Let the Right One In ... Låt Den Rätte Komma In Directed by: Tomas Alfredson Cast: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Patrik Rydmark Running Time: 1 hr 45 min Rating: R
Plot: Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12 year old boy, is unhappily resigned to a lonely life of friendlessness and a wicked trio of school bullies. When a mysterious girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves into the apartment next door, the two outcasts form a deep connection. The dark and beautiful Eli is actually a 200 year old vampire, struggling for discretion and survival on a day-to-day basis.
Who’s It For? Horror fans. Wait, allow me to clarify--discriminating horror fans with taste and sophistication. Låt Den Rätte Komma In is a Swedish film, so go in expecting subtitles. If you like those brainless, sexist, and belligerent slasher flicks, don't bother. And just so you know, I look down on you, you halfwit. You don't deserve good horror.
Expectations: This film has been incredibly well received, and I love an artistic and juicy horror movie. I expected it to be phenomenal.
Kare Hedebrant as Oskar: Kare Hedebrant looks like an absolute angel, with his pale complexion and silvery blond hair, and he is just wonderful to watch. He's real. Hedebrant hit the same chord with me as Catinca Untaru did in The Fall--true and real children who still have their innocence intact. Child actors from Hollywood are so sanded down, they're much smoother to watch, but it has a certain plasticity. Hedebrant negotiated fairly emotionally complex scenes, and he did so with very little effort. Oskar is outwardly meek, but repressing a great deal of violent rage, and Hedebrant gives us both the outward and the inward with just a glint in his eye or a twitch on his lips. Score: 9
Lina Leandersson as Eli: Lina Leandersson is mesmerizing as the strange and gorgeous Eli. She's a very slight girl, with eyes that are so big and so round, at first I thought they were digitized. She can't help stealing every scene--when Leandersson is present, there's really nothing else you'd rather watch. If Eli has fed, she's shy and reserved, and oddly aristocratic, despite the dirty clothes and grimy fingernails. If Eli hasn't eaten in a while, she's animalistic and as quick and savage as a tigress on the hunt. Eli doesn't want to be a vampire; she does so out of barebones necessity, and she does so without spelling it out via ultra whiny soliloquies (yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Pitt). Leandersson plays Eli with haunting elegance--sleek and fast like a cat, with the heavy sadness of an immortal. Score: 10
Per Ragner as Hakan: Hakan is the adult, human male in charge of keeping Eli fed and safe. Our first real introduction to Ragner is when he's packing a killing/exsanguinating kit and then doo-dee-dooing off to murder some hapless passersby. Ragner does a good job, but the film doesn't really give us a lot of screen time with him, nor does it present any explanation whatsoever of the who/why/where/hows regarding Hakan. We do not care what happens to Hakan. Score: 5
Patrick Rydmark as Conny: Rydmark deserves some mention as the semi-sociopathic leader of the school bullies. He handles Conny's cold and unnatural swagger so believably, you really fear for Oskar whenever Conny is on the prowl. Conny is an ominous, menacing presence, and like all really great tyrants, it's the smaller stuff: flicking Oskar's nose and calling him "piggy"; Asking Oskar if he'd like to take a swim while the school is ice skating on a frozen lake; or just winking knowingly at Oskar from across the class. The movie also gives us a brief glimpse into why Conny is the way he is, which makes the character a little more multi-dimensional. Score: 7
Talking: The dialogue is natural and strong, and it's especially sweet between Oskar and Eli. There are a lot of covert clues about the histories of all the characters and if you miss a line or two, you might miss something enormously important. For example, a crazy old man (with an abundance of cats--crazy old cat man) witnesses Eli murdering one of the townsmen, but he won't go to the police. When the other characters ask him why, he says: "Because they'll put me back in that room and shine a light in my eyes." It's uttered so quickly, it's easy to miss, but then it could look like a gaping hole in the story's rationality. Score: 8
Sights: This movie is just mind-blowingly beautiful and lacking any sort of smug self-awareness. The soundtrack can be a little overbearing and what I'd call "swoony," but the scenes themselves are pure art without the pomposity. There are several underwater scenes which are just fantastic, and a very striking scene where Eli moves into a shadow and her eyes start to dimly glow like the eyes on a cat. Score: 8
Sounds: Again, the soundtrack strayed a bit over the line from "expressive" to "melodramatic." The two young actors and the dialogue were enough to impact us with the emotion of the scene, and it's distracting when the score tries to dictate how we, as the audience, should feel. Obviously, that can be extremely effective depending on the movie (The Piano, Vanilla Sky), but it does detract from the power of Let the Right One In. If we're talking about sound effects, the movie does a great job--you can really discern each slurp and crunch as Eli snacks on different fodder characters. Score: 5
Best Scene: The best scene is when the bullies get what's coming to them. There has to be a word out there stronger than "satisfying," without the sexual connotation that you get with "euphoric" or "orgasmic" or "ecstatic." For anyone who's ever been bullied, the ending comes close to being a religious experience. Don't expect lots of gore or big explosions, or the scene will seem too subtle for you--just, enjoy.
Ending: For me, the ending came close to being a religious experience.
Questions: The big questions surround Hakan. Why is he there? Who the heck is he? What is the dynamic between he and Eli? Is he just Eli's whipping boy/lackey? Why is he so willing to go out and kill for her? Luckily, none of these questions will really interfere with your experience, because all you care about is Eli and Oskar anyway. All the other characters are on the periphery.
Rewatchability: Yes. Do I need to be more emphatic? YES!!!!. And normally, I use exclamation points so sparingly.
Let the Right One In is a fascinating blend of violence and love and poetry. The moments between Eli and Oskar are so wonderful and exquisitely crafted, the beauty and nuances of those scenes is almost impossible to absorb the first time around. Unfortunately, the film can't always focus on Eli and Oskar, and whenever it switches to the other characters--a.k.a, the fodder--the movie starts to drag. In parts, this movie feels way too long, because it does such a good job of making us fall in love with Eli and Oskar. When you're in love with someone, you don't care about Guy Being Eaten Under the Bridge, or Sad Drunkard Friend of Guy Being Eaten Under the Bridge; you only want to spend time with the characters you're in love with. I'd call this a shortcoming, except the fodder characters do add to the story, so I'm not even sure which scenes I'd cut.
The one other minor flaw of the movie is its editing, and I do mean minor. There are some scenes that are either totally incongruous, or strange and clunky, and it's jarring. Bear in mind, that you wouldn't even notice those scenes in your average Hollywood film; but because the rest of the movie is so well-done, it does stick out. Oh, and watch out for an unfortunately cheesy scene involving a CGI cat-attack. If you know it's there, and you remember they probably didn't have the budget to pay for more realism, you might find it more forgivable.
I'm such a huge, slavish fan of artistic horror. The Orphanage was a 10 in my book, and while Let the Right One In does come awfully close to horror perfection at times, I'd still have to go with...
Final Score: 8/10