As thousands of screaming fans wait with bated breath for the release of Twilight at the end of this week, another romantic vampire film is currently in theaters, at Twilight may have trouble claiming its the best vampire movie of the year. Let the Right One In, known in its native Sweden as the easily pronounceable Låt den rätte komma in, is a dark "childhood bonding" film that fires on all guns.
Let the Right One In is a tale about a socially awkward young boy named Oskar who, during one winter, befriends a girl named Eli who has moved in next door. Amidst a rash of recent murders, the boy soon discovers that his friend is indeed a vampire. While she resists sinking her fangs into her fleshy friend, she does help him stand up for himself and teaches him what it's like to actually have a friend. You can only imagine what happens to Oskar's bullies, of course. The movie, which is currently ranked #236 on IMDB's Top 250, is thus your pretty typical kid's movie: friendship, first love, school troubles and bloody vampire action.
Director Tomas Alfredson, working off the novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, has made a fine picture that does manage to tackle all of these elements at once (no, I wasn't kidding). There is a level where the film is about two kids bonding, but then, for the more bloodthirsty crowd, there is a good amount of bloodletting. No, Let the Right One In is not a horror movie in the traditional sense; the vampires are by no means villains, and they don't fly out of the darkness to scare you. There's never a sense of dread, yet the movie has a continuous feeling of abandonment that works in its favor. Set in a Swedish winter, the film looks as dark and cold as the temperature is meant to be, and Alfredson must be complimented on this achievement. When you think about it, there isn't a ton of dialogue either, yet the picture just works.
Neither of the lead performances are going to win any awards, but Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson have good chemistry together. Leandersson plays a good vampire, especially one who hates what she is and how she must "live." These two kids really drive the film and do a good job of it.
On an entertainment level, Let the Right One In is incredibly fun to watch. It isn't funny, it isn't action-packed and it isn't scary, but it works because it has likable characters and a believable story. This feels like a vampire story that could exist in our world, nothing like the action-vampire pics of recent times (think Underworld). Beyond that, the movie has an incredibly simple but well conceived climax. Some may not like it because it lacks a normal story arc, but once again, I think that plays in its favor.
We'll see if Twilight can match this, but somehow I doubt it.
Let the Right One In does have subtitles, but if you can get past that minor "inconvenience," I highly recommend this picture.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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