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Let The Right One In is yet another foreign film that’s recently gotten an Americanized, big-screen Hollywood makeover. It first came to my attention about a year ago when someone mentioned to me that it was a far different vampire tale than the others that had come out recently. That alone was enough to interest me. I lucked out when I found the DVD at a closing video store. I’ll admit that I’m biased against foreign cinema — I personally believe that other countries are doing it a little better than America is right now, but I digress.
Meet Oskar. He’s a 12-year-old bully magnet at school whose top interest is crime (particularly murders). He even keeps a little scrapbook of newspaper clippings about murder. Aww, a boy after my own heart! He tries to befriend the new girl, Eli, who has moved in next door with her “caretaker.” It’s soon revealed that Eli is a vampire and that her caretaker, Hakan, is actually a pedophile. Considering the fact that Eli is eternally 12, it’s easy to see why Hakan likes her so much. Hakan procures fresh blood for Eli by killing poor random fools that happen to cross his path.
Oskar’s attempts to befriend Eli are met with coldness at first. She tells him under no circumstances can they be friends. Oskar’s already fragile feelings are understandably hurt and the bullying from the other boys only gets worse. Eli takes note of Oskar’s helplessness and explains to him that he has to fight back to survive. The two form a strange bond and soon Eli begins to look after Oskar, but it’s not without its problems. Eli has a secret even stranger than the fact that she’s a vampire and Hakan complicates things by being unable to produce blood for Eli. He decides to try one last time, but fails horribly and ends up disfiguring himself with acid in order not to lead the police to Eli. Eli finds Hakan later in the hospital, where the man offers up his own blood and is drunk dry by the girl, and he ultimately falls out the hospital window to his death. Eli is then left alone in the world save for Oskar, with whom things take a turn for the bizarre.
As with most of my reviews, I won’t spoil the plot for everyone or delve too deeply into the storyline. There’s a wonderful blend of art and storyline in this film. There are few unanswered elements or random scenes that don’t belong and the aesthetic was very pleasing. The bleak locations and dark atmosphere of the film aren’t laid on too thick and do nothing but enhance the feel of the film. The pacing is just right and everything flows smoothly without seeming forced.
The serious tone of the film is expressed well through most of the cast. Lina Leanndersson hands down steals the show as Eli. It’s hard to believe that she was the (technical) same age as her character when she filmed the role. Kare Hedebrandt (Oskar) does an excellent job of being both sullen and angry. He’s easy to sympathize with and will tug at the heart strings of former bullied, morbid children everywhere. (You guys don’t know any, do you?) The rest of the cast is almost unimportant considering that the heart of the story revolves more or less around these two, but they’re all adequate enough to help convey the tone of the film.
Let The Right One In is a breath of fresh air from the re-emergence of the general amount of less-than satisfying vampire fare that’s been unleashed on the unsuspecting public these days. Twilight could take a lesson or two from LTROI in thatshould ideally just be pale and occasionally bleed uncontrollably, not sparkle. More so it’s a fresh story that rivals any vampire story of any era that I’ve seen. Bearing in mind that this was merely the film version, the book must surely be much darker — I’m thinking it could be worth a read. Let The Right One In has managed to invigorate a lackluster genre of film and gives this reviewer hope that future vampires will be what they’re supposed to be rather than a parody of what they should be.
I haven’t seen the remake yet, but if any of our faithful readers want to compare below, sink your fangs into the comments section!