theatrical) instead of just Subtitles: English.
Pickled Patriarch
Sep 15th, 2009, 05:50 PM
It definitely doesn't need an American remake, no matter how true to the original the director tries to stay. I think that would just ruin it. As for the movie itself, I thought the cinematography was nice as was the acting, but it's not something I would probably bother to watch again. It was just alright (mind you, it was hyped up to me as this jaw-droppingly amazing vampire movie before seeing it). At least it was original though... I'll definitely give it that, which is a lot more than can be said about most movies these days.
The #1 My Little Pony
Sep 16th, 2009, 10:43 AM
Fantastic (maybe it should be fangtastic?) movie. I just bought the book recently, but I haven't had time to read it yet. I'm hoping to get it read sometime in October. I've heard nothing but good things about it...
Forum Virgin
Sep 16th, 2009, 01:14 PM
And just to give Americans some perspective, the winter depicted in this film would be considered one of the more tolerable ones by Swedish standards. Usually they're bitterly cold and covered in mud rather than snow.
Sep 16th, 2009, 06:11 PM
I wish I had seen this in a theater. Big screen, quality sound, dark room. There are some movies that lose something when it comes to your living quarters.
Sep 18th, 2009, 05:31 PM
Yay for american remakes.