To some, the appearance in commercial cinemas of another vampire movie might elicit groans from the anti-Twilight crowd, and yet raise alerted eyebrows of joy from those who enjoyed said movie. What is interesting about this new film from Sweden is that it is likely to repel the hardcore audience of Twilight and appeal heavily to those in search of a more human based thriller/drama. The problem is getting them to the cinema to watch it.
Luckily, the good press and decent poster campaign Let The Right One In has been receiving can only help. The campaign is clearly aimed at the crowd who lap up all of the Asian horror films that we have been seeing over the past 5 years.
Director Tomas Alfredson composes a beautifully shot film. It isn’t hard for him to make the snow heavy landscapes stand out and support its characters. And blood shows up well against the bleakness of the landscape. Here then is the tale of lonely and bullied Oskar, living with his mother in a block of flats. Moving in next door comes 12-year-old Eli and what appears to be her much older guardian, Hakan. Initially the youngsters meet up outside the flats at night and slowly begin a friendship uncomplicated by any barriers. This friendship develops into a strong kinship and relationship, even after Oskar has learnt the truth about his new friend Eli.
What starts with scenes as simple as a boy sharing his Rubik’s Cube with a new girl on the block, advances swiftly to Eli giving him advice on how to deal with bullies at school. She recognises the blood lust in Oskar, but is drawn to his simplicity. All the while Hakan is out late night offing students in order to drain their blood so that Eli can survive.
What can be read about this film is that as much as Eli supports and helps Oskar, is she merely manipulating him for her own purposes? Or is the bond between them truer beyond the view of any cynic? There is strong evidence to support both theories, and they probably, by the films end, strike up a healthy balance. What is more harrowing for these characters, however, is the heavy burden of the loneliness of existence from the outside world even before they have met each other. So this becomes a curious tale of growth and warmth between two people who essentially need each other.
It isn’t without its humour either as evidenced by the first murder we see where a panicked Hakan has to flee the scene of a freshly strung up victim when he is interrupted by a dog that is being walked. This healthy balance of humour can only aid the more tense scenes in the film.
The vampire mythos is also addressed. Eli has strong physical power about her. The rule of sunlight still applies as does the obvious blood lust. What stands out the most, though, is the rule of having to be invited in somewhere before entering. We see the full on consequences of this when it is not given by a playful Oskar in one of the films stand out scenes.
Original and beautifully tragic all the same, Let The Right One In delivers where most cannot. All the budget and wirework in the world can’t beat this simple tale.
Of course, there is a Hollywood remake in the works. We can expect the female lead to look a lot more sultry (despite being 12) and the male lead to look more like a man (or a less effeminate boy than is presented here) whose nose runs a lot less and doesn’t tuck his jumpers into his jeans. Oh, and the script might get an overhaul as well.
Check out Michael Leader’s thoughts on Let The Right One In, which opens on Friday.