I generally am not someone who enjoys watching horror movies. In fact, I would say it’s my least favorite movie genre. I do however like to appear smarter than I actually am by flaunting my appreciation of critically acclaimed films. So when I saw Rotten Tomatoes had a whopping 98% rating for the Swedish vampire flick “Let The Right One In,” I felt obliged to check it out. Not only was it bursting with acclaim, but it was also foreign, thus doubling my chances of looking like a film scholar. Well, luckily for me and my pursuits of fraudulent intellectualism, the film is very deserving of its critical praise.
“Let The Right One In,” is the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Oskar, a lonely child of divorce who is mercilessly bullied at school. One night while fantasizing of taking revenge on his tormentors, he meets a girl named Eli who lives in his apartment complex. The two form a close friendship, which ultimately becomes complicated with the revelation that Eli is a vampire.
Although one of the primary characters is, in fact, a vampire, this really isn’t the vocal point of the movie. It’s really about the friendship that forms between the two lonely outsiders. It’s about two kids who don’t really have anyone else to lean on and find solace in each other, and as the movie goes along, they each become more isolated, helping them form an even tighter bond. She helps him find the courage to stand up to the kids who torture him, while he helps her feel like a “regular” twelve year old.
Though the movie is effectively creepy, I think the main reason it works is that it doesn’t seem like it’s trying that hard to be scary. I guess the best comparison I can make would be to “The Strangers,” which is the last horror movie I can recall seeing. This movie was essential 90 minutes of psychopaths sneaking up on people, then vanishing off camera right before the characters saw them. This kind of film making holds no substance to me, as it may be creepy initially, but ends up seeming pointless upon reflection once you realize the characters are acting more at the convenience of the movie rather than the situation.
I felt the opposite about “Let The Right One In.” This film really plays well into the school of thought that what you don’t show is scarier than what you do because of what our imaginations envisioned to have happened. Without giving too much away, the big climactic scene of the movie occurs at a public swimming pool. The scene is very brutal, but instead of showing us what happens, director Tomas Alfredson chooses rather to focus on the aftermath. The results are both effective and bone chilling. In fact, the only scene in the movie I felt truly didn’t work was a scene involving one of Eli’s victims being tormented by cats in which the brutality is on full display.
The minimalism approach is also beneficial to the actors. Nothing can kill a movie faster than a bad child performance (see: “Phantom Menace”). And usually nothing brings the worst out of kid actors more than trying to have them trying to appear creepy and menacing. That’s why I liked that Eli (played by first timer Lina Leandersson) doesn’t seem to enjoy preying on her victims. When we see her face after an attack, she looks sad and helpless. I liked that she was portrayed as an unfortunate victim of circumstance as opposed to a conscious free, blood-thirsty monster.
As I admitted earlier, I am not a horror movie fan, nor am I in anyway knowledgeable on vampire lore. Outside of reading “Dracula” for an English class my Freshman year of College I have little to no experience following vampires in either film or literature. But as someone who enjoys effectively made films with solid character development, I found much to like about “Let The Right One In.” It didn’t rely on stupid horror movie tricks or try to boggle our minds with an unnecessary twist like a certain French piece of shit I reviewed a few months back. It never tries to do anything more than tell the story that’s being told and it’s a stronger film because of this approach.
Apparently an American version entitled “Let Me In,” directed by Matt Reeves is set to be released next year. Reeves previously made “Cloverfield” another movie I felt was much stronger when it was showing us the aftermath of carnage rather than the act itself. While it would be stupid and pointless for him to simply make the same movie as the Swedish original, hopefully he has the smarts to stick with the “less is more” style that made this movie work so well.
- Very well made
- Good performances
- Cat scene
- The storyline of Oskar’s parents divorce was a tad underdeveloped
Final Score: 8.3/10 (Great)
Direction: 9/10 (Settings are creepy and the story is well-executed)
Acting: 8/10 (Both Leandersson and fellow newcomer Kåre Hedebrant were very good in the lead roles)
Entertainment Value: 8/10 (Very good, at times near great)