Let The Right One In


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Let The Right One In
"Not quite like anything you've seen before, and very much the better for it."

Editor's note: This review contains spoilers, so read it at your own risk.

Let the Right One In is a film which it is difficult to get a handle on initially – as difficult as finding a pulse on a vampire, we might say.

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The opening scenes present a 12-year-old boy, Oskar. He's clearly that bit different, keeping a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of murders and answering a visiting police officer's question on how they could tell that a body had been murdered before the house it was in was set ablaze. On account of this, he's also being bullied at school by the resident tough guy, Conny, and his gang.

Okay, so it's a coming-of-age story.

Next attention turns to Oskar's new neighbour, a man whom he saw putting cardboard over the windows. Said man then emerges as a serial killer, whose modus operandi is to go out, incapacitate youths with gas, tie them up and then slit their throats like animals.

Okay, so it's a serial killer piece that's either going to develop in the direction of the boy who saw too much/cried wolf or maybe Apt Pupil.

Next we're introduced to the assorted drunks and no-lifes who also inhabit the apartment block.

Okay, so it's a classic Swedish social drama.

Then Oskar meets a girl, Eli, who seems under-dressed for the weather but proclaims not to notice the cold, and whose behaviour seems even odder than his own. She is, as it turns out, a vampire.

Finally everything comes together, as we get a classic coming of age/first love story with several macabre and tender twists.

Think My Life As A Dog or Summer With Monika meets Interview With The Vampire. Or, perhaps, don't, insofar as such a high-concept approach is completely antithetical to Let The Right One In's own sensibilities.

The title is a reference to the traditional vampire lore, to which the filmmakers and the author of the novel on which it is based largely adhere: a vampire cannot enter a building unless invited in.

Beyond this, however, the film is very much sui generis, not quite like anything you've seen before (though Ginger Snaps and The Spirit Of The Beehive might provide vague reference points), and very much the better for it.

Director Tomas Alfredson has a painterly eye and is well aided by his cinematographer and designers, who make the most out of the snow-bound Stockholm locales, finding the beautiful and the grotesque in even the most quotidian detail.

Alfredson also proves himself a talented director of actors, with both his young leads somehow managing to walk the fine line between weirdness and naturalism, and the more awkward, potentially exploitative moments – most notably a shocking flash of nudity from Eli, shocking not just in itself but for the deliberately unanswered questions it raises in the adult viewer, if not in Oskar – handled with a rare delicateness.

Perhaps even more surprisingly Anderson does not skimp on the horror either, expertly deploying suggestion, splatter, suspense and surprise as the moment requires, though unfortunately the score, while making good use of diegetic music and gentle extra-diegetic cues, occasionally resorts to loud, cacophonous horror cliché.

The IMDB hints that a film of the same English title is slated for release in 2010. If it's a US remake it's just about impossible to imagine how it could work in the current climate of moral panics around children out of control and paedophiles lurking on every street corner. And, more importantly, it's hard to see how it could ever improve on Låt Den Rätte Komma In.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 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
The Exile ****
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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