Newest Review: ... of the more unobtrusive interludes. Fangtastic Acclaim *************** Let the Right One In has justly received plaudits from critic... more
Vampires done right - about bloody time
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Member Name: hogsflesh
Let The Right One In (DVD)
Date: 10/09/09, updated on 11/09/09 (76 review reads)
Advantages: Well acted, nice ambience, good use of wintery locations
Disadvantages: No real disadvantages, it just isn't a five-star film
This is a recent arty vampire film from Sweden. It's been getting some wildly over-the-top praise. As a bitter old cynic who's seen more vampire films than you have, I was half-expecting to be disappointed by this. But it more or less delivers, even if it inevitably isn't as great as some of the praise suggests.
A 12-year-old boy - lonely, bullied, knife-obsessed Oskar - tries to make friends with the girl who moves in next door, Eli, also 12, sort of. Some reviews I've read have suggested that this next bit is a spoiler, but I disagree: Eli is a vampire, as is made obvious by the way that she is seen drinking a man's blood about 20 minutes into the film. She slowly forms a bond with Oskar, but what's her real interest in him? And how far will he get drawn into her world?
Let The Right One In is a welcome vampire effort that's neither played for laughs, romance nor eroticism (the poor old vampire having been effectively destroyed as a serious subject for horror by a combination of Lost Boys, Anne Rice and Twilight). There is a romance of a kind between Eli and Oskar, and there are dark hints at a particularly unhealthy eroticism, but they're all part of a rich mix of other elements.
If this resembles anything, it's George Romero's brilliant modern-day vampire film Martin, probably the best and most intelligent vampire movie ever made. Like Martin, LTROI is set firmly in a realistic modern setting (and a working class one at that). As you might imagine, it puts a modern twist on the clichés of the genre, and does so in a rigorously intelligent manner. (I say modern, but this is set in the 70s or 80s - I'm not sure exactly when. Brezhnev is still alive, which narrows it down a bit.)
It's quite a slow-paced film, although it throws in a murder every so often to keep us interested. It's generally very dark (most of the action takes place at night, as you'd expect). I don't think it's too 'arty' (I suspect it's only been described as such because it's subtitled - there is apparently a version dubbed into English, but it's reputed to be terrible beyond all imagining). But it does have its puzzling moments, the end especially being quite ambiguous. It's based on a novel I haven't read, but from what I know of it, it makes certain elements a lot clearer than the film does.
(There is going to be a Hollywood remake, so if you don't like subtitles then wait for that. I have a horrible feeling it'll probably end with Will Smith affectionately ruffling his son's hair. On Thanksgiving.)
It isn't really scary - there are a couple of bits that might make you jump, but it doesn't really do suspense. The horror is the kind that makes you feel uneasy about what's going to happen, rather than frightened. The child vampire is pleasantly uncanny, and Oskar's just about likeable enough to make you hope he survives his new friend's attentions. His world is unpleasant - school bullies, mum out at work all the time, father living out of town and more interested in boozing with his friends than in Oskar - so his making friends with a vampire seems quite logical.
The killings aren't terribly bloody, but excellent sound effects make them feel a lot more explicit and unpleasant than they actually are. There are a few really gruesome moments, but evidently not enough to earn this an 18 certificate. Surprisingly, some of the killings have a weird, almost slapstick element to them, as Eli's creepy middle-aged servant bumbles around trying to procure blood for his mistress.
The few special effects are alright - a spontaneous combustion was particularly nice. Unfortunately, there's one scene involving cats that, while a good idea, looks so silly that I couldn't take it seriously. The biggest letdown is the music, which is unsubtle, using slow piano and guitar pieces to make us feel all sad - yes, thank you, I understand that this a wintery and melancholy story, now stop beating us over the head with music that underlines that so painfully.
The acting from the two kids is excellent, thankfully. Lina Leandersson as Eli is especially good. Her face has a weirdly adult look to it, which of course is entirely appropriate. All the supporting players are fine, too, although it's hard to judge their performances properly as I don't speak Swedish.
The DVD has a slightly pretentious trailer, and five minutes of cut scenes. There's a commentary from the director and writer, but I found that hard going. They were both speaking English, and I find a Swedish accent quite distracting.
It's good to see a horror film that's neither full of gross-out gore moments nor a remake. Let The Right One In is an intelligent, creepy movie with a few striking images that will probably stay with you for a while after seeing it. It's no Nosferatu (either version), and it's certainly no Martin. But it beats any other vampire film I've seen made since about 1980. More horror films like this - serious attempts to reclaim the iconic horror monsters - would be most welcome. I wait with trepidation to see if Hollywood ruins the remake.
Summary: A nice modern vampire story