Say what you will about horror, it’s difficult to deny that the genre is in a pretty dire state these days. Aside from a few interesting films (The House of the Devil, The Descent), most contemporary horror movies tend to fall into one of two categories:
Soulless, hateful “torture porn”
Soulless, hateful remakes of 80s horror movies
Which is why a film like Let The Right One In rightly causes genre fans to take notice. As much a tale of young romance as it is a vampire tale, it’s one of the best films from any county, in any genre that I’ve seen in the last few years.
A wholly original take on the vampire mythos, Let The Right One In places the familiar tropes into the setting of 1980s Sweden. And it certainly feels like a Swedish film: cold, bleak, and lacking in smiles. Visually, everything is shown in chilly blues and grays, which (combined with long silences and snow everywhere) creates a claustrophobically brooding atmosphere. In a good way. This is filmmaking at its sharpest and most economical. Not a single shot or cut is wasted, and every frame is serving a purpose. It also helps that the cinematography is freakin’ gorgeous.
The story focuses on Oskar, a frail young boy who is frequently bullied by his classmates. Things begin to change for him when he finds a friend in Eli, a diminutive vampire. He doesn’t know she’s a vampire yet, of course, but it’s certainly clear to him she isn’t normal. He simply relates to her because she appears to be an outcast as well, albeit a much stronger one.
There are also a couple of other story threads involving the townspeople affected by vampiric attacks and Eli’s tragic relationship with her caretaker. These are less tremendous (particularly the townspeople, who sometimes seem to be just filling screen time) but never too distracting or dull. They are effective as part of the whole, building a larger world around Oskar and Eli, even if they aren’t quite as interesting.
The violence in this film, mostly involving children, can be brutal. I really enjoy this – not because I like seeing children harmed, but because it’s so incredibly unusual. It seems that one constant in 99% of films is that children are portrayed as these magical, perfect creatures that must be protected at all costs. In many cases, they are placed in a film in order to lazily create dramatic tension and raise the stakes. A recent example of this is Piranha 3D, where all the characters put themselves in danger to protect two bratty, obnoxious kids. Plenty of much nicer peripheral characters die, but thats fine as long as these jerk kids stay alive. Screw that.
I love Let the Right One In, I love it good. We only get a few films of this quality every year, if we’re lucky, and they must be savored.The only flaw in the film I can pinpoint is a scene in the film involving awkward CG cats (you’ll know it when you see it), but that’s a small price to pay for entertainment of this caliber. I recommend this film to everyone, horror fan or not.
Note: There’s been a lot of controversy regarding the “inferior” subtitles on the initial DVD release. I think the difference is a bit overblown, but if you want the original subtitles be sure to check the back of the packaging for “Subtitles: English (theatrical)”. And I hope this goes without saying, but avoid the dub.
Overall Score: 8.40 – Great. (Movies that score between 8.00 and 8.50 are great representations of their genre that everyone should see in theaters on opening night.) A beautiful, heartbreaking horror movie, Let the Right One In is among the best films of the last decade.
Siobhan Watters Overall Score: 8.35 – Alfredson does the slow build with finesse, putting us one step closer to the true nature of the vampire with every scene. Stellar cinematography and engaging leads make this one of the best vampire movies on record. Read her full review here!
Glenn Morris Overall Score: 7.80 – 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. Read his full review here!