LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Låt den rätte komma in)
(director: Tomas Alfredson; screenwriters: John Ajvide Lindqvist/based on the novel Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist; cinematographer: Hoyte van Hoytema; editor: Dino Jonsater/Tomas Alfredson; music: Johan Soderqvist; cast: Kare Hedebrant (Oskar), Lina Leandersson (Eli), Per Ragnar (Hakan), Henrik Dahl (Erik), Karin Bergquist (Yvonne), Peter Carlberg (Lacke), Ika Nord (Virginia), Mikael Rahm (Jocke), Cayetano Ruiz (Avila), Patrik Rydmark (Conny), Rasmus Luthander (Jimmy); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Nordling/Carl Molinder; Magnet Releasing; 2008-Sweden-in Swedish with English subtitles)
“A bloody good offbeat relationship vampire film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A bloody good offbeat relationship vampire film by Sweden’s Tomas Alfredson (“Dear Mr. Barroso”). It’s based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema sets the film’s chilling ominous cold mood with some stunningly beautiful framed compositions, reminiscent of a cross between a Vermeer and a Francis Bacon canvas. He depicts, with a great eye for detail, an ordinary snowy setting in a desolate place where there occurs the usual supernatural vampire bloodsuckings from movie-lore and makes it come to life in a fresh carnivorous way.
It’s set in 1982 in a wintry snow-covered provincial suburb of Stockholm, where an odd Muslim looking swarthy skinned straggly black haired 12-year-old girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves in next door to the same aged misfit named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and they meet at night in the playground of their drab housing project. He’s a weakling of a pale complexion and long blonde hair, who suffers from being relentlessly bullied in school by three classmates and tries to make the best of things by not telling anyone his troubles and escaping into a fantasy world. He’s terribly lonely, receiving little comfort living with his nagging divorced mom and from infrequent visits from his amiable but inattentive dad. Letting Eli borrow his Rubik’s Cube brings them close together, to the point he suddenly asks her to be his steady. Her startling reply “is if he would still want her if she wasn’t a girl.”
In the background, an angst-ridden desperate ugly looking middle-aged man who is Eli’s guardian, named Hakan (Per Ragnar), ineptly goes about slitting throats of the shabby locals, leading lives of quiet desperation, so he can drain their blood with a funnel into a jar and feed his vampire ward.
It’s a lyrical vampire film that shows its fangs and its heart, as the story revolves around the growing relationship between the alienated outsiders who have no where else to turn for warmth yet still have a difficult time trying to make a real connection due to circumstances. There’s also the fright scenes involving snacking on the jugulars, pet cats suddenly becoming ferocious and attacking when sensing a vampire in their midst, and a startling stomach-churning bloodthirsty swimming-pool climax that leaves a lasting impression.
The title is conveniently borrowed from Morrissey’s song ‘Let the Right One Slip In,’ but also has a double-edged reference to vampire-movie lore that says the undead bloodsuckers must be invited into someone’s home before they can enter. For the lonely Oskar, Eli is the only one in the film who showed him any humanity and we can see why he invited her in to his apartment (and heart) even when knowing she’s a vampire. There’s an American remake version of this film supposedly in the works for 2009. Don’t ask me why, because I doubt if they can improve a film that’s so intelligently done.
REVIEWED ON 11/27/2008 GRADE: A-