Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In

****

Reviewed by: The Exile

Sticky-sweet and exotically frigid, Let The Right One In twists the standard coming-of-age tale into a surreal fable of lost children and imperiled souls. Set in a wintry Stockholm suburb in 1982, the movie centers on Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a towheaded 12-year-old with a busy mother and an absent father. Ignored at home and bullied at school, Oskar maintains a secret scrapbook filled with ghoulish clippings of recent local murders. At night he hangs out alone in the playground of his featureless apartment block, playing with a Rubik’s cube - and a hunting knife.

Then one night a new neighbour arrives, in the form of pallid, raven-haired Eli (Lina Leandersson). She smells funny and looks unhealthy, but she’s the same age (“more or less”) and Oskar isn’t in a position to be picky. Drawn together with the magnetism of outcasts, the pair grow closer; soon they’re communicating in Morse code through a common bedroom wall and Oskar is confiding his revenge fantasies. So enraptured is he that he forgets to wonder why he never sees his new friend during the day.

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Effortlessly moving between genres, director Tomas Alfredson (working from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s adaptation of his 2004 novel) melds ’tween romance and horror movie with cool efficiency. Blanketing everything in spooky stillness, Alfredson creates an imaginative and compelling study of youthful alienation, of a world where unparented and unprotected children are forced to care for themselves. Here, vampirism is almost incidental: shunning the familiar bloody signifiers - the snapping fangs and staked hearts - the director persuades us that the dining requirements of the undead are infinitely less terrifying than an average day at school. Out of sight of teachers and other adults, normally mundane and comforting spaces - the boys’ changing room at the gym, a deserted bathroom - become chambers of horror where Oskar is mercilessly terrorised.

By contrast, Eli’s bloodlust seems almost benign, a need satisfied without malice or enjoyment. When the film dips into gore, it does so with remarkable originality, choosing off-kilter perspectives and powerfully effective long shots. As Eli leaps on the back of an unsuspecting local, clinging like a succubus and slurping noisily, or glides up the front of a hospital building to perch casually on a narrow window ledge, the movie’s chilly-white vistas provide the perfect backdrop to her crimson leftovers and ethereal pallor. And when her protector (perhaps father, more likely not) heads into the woods to drain a hapless victim, the frozen trees seem as alien as Transylvania itself.

Poignant, pensive and surprisingly poetic, Let the Right One In unspools with subtle psychological complexity - Eli may go for the jugular but the screenplay never does. Digging into motivation but not morality, Alfredson photographs the youngsters’ surroundings to emphasise the utilitarian architecture and bland interiors, fashioning an environment of punishing vacancy. By the end, as we glimpse an eerie forecast of Oskar’s likely future, we may be unsure if this is a tale of teenage love or a partnership of bloodthirsty souls, each feeding off the other.

Reviewed on: 12 Dec 2008
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Let The Right One In packshot
A touching story of first romance... with a side-serving of horror.

Read more Let The Right One In reviews:

Nick Da Costa ****1/2
Amber Wilkinson ****1/2
Keith Hennessey Brown ****1/2
Chris **1/2

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel of the same name.

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm, Karl-Robert Lindgren, Anders T. Peedu, Pale Olofsson

Year: 2008

Runtime: 114 minutes

Country: Sweden


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