For years Hollywood has struggled with vampire movies. What we’ve been offered has either been cheesy comedies (Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Love at First Bite), mindless action flicks (Blade Trinity, 30 Days of Night), insane fantasies (Underworld), or tweenage romantic wish fulfillment (Twilight). Serious attempts at tackling the subject are few and far between, and often miss the mark completely. That’s what makes Let the Right One In so refreshing.
The small Swedish film ignores most of the mythology of vampires (aside from their dislike of sunlight and need to drink blood) and instead focuses on examining how one the size of a child might survive in the real world. What results is the ominous tale of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), an unpopular bullied young boy in the dark icy town of Blackberg, and his new mysterious androgynous friend Eli (Lina Leandersson).
Director Tomas Alfredson isn’t concerned with giving us an action flick or trying to shock us with cute camera tricks and over-used music cues. Oskar’s world is so bleak that the possibility of any new friend, even on who turns out to be ice-cold to the touch with an odd odor, is worth risking everything.
I could talk at length about the look and style of the film, which is harsh and minimalist, and the striking performances which feel chillingly real, but I think I’ll leave them for you to discover on your own.
Let the Right One In is a film that works on multiple levels and one that you will want to view again and again, examining the story from the perspective of different characters. There are no heroes or villains here, only varying levels of damaged individuals. The plot is left wide open for you to judge motivations and the decision making of these characters. For example, is Eli truly interested in cultivating a friendship with the boy or does the ancient vampire have a more specific need and purpose in mind?
The film refuses to give us easy answers, and although through Oskar’s eyes vampires become instantly cool, Alredson is careful to show us the other side of the coin from the Eli’s perspective and the eyes of the vampire’s companion Hakan (Per Ragnar). Hakan’s relationship itself, though not a large part of the film, is a tragic precursor which foreshadows dark possibilities in Oskar’s own future.
If you’re looking for crosses, roses, stakes, garlic cloves, bats and coffins this isn’t the vampire movie for you. However, if you want a disturbing drama which takes the idea, but not the mythology, of vampires seriously you could do far worse than letting this one in.
Let the Right One In – 4.5 Stars (out of 5)