In a snowy courtyard, a young boy with blonde hair demands that an unseen person squeals. Knife in hand, he begins to utter threats. He walks forward towards the target and it’s identity is revealed. He stares the tree down like a youthful Travis Bickle before stabbing it several times, his stabs becoming more powerful the angrier he gets.
The camera pans behind him to reveal a girl, similar in age, watching him. She informs the boy that they can never be friends before abruptly departing. This is a line that may initially be confusing to a viewer. It’s such a strange way for someone to introduce themselves. If they could never speak, then why did the girl approach him in the first place?
The boy is named Oskar, and as peer into his life, we begin to see why. At school, Oskar faces constant fear and humiliation. At home he faces negligence. He has fun when he’s visiting his father, but that’s only when he isn’t ignoring him to get wasted with his deadbeat friend.
Oskar’s existence is sad and lonely, and he de
In a snowy courtyard, a young boy with blonde hair demands that an unseen person squeals. Knife in hand, he begins to utter threats. He walks forward towards the target and it's identity is revealed. He stares the tree down like a youthful Travis Bickle before stabbing it several times, his stabs becoming more powerful the angrier he gets.
The camera pans behind him to reveal a girl, similar in age, watching him. She informs the boy that they can never be friends before abruptly departing. This is a line that may initially be confusing to a viewer. It's such a strange way for someone to introduce themselves. If they could never speak, then why did the girl approach him in the first place?
The boy is named Oskar, and as peer into his life, we begin to see why. At school, Oskar faces constant fear and humiliation. At home he faces negligence. He has fun when he's visiting his father, but that's only when he isn't ignoring him to get wasted with his deadbeat friend.
Oskar's existence is sad and lonely, and he desperately seeks out any type of connection he can. The girl senses this because the existence she lives is a similar one.
Her name is Eli, and she is a vampire. She does not sparkle in the daylight and feed off the blood of unseen livestock, and her vampirism does not bring her happiness. It is a curse containing unspeakable implications. Imagine having to slaughter innocent men so that you may live? While feeding on one of her victims, her body racks with sobs.
Mostly, she relies on a man named Hakan to get blood for her. The details of their relationship are unknown, but carry disturbing implications. Hakan goes undergoes great risk to aid her, for no apparent reward or reason. When he watches Eli play with Oskar through his bedroom window, his eyes show a sorrowful longing.
It's this minute attention to detail that distinguishes “Let the Right One In” from other horror films and other loves stories. It's a drama because there are no monsters or bad guys. It is life and the all the tragic instances within it that supply the horror in his film. Eli is not a monster for wanting to live, no matter the cost, but is it fair that many should die so she can live? Sadly, fairness does not fit into life's equations. If you earn money, somebody else didn't earn that money. There may be people who indirectly starve so that you may live, and it's that very type of concept that the entire mythology of being a vampire was built on.
On the technical ends, it's score is a mix and match of various types of beautiful instrumentals. It's filmed on a low budget(By Hollywood standards), forcing the director to rely on inventive camera work. As somebody who grows tired of constant nonsensical action CGI, I find myself constantly enthralled with the movie magic that occurs through stunt work and physical tricks. This is a film with a perfect understanding of what needs to be on camera, and what can be off camera. It's sound effects are so well utilized that you'll be forming images in your head, far more real than any computer could ever convey, and far more scary with the human imagination to aid it.
The acting is fantastic, with special praise needed for the two child actors who carry the film. The boy who plays Oskar displays phenomenal range in a role that requires just about every type of emotion you can think of. The minimalistic nature of this film puts a large focus on actor performance, as the audience is supposed to find queues within things as subtle as facial twitches. During one scene, Oskar's stands over a wounded opponent, relief washing over his face. You can still see the distress there, but you really feel as if a long burden has been lifted off the character's shoulders. In an industry that can sometimes glorify actors who can not even work with props, this type of skill within a child is breathtaking.
The girl who plays Eli is another force to be reckoned with. Her lines were dubbed, but she also carries a multi-layered role that requires she be adorable in one scene, and terrifying in the next.
Never once do these children disappoint.
The film is not without flaws though. When I initially watched “Let the Right One In”, I was confused over the purpose of a series of scenes involving a group of drunks and the consequences that arise for them due to Eli's arrival. In the original novel, these characters are properly fleshed out. In the film, we are given a bullets point version of their story arc, which makes no attempt to convey even the most basic relationships between each character. After having read the book and rewatching the film, I was able to fully understand everything about them. Without having read the book, it'll take several watches to even guess each character's relation to the other. There is at least one other scene that appears without context without the novel's clarification.
This does not hurt the film overall, as these aforementioned scenes are very short and eventually lead to two of the film's best scenes, though more should have been done to make the roles of those characters apparent to a new viewer.
Still, for it's unflinching look into a dark and twisted cast and it's complete exploration of themes ranging from human desperation to the quintessentials of “us versus them” morality, “Let the Right One” in stands out as one of the best horror films to be released in years. As with all great horror films, it was much more than just a horror film. The greatest horrors are not the monsters that hide in the shadows. A vampire in itself isn't scary. It's the ideas behind these things that supply true terror.
There is no reason to doubt that Oskar truly fears Eli, but there is a deeper fear that trumps the physical threats that Eli supplies. It is a fear of the loneliness within him never coming to an end, and anybody who's ever been lonely can surely relate to the lengths that one will go for the touch of another. It's because of that that we understand what these characters do, even as we recoil in horror as they do it.
So now we find ourselves at a crossroads. "Let Me In" was fantastic, and "Let the Right One In" was a damn near masterpiece. However, this isn't a clear cut case of one being better than the other, as each of these films holds strength over the other. Which one does what better?
Look for Part Three on Sunday to find out.