the Right One In (Sweden; 114 min.)
directed by: Tomas Alfredson
starring: Kåre Hedebrant; Lina Leandersson; Per Ragnar; Henrik Dahl; Karin Bergquist
Jason says: "In short: Best vampire film in a long time, but almost impossible to review without a big-time spoiler for something that happens relatively early on. I don't know when and how this will actually come out, but you may want to wait on reading this. Of course, it will likely be months, so maybe you'll have forgotten by then.
"A couple years ago, FROSTBITE got a little hype as the first vampire movie to come out of Sweden. It was a wild teen comedy, perhaps not quite what people expected from the nation that produced the likes of Bergman, and not something that particularly stays with you. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN hits closer to that mark, playing as moody and morose as well as bloody. It's quite frankly brilliant.
"The time is the early 1980s, the place is a suburb outside of Stockholm. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a small 12-year-old, pale almost to the point of being an albino, and he's picked on all the time. He plays with a knife which he clearly fantasizes about putting into his tormentors, and is fascinated by a series of crimes happening in the area. A pair of new neighbors has just moved in - Hakan (Per Ragnar), whom we see kill a teenager, preparing to drain his blood before a dog scares him off, and Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl about Oskar's age ('twelve, more or less') who is rather odd: She only shows up in the apartment complex's courtyard at night, doesn't go to school, and isn't familiar with certain figures of speech and other everyday accouterments of a kid's life. She tells him they're not going to be friends, but soon they've got nobody closer.
"Though there is apparently an English-language remake planned even before this film is released in its native Sweden, I find it hard to imagine this film transplanted to another milieu. Director Tomas Alfredson fills the frame with heavy snows, dark skies, and dread, lingering on establishing shots and giving the audience a real sense of place. Everybody but the children seems weathered, and even they seem to be hardening quickly. It's a natural place for a vampire to be found.
"Eli doesn't fit into most of the classic vampire molds, though. She's not a hideous Orlockian creature, tortured by guilt, or possessed of peculiar sexual energy; if there's any sort of hidden vampire cabal, she does not appear to be part of it. She's lonely, hidden during the day and necessarily cautious at night, having little contact with anyone besides Hakan before meeting Oskar. Her relationship to Hakan is interesting - he often plays the part of her parent, protecting and providing for her, but she is the one who exerts authority over him rather than vice versa. One wonders if he is actually her father, or whether he was once someone like Oskar, meeting this young/old girl as a child himself and was so captivated that he wound up devoting his life to her.
"For Eli to inspire such devotion requires a remarkable performance on the part of Lina Leandersson, and young Lina delivers. She doesn't look especially otherworldly, but there's something exactly right about the way she plays Eli, able to speak with knowledge and experience when advising Oskar on dealing with bullies, but still lacking the maturity that comes from living among others and having to answer for one's mistakes. We're actually more forgiving of her nature as a killer because she's not an innocent, wide-eyed kid.
"Kåre Hedebrant is just as good as Oskar, small and picked-on and responding in a way that's a bit worrisome. He's introverted, and we can watch the desire to connect with any other kids being chipped away from his face before he meets Eli, even though he smiles and seems genuinely happier during the scenes where Oskar goes to visit his father. Hedebrant is good at showing the subtle changes in Oskar's mental state over the course of the movie.
"Horror fans shouldn't turn their noses up at this one, though - it's not all sad kids in a sad land. There need to be killings for bodies to pile up, and the number that do merits some investigation. Alfredson and writer (of both the screenplay and the original novel) John Ajvide Lindqvist don't spend a lot of time on people trying to hunt Eli and Hakan down, but it's there. What they do wind up doing is reinventing the on-screen depiction of vampirism to make it fresh and new. Vampires are given a few cat-like traits although cats themselves really do not like them, and the visuals for what happens when a vampire is exposed to direct sunlight or fails to obey the rule about having to be invited in are fantastic. Alfredson also has a real knack for knowing what to show and what to leave to the viewer's imagination, as best evidenced by a brutal climactic scene that is at once understated and bloodily graphic.
"That's why LET TE RIGHT ONE IN is the best vampire film in years - note-perfect characterization, stunning visuals, and the sort of imagination that takes something as played-out as this variety of bloodsucker and makes it feel like something being discovered for the first time. 5 cats
"Seen 6 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)"
|Bruce says: "To peg LET THE RIGHT ONE
IN as a vampire film is a bit unfair and careless. In addition, it is a
social commentary, a psychological study and a love story. Oskar (Kare Hedebrant)
is a lonely twelve year old who lives with his mother now that his parents
have separated. Kids at school bully him; he is an easy target because he
is small and because he does not know how to defend himself. Preoccupation
is Oscar’s second nature; he lives only halfway in the present moment.
When other kids at school call him piggy and want him to squeal, he complies
without putting up much of an argument. When three kids whip him, he tells
his mother he fell down and gashed the side of his face.
"After dark, a taxi pulls up in front of the apartment building and two people get out, an older man and a young boy. They are Oskar’s new next door neighbors. Oskar is curious. He attempts to spy on them with his ear to the wall. When the two boys meet, Eli (Lina Leandersson) confesses to being 12, in fact '12 for a long time' is the way he puts it. Oskar is fumbling with a Rubik’s Cube and gives it to Eli; the next day the puzzle is returned to Oskar having been solved. Oskar is in awe. Meanwhile a series of murders occurs. The townspeople are baffled but we know that the man that lives with Eli is killing to supply Eli with the blood he desperately needs for sustenance. Oskar discovers Morse code and learns it so he can communicate with Eli through their shared wall.
Eli still has the need to kill on his own. When he goes after Virginia, one of the locals who hang out in a nearby bar/restaurant, his bloodsucking gets interrupted and Virginia survives. In hospital she realizes what has happened and asks that the shades be opened in her room to let the bright sunlight in. Instantly she goes up in flames. When Oskar gets seriously threatened at the school swimming pool, Eli takes charge. What happens isn't pretty. The locals start putting two and two together and Eli’s days appear numbered. Oskar cannot envision his life without Eli. They have fallen in love.
"Mixing genres has not made LET THE RIGHT ONE IN less a vampire film. Suspense abounds and there is plenty of gore. For me, hardly a vampire fan, it is the psychological aspects, coupled with the love story that most contribute to the film’s unforgettable impact. 5 cats
"LET THE RIGHT ONE IN screened at the 2008 Woodstock Film Festival."
|Carolyn says: "Too much of the vampire genre which isn't for me. But there were a lot of universal themes to discuss. 3 cats"|