Let the Right One In is a monster movie, but no more than it is a slow character drama. I feel it supports my belief that the most admirable films of the horror genre are these hybrids that let chills and thrills take the back seat to something more engaging, and closer associated with other categories. That said, to me this Swedish import was not the Best Foreign Film shoe-in that it was made out to be.
The story places two extremely lost and lonely children at the center of a harsh suburban winter. The first, a sensitive and brutally bullied boy named Oskar finds potential companionship in the young vagrant next door, which for him is such an unbelievable prospect that gray skin, putrid smell, greasy hair, and total lack of personality do nothing to curb the allure of Eli.
That’s my biggest complaint for this mostly satisfying movie. There isn’t much to like about Eli, jittering like a broken bird. After washing off the crud accumulated over years of undeath, the character’s only appeal is the vampire’s need for conversation.
Oskar, with his alarming collection of crime journalism and corruptible measure of trauma is enduring his parents’ divorce. Neither mother nor father will address their only son’s issues, because they’re consumed by their own selfish drama. It makes life even more unbearable for Oskar, but Let the Right One In calls for such a boy at his breaking point.
The young actor in this role does an amazing job of conveying the fear that commands his life, and under-plays the relief in discovering a friend. His careful pauses draw us into some very personal moments. As male child actors are concerned I’m not sure I’ve seen better. Unfortunately, the same selective pace that allows for inflection is at fault for the drawn out nature of the film. The camera strays from its subjects to work out plot devices through obnoxious ancillary characters, and hangs on them far too long.
The older guardian of Eli, admittedly, is necessary to establish the vampire’s predicament, and some implications of where the story might be going. His scenes are also darkly humorous at times, though why he attacks young people exclusively to feed the little vamp is beyond clarity. Additional cast members are not as much fun. They are story devices, amateur performers, and props for potential visual effects. I did like the scene where our mystical protagonist seized control of a horde of housecats for no discernable reason but to shut up one of these locals.
As far as I understand it, the movie is about the danger of leaving children to their own devices. In such an environment, outcasts together are bound to work out the heart wrenchingly corrupt, hateful, and unfortunate reality that lies behind Saturday morning television. The children of this film who are closer tied to that world than Oskar and Eli inflict psychological horror which is more difficult to watch than any plucked organ of standard slasher fare.
So, if belonging is the very best thing, then what’s a little survival killing between soul mates, right?
You’re welcome to enjoy the cinematography present here, or just take the message to heart without all that blood soaked snow. We have a responsibility to the next generation, particularly those of us who birthed a member of it.
7.80 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)
Let the Right One In is a step above the vast majority of horror flicks but I’m not sure it begs to be digested.