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What happens if you fall in love with a vampire? Released the same year as the first installment of the Twilight saga, Tomas Alfredson's low-key adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel attempts to answer the same question. While the conclusion reached may frightening, the central romance is certainly more touching.
Set in a humdrum Stockholm suburb in the early Eighties, Let the Right One In tells the story of Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a lonely twelve year old boy who lives in a small apartment with his single mother. Oskar is a bright kid with no friends, and is bullied at school. He hasn't told anyone about it, and at night he fantasizes about taking revenge, and making the bullies squeal like pigs with his pocket knife.
One night he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a scruffy girl of around the same age who recently moved into the apartment next door to Oskar. Eli is also lonely; she lives with her "father" Hakan (Per Ragnar) and also has no friends. She looks poor - she has a funny smell and walks barefoot in the snow.
Eli is a vampire. Hakan, a combination of pedophile lover, father figure, guardian, and familiar, dutifully attains blood for her by waylaying locals, stringing them up, and bleeding them into a container.
When Hakan is disturbed by passersby in his latest attempt to gather blood, Eli goes hungry. Unable to control herself, she shanghais local drunk Jocke on his way home from the pub, and feeds.
As Oskar and Eli's friendship develops, Hakan's attempts to cover up her true nature and provide blood become more desperate. After another disastrous attempt to tap blood, Eli ends up on her own, and her interest in Oskar intensifies.
Oskar and Eli's relationship feels very natural, aided by the open, unguarded performances of Hedebrant and Leandersson. Although Eli initially tells Oskar they can't be friends, they are drawn together anyway through their isolation. The friendship and burgeoning prepubescent romance can be taken at face value, although Eli's motives remain ambiguous.
Does she want Oskar as a boyfriend, or does she see him as a replacement for Hakan? Does she encourage him to stand up his tormentors because she cares for him, or does she want to stoke the violent tendencies in him?
The answer is likely a combination of these things. What happens if you fall in love with a vampire? Let the Right One In's answer is infinitely more sobering - and makes more sense - than the Twilight saga.
In Twilight, Bella falls in love and marries into a beautiful, affluent, civilized, intelligent, family of vampires. They are benevolent toward humans and tactfully do their blood sucking off screen.
Bella loves Edward so much she begs him to turn her into a vampire, unperturbed by the ramifications - becoming undead, living forever, never sleeping again, and having to suck blood from living flesh to survive.
It probably helps Bella's decision that Stephanie Meyer found all the actual vampire stuff rather distasteful, and sanitized it to the point of ludicrousness.
In Let the Right One In, the answer in more complex, but also more mundane and frightening. At one point, Oskar asks Eli how old she is. She answers the same age as him "...But I've been twelve for a very long time."
Which begs the question, how old was Hakan when Eli picked him up? If you want to know what happens when you fall in love with a vampire, Hakan's last few days is your likely answer.
You end up moving from town to town to evade capture and protect your undead loved one. No friends, no family, you live in anonymous apartments which aren't your home, and kill locals to provide blood. You are lonely and devoted, you grow physically older than your vampire lover, and become their parent and their servant. And, when things finally go bad, you become an emergency ration pack.
Will this be Oskar's fate? The final moments suggest this, but as with many things in this beautiful film, the answer is left open to interpretation.
Let the Right One In is also happy to embrace vampire lore. Unlike Twilight, the vampires in this film have a more traditional reaction to sunlight. As hugely successful as the Twilight Saga is, someone at the studio should have had the courage to stand up to Meyer and tell her her vision of what happens to vampires in sunlight sucked. It is perhaps the most belief-buggeringly dreadful moment of flaccid revisionism in movie, or indeed fiction, history.
The title alludes to a lesser known clause of the vampire myth - vampires cannot cross a threshold without first being invited.
Almost all Alfredson's decisions are the right ones. The film is gorgeous, luminously lensing the dreary suburb as a magic kingdom. The initial view of Oskar, reflected in his bedroom window looking out over the courtyard below, brought to mind Rapunzel - Oskar trapped in his tower, waiting for someone to come along and rescue him.
Every shot is carefully framed to provide an isolated, snowy backdrop from Oskar and Eli's unnatural romance. Alfredson's depiction of Oskar's lonely childhood reminds me of Spike Jonze's interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are.
A few moments of child nudity - a naked cuddle, and Oskar catching a glimpse of Eli changing - might raise an eyebrow in UK or US cinema, but are handled as matter-of-factly as the violence. There is blood in Let the Right One In, but it is handled in a frank, understated manner - about as titillating as watching someone eating a steak.
Let the Right One In works as a horror romance, as a haunting coming-of-age tale, and would work almost as well without the vampire aspect. The central relationship between these two lost children is touching, and will stay with you for a long time afterwards, even if the conclusions you draw may not necessarily be happy ones.
(This article originally posted on my Wordpress blog,http://videokrypt.wordpress.com/)
Sweden has a long tradition of fine film-making, from Bergman up to the Millennium trilogy (_The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo_ et al). Let the Right One In sees our Scandinavian neighbours dipping a bloodied toe into the pool of the horror genre. What sets it apart from many other offerings in this field however are the wonderfully understated performances, use of real-time pace and atmospheric location. This slow-burn, low-key treatment juxtaposed with the film's more shocking moments only serves to heighten our anticipation and 'enjoyment'. Such a muted approach appears to be prevalent amongst many other of, director, Alfredson's compatriot film makers. This does seem a tad ironic from the country that brought us the bold, brassy branding of Ikea, the tank-like build of the Volvo, and the power-packed pop of ABBA!
Twelve year old Oskar is a pale sickly-looking blond boy who ploughs a lonely existence in his small, snowy suburban village. He is frequently home alone as his mother struggles to provide for them by working nights. What's more, his disconnect from society makes it hard for him to get by at school, where he is remorselessly targeted by bullies. Out of the blue, he meets the mysterious Eli and they form a tender yet ever-growing friendship. Their union is mutually beneficial, particularly for Oskar as he learns to gain confidence and stand up for himself. Meanwhile, a spate of grisly incidents are taking place in the locality. Oskar susses Eli's connection to these events along with her murky secret. Their joint dilemma now lies in facilitating Eli's departure to avoid inevitably tragic consequences. Should they stay or should they go? The monotony of everyday life is offset brilliantly by the grislier moments, as we are ferried towards one of the most suspenseful and ingeniously realised cinematic endings that you will ever see!
The film is really all about two characters, Oskar and Eli. Sure, there are others who nip the periphery but the aforementioned are central to the whole storyline.
Oskar is a pallid, weakly-looking 12 year old and, as mentioned above, something of an outsider.
Eli is the antithesis to Oskar in every way. She is ballsy, strong-willed and fearless. Visually too, she has jet black hair.
Both young actors turn in peerless performances. Oskar is perfect as the understated and peculiar outsider. Their apposite personalities and appearances conjure up a yin and yang-like mix. We discover that even Oskar has a bit of a dark side while, conversely, Eli has many redeeming features, despite her clandestine creepiness. We see Oskar pasting press cuttings about the local murders into a somewhat sinister scrapbook, the content of which also comprises images of knives. More understandably, we see him re-enacting imaginary confrontations with his schoolyard tormenters, plunging his knife into tree trunks like a tiny Travis Bickle. Oskar is distinct from much of the herd and this is also foreshadowed during a community policeman's visit to the school. He immediately deconstructs and diagnoses quite a complicated crime scene conundrum set by the officer, who appears impressed, yet mildly disturbed, at the boy's precocity in this field.
Eli is difficult to warm to, initially, as she snippily short-circuits any hope of a burgeoning friendship with Oskar. The latter wonders aloud at her 'funny smell' and unsuitable clothing, (short -sleeved shirt) in the freezing temperature of the courtyard. However, it soon becomes evident that smelly Eli does not possess a heart of stone as she expresses tearful vulnerability over the malodourous accusation and later shows remorse over other unsavoury incidents. There is great subtlety in their development. For instance, there is a foreshadowing of Oskar's inherent backbone when he refutes Eli's suggestion that he leave the courtyard. He tells her that she should leave as he has lived there far longer than her. Although seemingly insignificant, you sense this is almost a cathartic moment for Oskar, as he has been used to fielding bullying blows without reply. A beautiful touch, and one that is easy to miss, is his ever-so-slight smile as he turns away from her.
It seems that in Eli, he has found an unlikely kindred spirit and someone with whom he can converse on equal terms. This in turn forges an inner strength and growing confidence.
Into View with the Vampire
Let the Right One In is as much a tender love story as it is a vampire or a horror film. This is based on the foundations of a hard won trust -especially where Eli is concerned. The formative meetings are awkward but direct, as is often the case with kid. The development of the friendship is beautifully measured, credible and realised. Massively constrained by parental control and, in particular, Eli's considerable requirements, they prove that love can conquer all. The communication problem is addressed by tapping Morse code on their adjoining wall. They find sanctuary in a disused warehouse room. Despite Oskar's weediness I got the impression that Eli is most taken by the fact that he seems unfazed by her dark secrets - secrets that would make most mortals run a country mile. He knows all this about her, and still likes her. The innocence and awkwardness of youth are also impressively captured. One particular instance of this is when Oskar drums up the courage to ask Eli if they can 'go steady'. The conversation is realistic enough to make you cringe, albeit in the nicest possible sense. The strength of their union is such that I found myself willing them to pull through, in spite of the heinous crimes committed. However, the fact that such crimes are undertaken out of need rather than wanton desire makes them almost, dare I say it, acceptable. Oskar would like nothing more than to be seen out and about with Eli but the ongoing events necessitate that she limits her public appearances.
As mentioned, the relationship brings into view another side of Oskar. He learns to stand up for himself with Eli, his mother and, most gratifyingly, his bullies. We also see a great positive development in Eli who hitherto seemed shackled by shame. In Oskar she has found someone who loves her for being her and this is reflected in her uplifted demeanour. The scene where Oskar puts on a record for Eli and invites her to try on one of his mother's dresses is one of the most simultaneously sweet yet geeky ones I have ever seen. Oskar's dancing makes even me look good!
Let the Right One In is more substantially layered than most horror films and, for me, the overriding themes comprise friendship, love, loyalty and bullying. The friendship forged between Oskar and Eli is beautifully realised. It could be argued that the cause and effect of parental neglect is also evident, particularly in how it affects the development , or lack thereof, of Oskar's social skills.
The power of friendship through his chance meeting with Eli leads to the development of Oskar's psychological backbone and much more.
Although they make uncomfortable viewing, the bullying scenes are convincingly played out. The tormentors are portrayed by the archetypal ring leader and his two typically spineless hangers on. Conny, the main protagonist, is played with unflinching verve by Patrik Rydmark. His apparent insouciance is truly repulsive. The other two, despite their cowardice, do show some redeeming features either by crying or feebly remonstrating with Conny and a later tormentor. Even Conny shows a glimmer of humanity towards the end when the cruelty becomes too much even for him to bear.
We're on the Edge of Gory
The originality of the film seems to be a recurring constant among critics. I believe that this is due to the fact that an endearing tenderness imbues the production in portraying friendship between the two main protagonists. One of my first reactions was that the film is quite sweet, and is often more aahhh than aargh! The performances are so convincing that you feel that such activity is perfectly normal. There is none of the gratuitousness that we find in many horror flicks, or the OTT ramped- up, vamped-up comic/horror that we find in such series as True Blood. Yet I feel that there is something far more sinister in the sheer normality of Let the Right One In that evades the more graphic examples of the genre.
Although there are plenty of shocking visuals here, the effect is equally conveyed by the power of suggestion. For instance, one attack takes place behind a bathroom door. Only when the victim's bloodied hand rigidly clamps the outer doorframe, do we know that the struggle is truly over.
Another disturbing moment involves a posse of pussycats encircling a newly converted vampire. The felines become fiendishly feral in a scene that smacks more of Hammer House than art house, but is nevertheless highly effective.
When all there is to see is blood and guts, I soon become de-sensitized to any shockability factor therein. This film, however, is more rewarding and shocking to me as the characters are so well developed that I almost feel drawn to a duty of care for them. Furthermore, the horrific events are all the more explicit when contrasted with the context of their, erstwhile, humdrum existence. This probably isn't for those who measure their ratings of horror films by the pints of blood spilled. It undoubtedly breaks the mould of the vampire/horror genre in that it embraces so many other aspects of the human condition in such a serenely poetic way.
I feel that a major contributing factor to this film's success is the choice of location. From the opening scene amid the snowy silver birch trees, we are assailed with a sense of sparse Stockholm suburbia. The setting is a town called Blackeberg which, we learn from the commentary, is where original author, John Ajvide Lindqvist, was raised.
. The atmospheric snowscapes provide a muffled backdrop to the imminent blood-curdling screams about to infiltrate the civilised calm.
The scenery is almost meditative. The brilliant snow scenes nicely offset both the physical and psychological darkness in the film. I am not sure if this is a conscious filmic device, but it certainly resonates to perfect effect.
In keeping with much of the film's treatment the music is extremely understated, to the extent that it is often almost imperceptible. However, it greatly complements the visuals and helps to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the film. The aural tension is cranked up in all the right places and stands out as a useful signal against the backdrop of the more unobtrusive interludes.
Let the Right One In has justly received plaudits from critics the world over, receiving more than forty awards in the process. A sticker on the cover of my DVD bullishly blurbs:
'The film that inspired Let Me In. Own the original and the best.'
Bravo! The above quote is a reference to the American re-make. Why do they have to do this, and so soon after the original? The attempted duplication of an original invariably falls short. I've not seen the re-make and, while I believe it has received good reviews, I feel that my viewing experience of it would be tainted by the unethical reasoning behind it. Does Hollywood think that we are really so insular and stupid that we can not follow subtitles and/or embrace other cultures? It may be a back-handed compliment to the Swedish film industry, but I feel that this patronising and insular spoon-feeding smacks of xenophobia. It's nice to have the occasional break from Brand USA. Ergo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
With my spleen now suitably vented, here are a few salubrious sound bytes about Let the Right One In:
"Brutal and brilliant...you've never seen anything like this before..." Daily Mirror
"Best horror film of the year". Empire
"One of the most wonderful horror films I have ever seen". Billy Chainsaw, Bizarre
"A full bloodied vampire feast." Total Film
"A true original. Stunning". Little White Lies
'A chilling fairytale. As delicate, haunting and poetic a film as you're ever bound to see."
Guillermo Del Toro, Director of Pan's Labyrinth
"Spectacularly beautiful". New York Times
"An instant classic. Don't miss this". ***** Empire
Let the Right One In is a truly superb film which melds an unlikely love story with the vampire and horror genres. I have also found that the viewing experience is actually enhanced by repeat viewings - a sure sign of a classic. The scenery, plot, casting and acting are absolutely flawless and, if that were not enough, the finale is an ending to end all endings. Terrific.
Commentary by director Tomas Alfredson and original author John Ajvide Lindqvist
Running time: 110 minutes
Unlike many commentaries I have watched this one is truly interesting and insightful. It is well alternated between Alfredson and Lindqvist and is interesting to see the different perspectives offered by both creator and interpreter.
One of the most striking features is the meticulous attention to detail that is taken in conveying realism in everything from special effects to period detail. For instance, the commentary opens with Alfredosn divulging the intricate methods employed to suggest the sound of snowfall. Although this seems impossible the suggestion is captured by recording the sound of bubbles in a bottle of mineral water at a very high resolution.
We also learn of the attention to detail in conveying Swedish suburbia in the early eighties. This is done via references such as a Rubik's cube, Oskar's 'floor-mop' hairdo, and the design of the playground climbing frame. Furthermore, we learn that the policeman's, drug-awareness, school visit is very typical of that time.
They conduct the commentary with affable humour, much of it sparked by 80s nostalgia. I would imagine that this particular feature is extremely helpful for film and media students.
*Just a footnote. The commentary option can be enabled/disabled via the set up option. The commentary will then play automatically if enabled. I personally like to watch the film first so,if you do too, I advise that you ensure it is disabled, and then enable to view after you have seen the main feature.
Running time: 5:23 (minutes/seconds)
These comprise four short scenes.
1. This features Conny and his tacit accomplice subjecting Oskar to physical and verbal bullying in the school toilets. The commentary reveals that this scene was cut as it came too soon in the film. Alfredson did not want too much violence too soon, as he wanted the pressure to build. This is one area that differs from the book.
2. A tender scene that sees Oskar playfully tapping Eli's back to the mantra of Hickory Dickory Dock.
3. This scene shows Virginia in a feverish, alcohol-fuelled soliloquy. The red wine is then projectile-vomited into her own sink......lovely!
4. Oskar slaps a supine Eli across the face -seemingly to bring her round. They then playfully enact a game of what can only be described as snarl-tennis!
Running time: 1:24 (minutes/seconds)
A well-edited trailer which contracts all the action scenes into a minute. This inevitably betrays the poetic resonance of the film as a whole, but I suppose trailers are there to put bums on seats- or DVDs in shopping baskets in this case. It is also shot through with salivating snippets from film reviews the world over.
Oskar - Kåre Hedebrant
Eli - Lina Leandersson
Hakan - Per Ragnar
Lacke - Peter Carlberg
Virginia - Ika Nord
Erik - Henrik Dahl
Yvonne - Karin Bergquist
Feature Running Time
110 minutes approx.
Dolby Digital 5.1
Descriptive audio track for the visually impaired.
English (hard of hearing) feature only
*It is worth noting that there is no dubbed option
DVD 9: Dual layer single sided discs
Feature aspect ratio
16:9 (original aspect ratio 2.35:1) Widescreen version
*THIS REVIEW HAS ALSO BEEN POSTED ON CIAO UNDER THE USERNAME FLOCKOFSEAGULLS.
After reading the fantastic book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, I had the usual reservations about seeing a film of a book. Would the director capture the characters? Would the atmosphere be there? Would the story be missing vital components? In this case, the answer to all questions is no, because the film supersedes the book on ALL levels. Rather than trying to replicate the book, the film takes a totally fresh perspective on the story and drags the whole thing down to earth, by focussing more on the aspects of mundane Swedish suburbia, the gritty, grey realism, the bullying of central character Oscar and his fragile self-esteem, the way his mother prefers to bury her head in the sand than confront Oscar's problems with bullies and the beautiful development of his relationship with the dark, mysterious and strange girl next door.
It would be unthinkable to finish this review without a word on the performances of the two young actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson who play Oscar and Eli respectively. Plucked out of total obscurity for their roles, after watching the film they are so intrinsically linked to the characters that it was almost impossible to accept the US actors including the ineffable Chloe Moritz in the inevitable (and for once not totally redundant) US remake. It will be interesting to see where their careers go from here.
It is testament to the vision of director Tomas Alfredson that 'Let the Right One In' is that rare beast - a horror film that utterly transcends genre boundaries and stands alone as a truly ingenious, multi-textured masterpiece that can be unreservedly recommended to everyone.
This film primarily focuses on the life of a young boy in Stockholm, named Oskar, and his lonely and sad childhood. He is bullied at school by his classmates and comes from a broken home, he visits his Dad regularly but things obviously aren't right there. His life changes for the better, so he thinks when he befriends a girl of the same age newly moved into the flat next door to his, called Eli.
The pair become friends after several meetings in the playground of their block. Eli does not go to the same school as Oskar, but she somehow knows of his woes and hardship being bullied. She becomes a kind of mentor and guru for him and advises him to stick up for himself, urging violence is the way to do this. He takes everything she says as law and becomes infatuated with her, blind to the fact she is not quite a normal twelve year old girl.
Eli and Oskar's friendship develops into love, even when he realises what she truly is it doesn't dissuade him. The bond ends up being so strong that the each will risk anything to save the other. This is not a typical vampire film, in fact the vampire elements are quite few and far between. There are common cited references to vampire myths and rules throughout, however this is more a film about friendship and emotions than blood and gore. The two children's acting is very touching and believable in the movie; they portray their feelings with such intensity you cannot quite believe their age.
The sound quality is very good on this film with intricate noises being extremely clear and pronounced. This was obviously done purposefully to support the intensity of the acting and story. The picture too was of a high standard and filmed very well. The budget for this film I do not expect to have been high and this becomes obvious in scenes where Eli shows her supernatural side. There are no close ups of her killing, feeding or climbing buildings but I think it is better to steer clear rather than do a shoddy version and ruin the beauty of the film.
One criticism I have is that the story is rather slow and you are constantly waiting for a little bit more action, which isn't helped by the reading of subtitles. On the whole this is a lovely story and very well written and directed. Definitely worth watching but perhaps not as a horror movie.
Imagine if someone said to you: "Fancy watching a Swedish film? With subtitles? About vampires, except it's not really about vampires at all?"
Now imagine your reaction.
You might look at them as if they had been drinking (or suggest that perhaps they should start). You might look at them like they were a little mad and nervously edge away or just laugh in their faces. I'm pretty certain of one thing, though: you'd probably say "no". Which would be a big mistake, if they were talking about Let the Right One In.
The Swedish film industry may not be quite as big and powerful as Hollywood, but on the evidence of this, it is able to make far better films.
Despite the apparent subject matter, Let the Right One In is not really either a horror film or a vampire film. Rather, it is a touching coming-of-age tale about two children, one aged 12; the other aged 12 going on 400. Both are outsiders and each, in their own way, is a victim. Oskar is being bullied at school, whilst Eli is a vampire trapped in a lonely existence with no-one to love her or be her friend.
In truth, this is not a film about bullying or vampires, it's about growing up. It's "Stand by Me" with fangs and combines that film's ideas of friendship and wistful nostalgia with themes of alienation.
The unlikely, slowly burgeoning friendship between Eli and Oskar is a joy to behold. From awkward, fumbling beginnings we see it slowly flourish into full-blown friendship where each would take huge risks to protect the other. We see how they strengthen and support each other. Each has their own needs, their own fears; and the other is capable of helping the other. Oskar gives Eli a renewed sense of self-worth and protects her from those who see her as a monster; she gives him the self-belief and confidence to stand up for himself against the bullies. In true vampiric fashion, each feeds off the other; but it is a feeding which gives strength and nourishment to both.
Set in 70s Sweden, the film is also brimming over with a visual flair which reinforces the sad, melancholic feel which affects the characters. Oskar and Eli live in a grim, grey, miserable looking tower block and everything in Sweden appears to be made of concrete. Most of the scenes either take place in the darkness, further enhancing the atmosphere of gloom and despair, or in harsh, bright lights which, when combined with the permanent snow, give the film a bleak, sterile feel. This sterile, emotionless setting contrasts well with Oskar and Eli's blooming emotions and feelings towards each other, giving the film even greater emotional resonance.
The performances from the two child actors are outstanding. They invest their performances with such emotion that within minutes of it starting, you forget the fact that you are a watching a subtitled Swedish film. Much of the time, dialogue and plot exposition are surprisingly minimal, yet both Kara Hedebrandt (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) express far more with a single facial expression or simple grunt than most actors can with a thousand words. Their performances are both convincing and deeply moving. The scenes in which at least one of them doesn't feature are few and far between, but when they do occur, you are itching for the camera to return to them, so compelling are their performances.
It helps that both of them look slightly odd and other-worldly, making them highly believable as outsiders. Oskar, with his brutal pudding bowl haircut and buck teeth is an obvious target for school bullies whilst Eli with her pale looks and sunken eyes clearly has, in the immortal words of Ann Widdicombe, "something of the night about her".
All of these things help to create an atmosphere which is unsettling and strange. Not scary exactly, just unsettling.
Traditional horror fans are likely to be disappointed that the violence is mostly subdued and, one or two moments aside, gruesome effects are non-existent. Within the context of the film, this actually makes them more powerful, since when they do occur, they are unexpected, frenzied and mercifully (for the victims) brief. They certainly won't satisfy those who like seeing their screens painted red with blood. And as for that other Hollywood horror staple:, the nubile, pneumatic young woman taking a shower before being offed by a crazed killer? Sorry. Nowhere to be seen.
Some may pale at the seemingly slow pace of the film, which favours emotion over action. There is an almost soporific feel to proceedings. The relationship between Oskar and Eli builds slowly and takes a long time to go not very far. The film itself is limited to around half a dozen key locations, all of which look grim and depressing. If you understand the film, you will appreciate what this "slow" pace is seeking to achieve: the building of atmosphere, the growing bond of trust between Eli and Oskar, the development of their parasitic/mutually dependent relationship. If you understand that, then you will appreciate Let the Right One In for the stunning film it is. If you just want blood, guts and boobs, you're going to eject it after about 20 minutes.
You do need to know a little vampire lore, as some key concepts are incorporated but never explained. Eli, for example, cannot enter a house unless invited in- a common part of vampire tales and a rule adhered to here. Somewhat sloppily, Mrs SWSt has not been keeping up on her vampire lore, so I had to keep stopping the film to explain the significance of certain elements. If you don't have this, don't let it put you off watching, since the key theme is the touching relationship between Oskar and Eli, but certainly some knowledge will help you appreciate the carefully woven story even more.
Let the Right One In is a beautiful film, full of gorgeous visuals and a compelling, fascinating central relationship between two outsiders. It's not what you would expect from a vampire film, but is all the more powerful because of it and it's one of a few films that everyone should be legally obliged to watch!
Apart from the obvious answer of "money", it's hard to see why Hollywood has decided to remake this in because there is not the remotest possibility that it will be even a tenth as good. Certainly, I will not be watching it.
So, here's the moral of today's review. If someone asks you "Fancy watching a Swedish film? With subtitles? About vampires, except it's not really about vampires at all?" then for goodness sake, SAY YES.
Let the Right One In
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Running time: approx. 115 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Vampires are the in thing at the moment with the Twilight Saga having young girls swooning over hamstrung love stories with some brooding romance and werewolves. But I guess the interest in the idea of vampirism helped get this Swedish film a little more limelight than it may have done in another era.
I had heard good word about this film but had no real idea what it was about before I watched it. I somehow had the notion that it was about a couple of orphaned children, one of whom is a vampire trying to be invited in somewhere and playing a battle of wits with the inhabitants of the house. Well it turns out it's nothing like that at all and if anyone reading this is inspired to write a sequel/prequel then I deserve a 'story by' credit!
The film is set primarily in suburb of Stockholm during the winter. Oskar is a lonely twelve-year-old boy who lives in a block of flats with his mother. Bullied at school and isolated, his thoughts often turn to exacting revenge on his perpetrators. But when Eli, a girl of a similar age moves in next-door, Oskar forges a new friendship that evolves into love with an element of fear.
The mystery and aura around Eli soon exposes itself, she is a vampire who keeps herself contained in the flat during the day for fear of exposure to sunlight. Her bloodlust leads to a number of bodies piling up but Oskar sees through this and finds solace in another lonely soul. Together they share a bond that leads to dark territory.
Let The Right One In is a film that requires thought, patience and an appreciation of its intelligence. It's a slow burner that is wonderfully shot, it looks bleak, the style and location is cold yet you can always feel warmth.
Rather than being a full on vampire film, this is more about relationships; the vampire element is more of an unfortunate obstacle to a relationship. As the film plays out you're left to interpret your own views on some of the relationships in the film. There is a man who moves into the flat with Eli, he takes on the mantle of a serial killer, killing for the blood so Eli can survive. Is this man her father? Some people have assumed so but I drew a different conclusion. The same can be said for a man who causes unease for Oskar when he interrupts father and son time, is this man the reason for the break up of his mother and father or is it something more sinister?
There is horror in the film and it's stark and sometimes brutal. The final act has a brilliant payoff where the horror happens off screen but the shock is there and it's brilliantly executed.
This is a film with great performances, especially from its two young leads. The direction is very accomplished and I felt satisfied for taking the journey.
Needless to say as the Hollywood ideas factory runs dry, they've already re-made this for the mainstream and the results will be seen later this year. Directed By Matt Reeve, the man behind the incredibly overrated Cloverfield, I just hope they keep the slow burning nature of the original and not up the horror element for bang and mainstream buck.
-The Disc -
I saw this film on Blu-Ray and the high definintion transfer was great and really kept the dour visuals to an authentic degree. The soundmix is also atmospheric, it's not an involving soundtrack but it serves it's purpose well.
The extras are few, there are a few deleted scenes which aren't anything spectacular, a UK trailer for the film and a photo gallery.
The main extra is an English commentary with the film's director and writer. This is an informative track and the two discuss the ideas and themes of the film quite well and it's journey from book to the screen.
Vampire love stories have not been underrepresented in cinemas of late, but Let The Right One In, a 2008 Swedish film, is both a wonderful fusion of the genres and many things its more famous sibling is not. Dark and delightful, this (based on a 2004 novel) is made so much more than a pedestrian monster movie by dint of the relationship struck up between the two protagonists.
Up to a point, the setting for the film is suitably Vampiric; snow drifts down chokingly against a pitch sky as the opening credits roll, and darkness engulfs much of the movie - however, it stops happily short of cliché, as events unfold in Blackeberg, a distinctly middle-of-the-road urban suburb of Stockholm, unexceptional in appearance and character, all high-rise apartment blocks and gloomy underpasses. We meet Oskar, a bullied twelve year-old who lives with his distant mother and is estranged from his alcoholic father, and in turn he meets Eli, a twelve year-old girl who has just moved into the apartments.
Despite an initially frosty reception to the idea, the pair strike up a friendship that, with some degree of mutual attraction, threatens to become something more. However, when a spate of violent attacks and killings send murmurs of fear and suspicion around the town, Oskar realises that Eli may not be all she seems.
There are many reasons Let The Right One In is such an exceptional success, but perhaps its most essential draw is the way it manages to blend and contrast the innocence of Oskar and Eli's emerging relationship with the desperate fight for survival and yearning for bloodletting that can't be suppressed. In every scene, there's a sense of something bubbling under, something that can't be hidden by the bleak palettes and subdued tones of 1980s Sweden - be it dark, centuries-old secrets, past lives we're never privy to (although the book is more explicit on this, corresponding scenes were cut from the film) or the kind of awkward first-love angst that twelve year-olds experience.
As Oskar, Kare Hedebrant is quite wonderful. A troubled, slightly disturbed child who seems to have suffered years of bullying at the hands of classmates, he finds a fellow soul in Eli - who has plenty of problems of her own - and at her urging, begins to stand up for himself, with dramatic consequences that culminate in a riveting penultimate scene. Lina Leandersson's portrayal of "I've been twelve for a very long time" Eli is equally captivating. She manages to convey a sense of childish innocence and dependence befitting her physical age, whilst at the same time possessing a silent sense of threat and substantial danger. This mixture of strength and vulnerability seems to draw Oskar to her, and though she tries at first to resist the relationship, she soon comprehends she may need his help.
Let The Right One In is one of those rare films that appears entirely without fault or weakness - it's original, it's exhilarating, it's moving and enthralling. It's beautifully shot with an understated, affecting soundtrack and is crammed with pitch-perfect performances. Unfortunately, it's also one of those films - read: any successful non-English language film - that's scheduled for a cack-handed American remake, directed by Cloverfield's Matt Reeves. Where Vanilla Sky and Quarantine (amongst many, many others) failed, it's hard to see the remade version capturing the same wonderful atmosphere and rapport committed to film here.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the film is that there's enough ambiguity here to draw some of your own conclusions about the tale. Although the book fills in some of the gaps, there's enough here - chiefly about Eli's past and nature - that isn't spelled out. It's also plenty black; the film's revolution around two children (more or less) doesn't stop it from touching on some big, dark topics, and it feels all the more real, and all the more intriguing for it. Of course, Vampire films aren't used to holding back on the blood and the biting, but the way in which this exquisitely-rendered stream intermingles with a classic coming-of-age story, led by two enchanting leads, makes this film what it is - quite probably the best re-working of the Vampire theme realised on screen.
If you liked this ... Guillermo Del Toro's bleak and mesmerising The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo), set in an Orphanage towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, touches on some similar themes, with an occasionally similar style.
Let The Right One In is a 2008 Swedish film released on DVD in August 2009. It carries a 15 rating certificate in the UK and this is my film only review of this title.
We are introduced to Oskar, a 12 year old boy who is withdrawn and quiet. He is often the target of school bullies and fantasises about being strong enough to stand up to his tormentors but doesn't know how to. He role-plays scenarios in which he finds the courage to defend himself but when he is picked on again he cannot find the strength or self confidence to retaliate.
Friendless, Oskar spends his evening playing alone in the courtyard outside his apartment and one night meets Eli a 12 year old girl who has just moved in next door with her older male guardian. The pair gradually start a friendship and begin to get to know one another; she helps him find some confidence to be able to stand up for himself but is hiding a dark secret that only her guardian knows about.
The film follows the growing relationship between Oskar and Eli and the secrets that she is hiding are revealed.
Set in Sweden and in Swedish dialogue this is a slow-burner of a film that gradually draws you in. It isn't a fast paced, big budget blockbuster that relies on special effects it simply offers the viewer the chance to get to know Oskar and Eli and the forming relationship between the two.
Essentially this is a love story with a supernatural element which is played out rather matter-of-factly. Eli is a vampire who has been 12 years old for a very long time, that is all we know, we are not offered any back story or history. She is what she is. We don't know if her guardian is her father, lover or one of many men who have looked after her in her long existence; personally I like to think that he was once as Oskar is now, a young boy who falls in love with her and grows older as she remains the same age.
Although not explained in the film and referred to only in a fleeting sequence is the fact that Eli was once a boy herself and after her transformation into a vampire saw her remove her male genitalia and become a girl. Knowing this does explain some of the earlier dialogue between Oskar and Eli and for me added an extra depth to the film and the relationship between the pair.
This is a film that you can't help but get swept up in, some will find the pace boring and slow and it won't appeal to everyone. However if you allow yourself to just commit to the 115 minutes of screen time and watch the film in the right mind-set you will be treated to an intelligent, well delivered story that you will think about long after it has ended.
There are many things to like about the film, the setting of snowy Sweden is beautiful in its purity and whiteness and is a massive contrast to the deep rich red of the blood that is often spilled throughout the story. Perhaps this was a deliberate cinematography decision? I don't tend to analyse films normally so often miss symbolism however in the case of this film it did seem quite obvious to me. The actors portraying Oskar and Eli were particularly good; especially Eli and the gradual changes in personality were subtle but noticeable which gave a good depth to their characters.
There are a few violent scenes as you would expect from the subject matter, however these are not gratuitous or over the top and the end sequence in the pool is quite poetic really although I won't reveal anymore for fear of spoilers. The soundtrack is haunting in places and fits in with the mood of the film and supports it rather than being too obtrusive.
I'm not really a follower of 'foreign' films as often find subtitles to be distracting, however I thorough enjoyed "Let the right one in" and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for something different from the horror genre. For me it rates as a 4/5 film, not perfect but excellent and highly recommended.
Available from Amazon for just £5.00 which is a great price, I watched my copy thanks to Lovefilm and would consider buying it so I can watch it again in the future.
Thanks for reading my review.
Oskar: Are you really twelve?
Eli: Yes. It's just I've been twelve for a very long time.
What is it with girls and vampires? Ever since the cult American teen cool of The Lost Boys born us 'Buffy' in the mid 1990s we have seen a long line of blood sucking TV shows and films involving teenage girls infatuation with the undead, stacking the schedules and packing the multiplexes, the very same undead that used to feast on those pretty young virgins in horror films of old. Even the BBC have embraced vampire cool with a coming BBC 3 drama series. But the days of little girls being afraid of the bogeymen under the bed are long since gone and now the genre has been flipped on its head to cater for that growing female emancipation. In fact I wouldn't fancy the bogeyman's chances at all in some areas of the U.K. Read all about it: 'Two vampires battered in Hackney by knife wielding female gang members!'
After the Twilight sensation and the phenomenal business from the sequel it was inevitable that the more sophisticated European film makers would flip the teen vampire love story cliché on its head and make a far more evocative and sophisticated piece on puppy love, here the twist being its a very young female vampire that is the protector of likewise sweet and vulnerable boy. Normally the attraction is the unrequited love of a pretty girl and the possession of the boy who can keep her safe from vampires. That central premise has remained unchanged through cinema and television history, True Blood, Channels Fours very naughty TV hybrid, no different. What a sexy pair of lips Ana Paquin has! But that was until this cracking alternative little horror popped up from Sweden, changing the game once again. Vampires in the ice cold had been done before, quite recently with the indifferent 30 Days of Night, but that lacking the pure craft and elegant screenplay of this little classic.
Oskar: I don't kill people.
Eli: No, but you'd like to. If you could... To get revenge. Right?
Eli: Oskar, I do it because I have to.
Kåre Hedebrant ... Oskar
Lina Leandersson ... Eli
Per Ragnar ... Håkan
Henrik Dahl ... Erik
Karin Bergquist ... Yvonne
Peter Carlberg ... Lacke
Ika Nord ... Virginia
Mikael Rahm ... Jocke
Karl-Robert Lindgren ... Gösta
Anders T. Peedu ... Morgan
Pale Olofsson ... Larry
Cayetano Ruiz ... Magister Avila
Patrik Rydmark ... Conny
Johan Sömnes ... Andreas
Mikael Erhardsson ... Martin
11-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a shy and lonely boy who lives with his single mum in a small Swedish Town. He's bullied in school and never sees or seeks his dad for guidance. When a girl his own age moves in next door things are about to look up for little Oskar, the two soon clicking. But little Eli (Lina Leandersson) is no ordinary girl and the fact she likes to wear T-shirts in minus twenty degrees and is never seen out in daylight would suggest Oskars new friend also has problems with meeting people of her own kind in the same cruel world.
When adults begin to be gruesomely murdered in the town, one young man found hanging upside down in the woods for a blood let whilst another is scene being attacked by a young child, Oskar soon puts two and two together. Eli explains she has to kill to stay alive, or undead, as the case maybe, and Oskar needs her protection to fight back against the increasingly sadistic bullies. Love is not always chocolates and roses and its often the case love strikes opposites, these two seemingly sweet kids unlikely puppy love, Oskar tapping away to Eli with Morse Code in the day time as she hides away from the light. It's often the case that true love is between two lonely souls who could never be together but where always meant for each other, possession and trust what love is really about. And when Oskar fights back against the bullies and injures the leader, Jocke (Mikael Rahm), it's always good to have a superstrong vampire on your side when the bullier is about to unleash his switchblade carrying brother on your brittle and tender torso.
The Scandinavians are an interesting lot when it comes to making movies and like to make enigmatic and atmospheric stuff, this certainly that. They did a similar Swedish movie on school bullying and fighting back called Ondskan ('Evil') and that's what attracted me to this. The screenplay has a beautiful silence to it, the gaps between the minimal dialogue and drip drip soundtrack in the frozen Swedish night hanging as silent as a snow flake falling to the frozen black tundra. The beautiful and sweet love story between the two is engaging as it is true and really hammers home the loneliness that many kids feel before their rebellious teens kick in.
The acting as always with good child actors is very convincing here, Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar a strong screen presence and little Lina Leandersson as Eli amazing, real pathos and loneliness to her role. When she cries over a mans body after ripping out the throat to drink blood to stay alive, she does it in a way we did as kids when we know what we are doing something wrong and we think we will get in trouble for it. It's just such a powerful moment on screen that it immediately brings back similar feelings you felt as a kid when you were every naughty and you let your guardians down.
The title "Let the Right One In" is based on the novel of the same name and the author claims it also refers to his love of the Smiths and the Morrissey song "Let the Right One Slip In". We also see in the film that it refers to the fact that, according to vampire myths, vampires must be invited in before they can enter someone's home (this is shown in the film when Eli asks Oskar to invite her into his mom's apartment). The film is certainly as baron and melancholic as Morrissey song at times. Where this does win out in the horror stakes (excuse the pun) is the genre flipping texture of it I mentioned before, the audience completely on the vampires side throughout and quite happy for the humans and vampire slayers to have their throats ripped out so these two kids can carry on being together. In fact the genius of the whole thing is the fact the little girl can't get any older than 12 and so forever denied the pleasure of life to come, stuck in a sanctuary she does not want.
It's a fabulous little foreign horror and the proof Europe do subtle film so much better than Hollywood. America has had a slight resurgence in the genre with Drag Me to Hell and Paranormal Activity but when this came out the awards ceremonies in America, Let the Right One in, wasn't, so to speak, and was shamelessly ignored at the Oscars, even though it won big everywhere else. It's original, intelligent, atmospheric and beguiling, and even the great corporate kiss ass that is Empire Magazine made it its film of 2009, the first time they had strayed away from their Hollywood paymasters since City of God took that title in 2002. That should be all the help you need in deciding whether to rent this wonderful and somewhat unconventional love story.
= = = = = Special Features = = = = =
Director Thomas Alfredson talks about his wonderful piece of cinema.
Not many which is always a good sign, a director who knows what he's doing.
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Imdb.com 8.1 out of 10.0 (43,512 votes)
RuN-TiMe 115 minutes
Any 2 films for 2 nights for £6 at Blockbusters
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Oskar is a twelve year old boy who is bullied at school and generally over-looked by everyone who knows him. Then he meets a young girl of his own age who has apparently moved in next door. Her name is Eli and she lives on blood. The man she lives with, Hakan, provides her with the blood by killing locals, but there is a hunt on for the murderer and Eli could well be at risk. Her friendship with Oskar develops and she helps him to stand up for himself, injuring his main bully quite seriously. Then Hakan is no longer able to help Eli. Can Oskar continue where Hakan left off? And will Oskar's bully try to get his revenge?
Oskar is played by Kare Hedebrant, who is really quite superb in the role, simply because he comes across as being a complete innocent. The fact that he has pale yellow, almost white, hair and very white, milky skin just adds to the picture. He doesn't actually do very much during the course of the film, apart from look sweet and at the mercy of his peers, yet this is exactly what is required. This is definitely a case of less is more. Lina Leandersson is also excellent as Eli. Much of the time, she looks dirty and unkempt, but the odd time she does clean up, she is very beautiful with big green eyes, which makes her seen very other worldly and again, perfect for the role. Child actors can be very touch and go, often coming across as precocious, but these two have been taught well to control their actions, yet really manage to create an impact.
The other actors that I feel deserve a mention are Peter Carlberg as Lacke and Ika Nord as Virginia, Lacke's on/off girlfriend. Lacke is a friend of one of the murdered men and is beginning to piece the truth together. Virginia is attacked by Eli, but lives because Lacke arrives on the scene just in time. Neither of them are pleasant characters, both being over-fond of alcohol, but they really manage to make an impression on the film, despite not having particularly wide-ranging roles. I think it was a combination of disgust at their behaviour and real hope that they manage to survive that drew me to them.
I don't think I have ever seen such a slow-moving, actionless horror film - especially when compared to Hollywood horror that seems to hold our attention with as much gore as possible. That isn't to say that there aren't unpleasant parts to the film, because there are - but they really are few and far between. The most gruesome moment probably comes towards the end of the film when body parts are flung asunder - yet even that is seen from a distance. If you're expecting something along the lines of True Blood, then you could be disappointed. There's a rating of 15 on the film, but to be honest, it would probably be fine for younger teenagers, provided that they are monitored.
The film is set in Stockholm during the winter, which makes for an attractive setting with all the snow. The buildings are otherwise rather mundane-looking, reminiscent of Aki Kaurismaki's Helsinki, but the snow does help to brighten things up, particularly when the story moves out to the woods. Of course, as a Swedish film, it is subtitled, but I doubt anyone would find this a real problem - the action is slow and there aren't any fast-moving speeches to follow. According to wikipedia, there is an English language remake scheduled for 2010; personally, I don't think it is necessary, but then there are those who don't like subtitles.
I really did enjoy the story. Despite the fact that the two lead characters are children, it doesn't come across as a children's story. And although there isn't a huge amount of action, there is enough to make it intriguing. The pacing is actually very well done because there aren't long periods of nothing at all happening - just as things seem to be slowing down, something happens to draw the viewer's attention again. I enjoyed the bullying angle that was taken - it makes Oskar seem that bit more approachable and interesting - and it provided a point of focus. Those who prefer more gore and action may be disappointed, but I think that would be a shame, because the film's stillness is its strong point, as far as I'm concerned.
There are a couple of extras with the DVD. Firstly, there is an audio commentary with the director, Tomas Alfredson and the author of the book on which the film is based - John Ajvide Lindqvist. Then there are a few deleted scenes, and a trailer. No doubt the English language version will have more extras if behind the scenes documentaries and the like appeal.
I enjoyed this film. It felt different and original, and it seems as if it is a rare feeling these days. I think anyone who enjoys horror and vampire films and doesn't insist on lots of action, noise and gore will enjoy this film. The subtitles really aren't a problem, so the fact that the film isn't in English shouldn't be too much of a bother. And visually, with the white snow, it is very pleasing to watch. I certainly recommend it. Four stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.
Running time: 115 minutes
I owe a debt of gratitude to Ailran for pointing me in the direction of this film with his excellent review of it. I would probably not have ever come across it otherwise and I have to say it is one of the most clever and enjoyable films I have watched for a while.
This is a Swedish film with subtitles although I understand that it was such a cult hit that a Hollywood version is now being made (although personally I cannot see a Hollywood version ever managing to capture the intense darkness of this film half as well).
Essentially this is a vampire story but its played out against a very mundane backdrop which is one of the reasons why I think it works so well and ends up being very thought provoking.
Basically Oskar is a 12 year old boy who lives with his mother in a faceless block of flats. He is being bullied at school and occasionally sees his father who lives in the sticks. Oskar meets and befriends a child called Eli who it is revealed is a vampire and actually centuries old.
Despite this they embark on a friendship which at times could be a story of star crossed lovers. We see how Eli lives with a much older guy who, although not a vampire himself, procures blood for her when he can. We then watch what happens as Eli's lifeline disappears, her thirst for blood drives her to expose herself and Oskar's bullying reaches a climax.
Kare Hedebrant - Oskar
Lina Leandersson - Eli
Per Ragner - Hakan
Henrik Dahl - Erik
Karin Bergquist - Yvonne
Peter Carlberg - Lacke
Ika Norde - Virginia
Mikael Rahm - Jocke
This is a wonderfully crafted tale, apparently it won around 56 various movie awards and I can see why. It is not your average vampire film and actually that side of things is dealt with in quite a distinct way by not being the only side to the story.
This film is dark and clever and fascinating and there were many moments when the penny dropped on one thing or another for me, links were suddenly clear and connections were made. I was still thinking about it half an hour after the film had finished which to my mind is always a sign of a good film.
Hedebrandt, who plays the child lead Oskar and Leandersson who plays the vampire, have an extraordinary chemistry for children and carry off their roles with such touchingly believable emotions that it seems very endearing to the viewer. It was a joy to watch them and both are aesthetically striking, I did wonder if the physical blonde and dark contrast was deliberate or coincidence.
I liked the physical scenery that this film was shot in, the constant dark and deep snow and trees standing out against a barren white landscape. This is another area where I think a Hollywood version will fail to capture the essence of this film. The visuals seem to mirror the mood of the film so well.
I liked the way that a lot of vampire myths were included (ie having to be invited into a house - hence the title and the sunlight issue) but then others were left out, noticeably the reflections in mirrors issue. This avoided overkill and prevented it descending too far into the realms of fantasy whilst maintaining the gothic overtone.
Personally I really liked the ending and thought that it fitted the film and the characters perfectly.
There were very few things which I did not like about this film, one was a slightly clumsy scene with some cats in Eli's flat which had strange CGI type faces, it stood out as a bit clunky and odd and personally I did not really understand why they needed to do that.
The only other thing was that there are a couple of scenes where its difficult to watch because of the blood but its not a gory movie, in fact its pretty clinical about the blood and blood letting - but maybe that's why for someone with a sensitive disposition about anything blood related it was a little excruciating to watch.
This is a very well made, interesting and very easy to watch film. It puts a whole new slant on the world of vampires and for me it just cleverly handled a subject which has been done to death in a whole new way which is an achievement in itself.
I have tried very hard not to give away too much here as it would totally ruin the enjoyment of it for anyone else, I highly recommend that you check this one out for yourself if you can find it, I rented it via lovefilm so it is out there to be found.
Let the right One in has been something of a sleeper hit on the indie scene, a Swedish film about a 12 year old vampire, it sounds in theory a bit soft, but it's not at all.
The film begins following the weak incredibly blonde 12 year old Oskar as he plays in front of mirror pretending to stab somebody, the scene is oddly reminiscent of Taxi Drive and De Niro's Travis Bickle in the sense that both are acting out the person they want to be rather than the person they really are.
The reason Oskar so badly wants to hurt somebody is because is he bullied by the awful Conny and his two henchmen who seem much less convinced of this whole bullying malarkey. We see Oskar regularly humiliated and too afraid to stand up for himself or do anything. His father lives in the countryside while he lives on a concrete estate immersed in snow with his mother.
One day a stranger and a young girl move in next door to Oskar, one evening whilst playing on the swings the girl introduces herself to Oskar warning him that they can never be friends.
What follows is a beautiful film following Oskar and Eli the youthful vampire who he falls in love with and who falls in love with him, as they come to terms with what they are and what each other really is. It is a gory tale and there is some really brutal violence in between some heartbreakingly tender scenes so don't be fooled into thinking this is in anyway a gentle film as it isn't, its beautiful in its cinematography and subject matter but with a real dark edge to it, which puts films like the boy-bandish Twilight with the vampires with shirts off in the shade.
For most of the film, Eli is to Oskar an odd effervescent influence, but he eventually realises what she really is and has to question himself and whether he wants to be with her despite this.
Eli needs blood to survive and a series of brutal murders on the estate where she and Oskar lives put them both at risk, will their love survive or is she right when she tells him they can never be together?
Tomas Alfredson was fairly well known in Sweden prior to this film as part of the Killinggänget comedy group, however his career really took off when he directed the acclaimed Four Shades of Brown an interwoven tale of betrayal and love, his success in this film convinced the author of Let the Right One in, John Ajvide Lindqvist, that Alfredson understood the tone and direction the film needed to go in to make the successful translation to screen.
Alfredson's direction is brilliant in this film, he allows the film to pace itself and doesn't set it up with gory killings or other special effects unless they have a real impact on the story. The story is slow paced and character based, the longing shots of Oskar's innocence and Eli's world weary 12 year old face are brilliant, the block of flats where are heros live are a central part of the story and Alfredson makes them convincing in their kitschness, his characters are real and neither hero or villain, but people with moral issues that they need to address and balance with their own needs and wants. He makes what could have been a morbid badly told tale an utter triumph for all involved.
Kåre Hedebrant ... Oskar
Lina Leandersson Eli
Per Ragnar ... Håkan
Henrik Dahl ... Erik
Karin Bergquist ... Yvonne
Peter Carlberg ... Lacke
Ika Nord ... Virginia
Mikael Rahm ... Jocke
Karl-Robert Lindgren Gösta (as Karl Robert Lindgren)
Anders T. Peedu Morgan (as Anders Peedu)
Pale Olofsson ... Larry (as Paul Olofsson)
Cayetano Ruiz ... Magister Avila
Patrik Rydmark ... Conny
Johan Sömnes ... Andreas
Mikael Erhardsson Martin
From the opening sequence of snow falling in the dark, I was entranced by this film, its energy is in its slow pace and faith in its young actors which is utterly fulfilled. Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar is a revelation he is a weedy little kid who has been picked on for his whole life and his scenes of being bullied and the implication that he secretly has a wish to kill his bullies is wonderfully acted out, the simple changes in him through being loved and having someone to love in the brutal Eli are subtle but awesomely done, he tells her of the bullying and she tells him to hit the bullies back with everything he has and if that doesn't work she'll help him. We see him begin to smile, build confidence, take up weight training (albeit weights the size of twigs) and exercise to develop partly to beat the bullies and partly to impress his girl.
Lina Leandersson is equally brilliant as Eli, the young vampire whose bloodlust leads to a turn of events which changes the lives of many people. For such a young actress she shows great maturity and you truly believe she has lived far longer than her 12 years simply by looking into her world weary eyes.
The film is smart in the fact Eli becomes weary and weak and we can see this in her appearance when she doesn't have any blood to feed on, there is no need to spoonfeed the audience the ideas or concepts of this film, if you concentrate it'll all make sense.
In essence this is a love story about two outsiders who find solace in each other, it looks bleak and grim but has a stunning underlying beauty which is rare in films nowadays, its paced perfectly the two leads are exceptional and i'd say it is one of the best films i've seen this year.
I rented the DVD from Lovefilm but it is available on Amazon for £5.98 which is great value.
The film is set in one of Stockholm's suburbs in the early 1980's and is based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I have not read the book so I will not compare the film to the novel in this review.
Oskar is a 12 year old boy who is bullied in school. He has no friends and his relationship with his parents is somewhat distant. One night, when Oskar is out playing in the courtyard of his neighbourhood, he meets a girl named Eli. She is also 12 years old, give or take a few hundred years, with no friends. They find each other quickly and become instant friends but it doesn't take long until Oskar realizes that Eli is actually not a 12 year old girl but a vampire. Their friendship evolves into love and love evolves into eternal commitment.
Eli tries to help Oskar to stand up for himself in the only way she can; by fighting back. Oskar finally gets back at his bully in a confrontation which ends in serious consequences.
This film is a dark romantic horror with violent as well as beautiful scenes where you get to know Oskar and Eli and their unconditional friendship and love for each other. You start feeling sorry for the two. When she hunts, you don't see it as disgusting or appalling; instead you have compassion for Eli because she doesn't want to kill people, she just has to.
Oskar, played by Kåre Hedebrant, is a quiet intelligent boy who has the wish to be able to fight his bullies. He plays the imaginary fight out when he is alone and reads about murder and other crimes. He is a dark person but yet innocent. His love for Eli awakes emotions in him that will make him do things he wouldn't normally do, just dream about.
His mother is an 'on the edge' woman who worries about him. She has no idea that he is being bullied, neither does his father. They are divorced and Oskar doesn't see much of his father anymore. It is quite obvious that is father is an alcoholic but tries nevertheless to get to know is son. He fails to do so.
Eli (Line Leandersson) lives in the apartment next door to Oskar with her 'supposed' father. They cover their windows and keep mostly do themselves but everything doesn't always go as planned. The 'father' is put in a situation, when he is out hunting for Eli, which has a tragic outcome.
Eli is peculiar and a quiet girl who dresses in old dirty clothes with no shoes or jacket. It is winter and cold. The snow and ice has come but still she wears nothing but a shirt and trousers. Her vampirism is ugly. It is not as in other films where they romanticise vampires to look beautiful and powerful. Eli is vulnerable as appose to strong and confident. She needs blood, like a drug user, and will do anything to get it. Without it she will die which makes her desperate and careless. Yet she has regret and therefore you want her to kill and you feel compassion and understanding for what she is doing.
The director, Tomas Alfredson, leaves you with a dilemma; you want death to happen but you don't want people to die. All through the film he uses darkness to get the emotions he is after. Together with darkness he uses the snow to emphasize the rawness and the coldness of the film. Even though some of the scenes take place in the middle of the day, it still feels dark and brooding as well as isolated and joyless.
The dialogue is sparse and minimalist with no unnecessary words. This together with the simple setting creates a feeling of solitude. The scenes are not filmed in a way that makes you notice the props or interior of the different places. Only that they lack of colour and interesting objects. The director uses close-ups as well as wide still shots. The close-ups give a gritty realism where some are raw since they focus on the eyes and mouth of Eli after her feed. The long shots, some with wide angle, have a feeling of space as well as solitude.
When I think about the film I can't remember much of the soundtrack. To be honest, I can't remember any music at all. In my opinion it is not needed, because the setting with snow and darkness gives you the feeling without any music added; the feeling of solitude and loneliness and the animalistic nature of Eli.
The acting is good. Most of the characters are not in focus therefore the acting is simple and somewhat shallow. The characters Eli and Oskar are, in my opinion, brilliant and the acting by Lina and Kåre is incredible, especially when you take under consideration that they are only 14 years old.
The one thing that could be improved with this film is the questions it leaves you with. How did she become a vampire? Who is the man she is living with? But on the other hand this also leaves a feeling of mystery and intrigue. So, really, what is bad about this film? In my opinion: Nothing.
Tomas Alfredson has made several films before but nothing like this. He has done mostly comedy and to go from that to romantic horror must be a great challenge. I think he turned this novel into a great original vampire film and wouldn't hesitate to see it again, even buy it. I strongly recommend this film and in my opinion it is a collector's piece.
Let The Right One is adapted from the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It tells the story of Oskar, a 12 year old boy who befriends Eli, a vampire 100s of years old who is trapped in a child's body.
Both are alienated for different reasons - Oskar is bullied at school and feels isolated while Eli is, well, a vampire! Through this mutual alienation an understated love story of sorts unfolds.
This was, and is, the film of 2009 for me. It is beautifully shot, the stark white snow of Stockholm against the black wintery skies. The central performances are brilliantly performed by the two young actors, the awkwardness in their blossoming friendship is palpable. Even the sound design is great, with the snowfall applified to give a greater feel of isolation. The story unfolds at a glacial pace, but there is always a brooding feeling of impending violence present. When that violence does occur it is in brutal bursts of bloodshed.
Essesentially, this is a brilliantly told love story that just happens to be about two children, one of whom is a vampire(!) and one that I look forward to watching again.
A word of warning - the US blu ray is region free but I recommend you do not buy it regardless of how cheap it is, the distribution company decided to use different subtitles to the ones used on the theatrical cut and they were "dumbed down", to such an extent that some scenes make no sense. I found out the hard way and then had to pay again to by the UK blu ray which had the correct subtitles on.
I first discovered this film by seing posters, my initial reaction was that this would be more horror/vampire trash. When i finally got round to watching it i was pleasantly suprised.
You are introduced to a young boy who is the butt of all jokes and bullies attention which leaves you rooting for him to succeed then the mysterious neighbour arrives in the form of a 12 year old girl they strike up an unlikely freindship. This is the key point of this movie despite being a member of the vampire genre the main focus is that of a relationship between two people who in their own special ways are outcasts from society. The film builds slowly but surely and your sympathies and bond grow with the two main protaganists. You are left feeling strangely detached from the violence they participate in. I really don't want to give too much away as this film is worth discovering for yourself. All i am saying is if you think this is a run of the mill vampire flick be prepared to be dissapointed.
So in summary buy borrow or beg a copy of this film and watch it.... its great