Let The Right One In
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Kåre Hedbrant(as Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli)
Release date: October 24, 2008 (Norway)
Review by Sheila Merritt
The winner of this year’s critics’ darling award, in the foreign language horror film category, goes to: Let The Right One In. Is all the praise and glorification justified? Well, yes and no. It is a beautiful film to look at, the two young actors who portray the main characters are excellent, and the story is certainly different. The movie is, however, at 114 minutes in length, longer than the story requires. There are too many peripheral characters, and the first hour is particularly slow moving. This has nothing to do with it being in a foreign language. In fact, a lot of the action doesn’t even have dialogue. It seems almost as though the screenplay writer had trouble adapting his novel, or simply couldn’t bear to trim it to make it flow as a film.
The story focuses on the relationship between two young people: Oskar, a twelve year old boy who is bullied at school and contends with warring parents at home, and Eli, a female vampire who has been twelve “for a long time.” These two alienated individuals find solace in each other’s company. It is fascinating to watch the evolution of their involvement with each other. Pre-adolescent angst mingles with curiosity; tentative steps lead to revelations, and for Oskar, a bit of repulsion. Before understanding Eli’s supernatural dilemma, he slits his hand as a pledge: He wants their blood to mingle as a sign of commitment. When he asks her to do the same, he doesn’t get the response that he hopes will solidify their bond. The act, to his surprise, widens the distance between them. Licking blood off the floor is a real social no-no. It compels Oskar to rethink his desire to go steady with one so shockingly socially maladroit. He also is prompted to confront some probable major mortality issues that could transpire from their relationship.
Eli is a unique film vampire. Her caretaker, for example, is her father. He drains the blood of strangers to bring to her and then kills the victims. When things get dicey, he has to let her fend for herself. There is a wonderful scene, in which the father is in the throes of a draining in a park, when a French poodle discovers him. The dog, which is off its leash, is called by its owner and a companion. The dog barks, sits down in front of the desanguination, and refuses to budge. The father is forced to flee the scene. What is great about this, other than the inherent humorous aspect of the situation, is the sympathy factor. The father’s predicament makes him vulnerable, and worthy of the viewer’s concerned involvement. It is a brilliant example of a cinematic shift in point of view.
The father-daughter relationship complexities mount, and dad continues sacrificing for his little girl. When finally left completely to her own devices, Eli makes some errors. In a case of bitus interruptus, she creates another vampire. This results in some nasty behavior from cats: In this movie, cats aren’t fond of vampires. It is all good horror movie fun, and the film is packed with enough dismemberments and blood to satisfy the gore fancier. There is, however, a strange sort of a power struggle between art house pretentiousness and down and dirty genre flick occurring. The slow pace of the movie only serves to make this cinematic schizophrenia more obvious. It is a shame, because there is a lot to admire in Let The Right One In.
The movie’s critical success has prompted plans for the inevitable American remake. In all probability, the pacing issue will probably be dealt with by an excess of American action. Maybe, the slow moving aspect isn’t that bad, after all.