What is going on with American cinema these days when some of the best genre films I’ve seen lately are coming from foreign territories? [REC] and now LET THE RIGHT ONE IN have both already secured the top slots in my inevitable “TOP 10 OF THE YEAR” list, which I’ve already started mentally compiling in my head. I can not stress this enough… I absolutely love, love, LOVE this movie.

Written and adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel of the same name, filmmaker Tomas Alfredson handles the task of translating this story for the screen and pulls it off masterfully. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is the story of a blossoming romance between two young 12 year old kids. It’s the type of story that you yourself having been at that very impressionable age can totally relate to. The only catch is… well, one of these kids happens to be a vampire. One of the film’s greatest strengths is that you could remove the vampire element completely, and you’d still have a beautiful movie about the relationship between these 2 kids. But hell, the fact that one of them happens to drink blood to survive makes it all the more fun!
The story centers around shy, introverted Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a 12 year old from a broken home who constantly gets picked on by a group of boys at his school. He spends his evenings outside in his building’s courtyard stabbing at a telephone pole and vicariously fantasizing about getting revenge on those nasty bullies. Then he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young girl who just moved into the apartment right next to his with her father. Eli, however only appears at night and immediately warns Oskar upon their first meeting that they can’t be friends. Despite her initial reluctance, the 2 seem drawn to each other and begin spending every night out and about together.
With the arrival of Eli also comes the sudden rash of strange disappearances and murders in this small town. A boy’s body is found hanging upside down from a tree with his throat slit, but the act appears to have been interrupted and incomplete. This news has the townspeople somewhat on edge. Could these recent victimization’s be connected to the arrival of Eli and her father? (Well, you should already know the answer to that!)
The beautiful thing about this movie is what these two kids discover in each other. Eli teaches Oskar to be more confident and to stand up for himself against the bullies that constantly taunt him. She herself is of course more forthright and lacking in fear and tries to instill some these qualities into Oskar. And perhaps… Eli looks at Oskar and sees a bit of humanity that she’s been lacking for God knows how long. It’s the type of story that takes a while to tell, but because of the slow pace and set-up, it makes the last act all the more rewarding.
I credit director Tomas Alfredson for effectively orchestrating the right way to let this story unfold on-screen with the stylish visual storytelling he implements here. This takes place during the winter season in Sweden, so the majority of the film is set to the backdrop of snow, and with snow often comes that intimidating deafening silence. (I love walking around an empty street immediately following the calm of a snowstorm!) I’m surprised more horror films haven’t used this setting more often. (Not Sweden in particular, I’m talking about the snow backdrop.) It’s perfect for a horror movie.
While I’m sure you may be worried that since I referred to this movie as slow-paced earlier and hell, it is a foreign film, you might also assume that the vampirism angle is for the most part implied. Oh no. You will see blood here and there. Eli does attack and feed on people, and there’s something alarming about it considering she has the appearance of a 12 year old girl, but this isn’t your average gore-fest horror movie. It unfolds at a slow-burn pace and implies a lot before revealing several “pay-offs”.
I’ll be completely honest. Although I’m a huge fan of the genre and welcome all of the sub-genre’s that fall under the category of “horror”, I was never big into “vampire” movies. The ones that I did love were ones that had unique and interesting spins on the vampire mythology. For example, I’d say… FRIGHT NIGHT, NEAR DARK, MARTIN and THE LOST BOYS are my favorite vampire movies because each one offers a serious, yet different take on the material. (Ok, and each of the ones I listed also do possess a dark underlining sense of humor.) If a filmmaker adds a little something to the mythos of vampires, then it intrigues me. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN definitely plays with those rules and shows us a few little things we’ve never seen before. And it’s all done deadly serious, which is what makes it all work so well.
Another thing about this movie that sets it apart is where the horror truly lies for the viewer. You’d think that the “scary” aspects would be from a 12 year old vampire girl that feeds on victims, but in all honesty, the scariest thing to me is the cruelty that children inflict on other children. There’s nothing scarier then not knowing just how far a bully is willing to go when all the adults have their backs turned, and the moments of the film that illustrated the above scenario were the ones that had me tensing up in my seat the most.
This is one of those beautifully crafted films so full of detail that it just gets better with repeat viewings. The film is already poised for an American remake under the helm of CLOVERFIELD director Matt Reeves, and no disrespect to Reeves, I loved CLOVERFIELD – I just have a tough time imagining this film translated for American audiences. I can already see one of the changes being a shift in the age of Oskar and Eli to 18 year old WB actors. The beauty of the original is the fact that it’s two 12 year olds. Regardless, MAGNET, the horror sub-division of Magnolia Pictures is releasing LET THE RIGHT ONE IN in limited theatrical release on October 24th (2008), followed by a DVD release. Once again, this gets ICONS OF FRIGHT’s strongest recommendation. Check it out! –Robg.



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