Thomas Alfredson’s 2008 vampire film Let the Right One In isn’t so much a horror film as it is a coming of age drama which happens to have a vampire as one of the two leads. Strikingly beautiful, nicely written and perfectly executed, it probably won’t be well received by all horror fans, but as a film, it is a work of art.
The story first introduces us to Oskar (Kà¥re Hedebrant) who is a pale and strange looking child; he is bullied at school and lives a lonely existence. He does not retaliate against his antagonists, but chooses to vent his frustration by attacking the tree in front of his house with a knife. It is during one of these violent, if harmless outbursts that he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), another unusual 12 year old. She doesn’t like the daylight, cannot eat normal food, and declares that she’s been twelve “for a long time”. If this reminds anyone of Edward Cullen in Twilight, a vampire boy who has been seventeen for a long time, and they are hoping to find any other similarities, they will be sorely disappointed. Let the Right One In, is nothing like Twilight!
Eli lives with a man Hà¥kan (Per Ragnar), who, whilst most people would assume is her father, is actually her blood-gathering assistant. Unfortunately, he’s not a very good assistant, and on both occasions when we see him trying to “bring home the bacon” he makes a real pigs-ear of it!
The story of Let the Right One In follows Eli and Oskar as they start to bond, and Eli insists that Oskar should fight back against the bullies. When Oskar finds out that she is a vampire, he takes it all in his stride as only a child could. Eli is a complex character, very well played by Leandersson who manages to show that the character has wisdom beyond her perceived years. She is not portrayed as an innocent — it is quite clear she has a sinister side — and it gives the film a rather ghoulish feel. We know that Eli is not actually a child, and the relationship between her and Oskar is therefore, at times uncomfortable to watch. Especially as Eli appears to have an ulterior motive, I couldn’t help feeling that she was grooming Oskar to replace her bumbling assistant Hà¥kan.
When Eli attacks, not a great deal of the action is shown. Instead, we are given glimpses of the violence rather than being bombarded with violence and gore, though the sound effects of Eli feeding are pretty effective. I can’t help but feel the film makers didn’t want to spoil such a classy and beautiful film, with cheap shots of gratuitous violence. In this instance I think they were right, but it does mean that horror fans might be disappointed. The final scene is pretty spectacular, but again, done with such finesse that although horrifying, isn’t actually scary.
The pace of the film is intentionally slow, the cinematography is absolutely amazing, the film has a somewhat bleached-out appearance, until we see a spot of blood in the snow, or a red berry, and this exaggerates the colors we do see and ensures that the film is pure eye-candy. Alfredson was not afraid to take his time and ensure he captured the finer detail. The location is amazing, the snow makes everything so quiet, and the classy, subtle score goes by almost unnoticed. The acting by both the leads is outstanding, and it makes them a joy to watch.
Let the Right One In is not a gore-fest, nor is it packed with action and tension, but the story of these two characters is somewhat mesmerizing.