Regardless of what people may or may not think, it is completely possible for a film maker with some talent to create a really cool vampire movie. There has been enough tom foolery happening with vampire lore, that it sometimes seems too much to handle. Enter novelist/screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist and director Tomas Alfredson who worked to create what may be the best vampire film of the last decade, Let the Right One In. It’s an outstanding blend of human drama, vampire folklore, coming of age, and romance but also will very likely remain a movie that I consider to be a modern day classic.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a 12 year old boy living in the suburbs of Sweden who has trouble letting out his hostilities caused by the constant bullying he is subjected to at school. Life for Oskar is shaken up when a mysterious young girl, Eli (Lina Leandersson), moves into the apartment next to his. The two children soon become friends, even though throughout the town there are brutal murders and disappearances occurring. As the two children become closer and closer to each other, and a small romantic bonds for between them, Oskar begins realizing some strange things going on with Eli, starting with the facts that she is way older than 12, has an unending thirst for blood, and may be responsible for all of the missing and murdered people around town.
This is a movie that has so much going for it that it’s hard to just talk about it in so many words. I think it’s important to talk about some of the subtext going on in Let the Right One In. First of all, the way they handle Oskar’s character is brilliant. There are plenty of movies out there where a kid gets bullied, but in this one, we focus more on his time away from the bullies and how it is affecting him psychologically. Oskar spends his time clipping news stories about murder and guns before going outside to stab at a tree with a knife he hides under his bed. Much like another movie I recently reviewed, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, this film deals with a mortal side effect to bullying. While we never see Oskar go to the extremes that are shown in Elephant, we do get a look at a boy who is slowly becoming more and more psychologically disturbed, which is just as terrifying, if not more terrifying, than any vampire you will see in any other movie.
Despite what some people may want to think, vampires are very romantic creatures, even if the romance is in some form of creepy or unsettling way. Just look at Bram Stoker’s novel of Dracula. The romantic qualities of Dracula are certainly creepy, but he still seems to have a sort of power over women. In Let the Right One In, the romance is between 12 year old Oskar and the infinitely 12 year old Eli. This kind of romance is sweet to see and is also combined with a strange coming of age story for Oskar and a shift in the life of Eli. This is a much more interesting story than the murderous consequences of Eli’s thirst, although I can’t deny that this movie as some genuinely creepy moments that are guaranteed to make your skin crawl. This is a horror movie after all, but a horror movie that is devoid of those god awful jump scares. The horror in this movie feels legitimate, and not just something that gets your adrenaline fueled for a few seconds. Anyone who has seen this movie would agree that the climax of the film is one of the best in the history of horror films.
Finally, this is a film that will get people talking. I first saw this movie in school, and pretty much only watched it as an interesting take on vampire movies. Watching it again just a few days ago, I saw how brilliantly written it is. There is just enough information given in the plot for us to know what is going on. I never really had any questions or confusions about what was being revealed, but there is so much happening beneath the surface that is merely alluded to that left me, and I’m sure many people, wondering. Now, I’ve never read Lindqvist’s novel, and from what I hear, a lot is explained. That’s fine for the novel, but for the movie, I love the mystery surround Eli and her past. It adds a whole layer of depth that wouldn’t be there if everything was simply explained.
Let the Right One In is simply one of the best vampire films ever made and a personal favorite of mine in the horror genre. It retains an excellent feeling of terror throughout the whole film but also adds nice moments for the two children to grow closer to one another in a way that only children can. The performances by these kids are also both excellent and surprisingly believable considering who their characters are. I haven’t seen the American remake of this film, but I’m not sure I’m too interested in it. This movie is perfect enough as it is, and one that I could watch over and over again.