So, why do vampires have to be invited in?
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kare Kedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Genre: Romance, Drama, Sci-Fi, Horror
Type: Independent, Foreign (Swedish)
Running Time: 114 minutes
Rated R (for bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language)
Let me start by saying, Twilight has nothing on Let The Right One In. Secondly, although the love aspect of this almost dreamlike, surreal film revolves around prepubescent kids, it is in no way actually meant for prepubescent kids.
The entire atmosphere of the film is very somber and several aspects contribute to that, including the winter, the innocent love shared by two kids, and the realization of how utterly alone they both are. Let The Right One In brings back true originality to the whole vampire rising of books and movies. It is visually refreshing, honest, and will hold you spellbound. While the significant undertone is without a doubt sufficiently chilling, the story is actually quite delicate.
Set in Sweden, during a bitter and bleak winter, Oskar (Hedebrant) is a lonely 12 year old outcast living in an apartment complex with his mother. He has no friends and is constantly bullied by a group of boys at school. When he comes home with fresh bruises and wounds, he lies to his mother, saying things like “I fell”. One night, new tenants move in- a man and a little girl, Eli (Leandersson). They can be seen putting cardboard against their windows from the inside (Hm, suspicious). They talk to no one. Strange. At this point, we know that there is something…different…about her.
Oskar and Eli’s friendship begins the night they meet each other on the complex’s playground. Of course, I had to ask myself, “Why would these little children feel that it would be nice to go out in the cold winter of Sweden to frolic on the ice covered jungle gym?”. However, best believe that icy winter truly adds to the film’s atmosphere. Despite Eli telling Oskar “I can’t be your friend”, they become fast friends anyway. However, right from the start Oskar senses there is something peculiar about Eli. He says, “You smell funny”. Yeah. Like something dead perhaps?
The essence of all that is Let The Right One In, is the way that vampires are not sensationalized. There is a very serious, believable aspect to the story. There is no mention of garlic or reflections or even the sudden appearance of fangs. An explanation is finally provided as to why you must invite a vampire in, and the answer isn’t pretty. Eli seems to be like any 12 year old girl, minus the way she looks extremely ill when hungry, the fact that Oskar never sees her during the day, or what a very fast nudity shot reveals about her anatomy, which lends a clarification of her statement to Oskar, “I’m not a girl”.
Although they are kids, neither are very childlike. Oskar is clearly severely affected by the troubles at school (and what child wouldn’t be). Although seemingly peaceful on the outside, his thoughts are not entirely friendly. He collects newspaper clippings of murders and keeps a knife close at hand. Eli points out how they aren’t so different, where she only does to people what he wishes he could do himself. She encourages him to fight back, saying “Be like me, Oskar”. Eli is way beyond her (apparent) years. She’s seen more of the world than Oskar. She isn’t afraid to kill, although she would prefer to be inconspicuous and more careful in her killings. But when she is hungry, what else can she do?
The Long and Short: By the end of it all, I wished desperately that I had my own vampire friend. I definitely recommend you see this, if not to expand your range of film genres. There is something about it’s seriousness that lends comparison to Nosferatu (1922) and the delicacy reminiscent of Kirsten Dunst’s role as Claudia in Interview With A Vampire (1994). American independent films are good, when not overtaken by Hollywood stars (oh, that’s a whole other post altogether!). But some foreign independent films are truly gems. This is a gem.
My Recommendation: I think this is best seen alone in a quiet place, but if you scare easily and blood makes you squeamish, then perhaps watch with a group of your friends who won’t outright compare this to Twilight.
Favourite Scene: That awesome friend-to-the-rescue-by-murdering-your-bullies scene at the pool.