Let the Right One In
by Evan ODell 2/12/09
(2008) Directed by Tomas Alfredson. From a best selling novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Starring Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson.
Let the Right One In premiered at the Göteborg International Film Festival in Sweden on 26 January 2008 where it won the Festival's Nordic Film Prize and the Nordic Vision Award. At the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, it won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature. At the Edinburgh Film Festival, it won the Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus Award. At the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland, it was winner of the Méliès d'Argent. At the Fant-Asia Film Festival, it won Best European/North-South American Film and Jury Prizes for Best Director, Best Film, and Best Photography. Winner of the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival. And at Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival it won the Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Gold. Rue Morgue Magazine made it their Horror Movie of the Year 2008. Clearly people are taking notice. Though it makes me think the Oscars are broken. To be eligible for Best Foreign Film, the country of origin must submit the film for the category. Despite all the critical acclaim, for whatver reason, the host country did not submit it.
I've been eager to see it since reading the critics takes after it played the Toronto International Film Festival and the Austin Fantastic Fest. I finally had the chance to see it at the Lonestar International Film Festival in Fort Worth, November 2008 and it was a genuine delight to see. The cinematography, the snowy Swedish landscape, a story that focused more on interpersonal relationships than action or gore, and a compellingly original take on the vampire story all kept me riveted. I saw nine movies at the festival and this one clearly had the strongest audience approval.
This was a best selling novel before it was a motion picture. The screenwriter, working from his own novel, managed to pare it down to the essential story by leaving out many of the subplots, one of which would have been difficult to portray theatrically, in order to adapt his vision to the wide screen. I would say he's done so magnificently.
As far as dramatic vampire stories go, I'd call this one the winner - hands down. I think I'd say Near Dark is still my overall favorite vampire movie, but only because it has a lot of action and is a genuinely fun take on the vampire story. This one feels genuine, more than anything else. It does little to glamorize or romanticize vampires. Though at the heart of the story, this is a love story. I didn't read the book, but if there is a statement here about sexual persuasion, its love the person not the sex. Though the object of love in this case is vampire. This is the kind of film that would be an art house favorite if instead of vampire she were a war refugee or something to that effect because everything else about the film works so well. The fact that it is a vampire film is just icing on the cake. And vampire films were much in need of new blood as the genre has been growing stale for some time.
The director makes excellent use of the Swedish landscape and the snow covered environment really speaks of alienation. The director is known in Sweden for light romantic comedies. This was his first foray into horror. The cinematography in this film is really top notch. The 12 year old children at the heart of the story also give terrific performances.
There was one scene that I'm not sure succeeded in which felines have a strongly negative reaction to a vampire infected woman. It relied on CGI but was mercifully short.
Oskar is bullied at school. He spends his nights in the courtyard dreaming of revenge, though he is too timid to act on it. There he meets Eli, the new girl next door. Eli's arrival coincides with a spate of bloody murders. Oskar reaches out to Eli and she is eventually moved by his offers of friendship. He starts collecting stories on the murders as he begins to suspect something of Eli.