Let the Right One In (2008)

Director:  Tomas Alfredson 
Cast:  Kåre Hedebrant,
 Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
Plot:  Oskar, a bullied 12-year old, dreams of revenge. He falls in love with Eli, a peculiar girl. 

Genre:  Drama / Horror / Romance
Awards:  Nom. for 1 BAFTA - Best Foreign Language Film
Runtime:  114min
Rating:  NC16 for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language.

Oskar is a young boy whose parents do not bother with anymore, is viciously bullied at school, and spends most of his lonely existence collecting news articles of murderers on his scrapbook. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows up to be a Columbine killer. “Squeal like a pig! Squeal!” he says with a devilish tone while stabbing a tree with his sharp knife.

Eli, Oskar’s neighbor, is a soft-spoken, weird-smelling girl whose background remains murky, often spending nights out in the courtyard and days cooped up at home. One night they meet in the courtyard, and slowly a beautiful friendship forms. But there is an anomaly - Eli is a vampire. 

Tomas Alfredson’s
 Let the Right One In is perhaps the most refreshing foreign-language film of 2008, a Swedish picture that reminds us that horror-dramas when done well can be largely satisfying. The establishment of mood and location is paramount for these kinds of films. From the first scene, Alfredson sets the tone with authority. It is nightfall, it is snowy, and it is freezing; this brings a sense of imminent dread to the proceedings.

Although the film develops into a lovely romance, there is a queer feeling of uneasiness throughout. This is because of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality of Eli. Yes, she is amiable towards Oskar but she is also capable of inflicting the most gruesome violence on others. 

Let the Right One In will not please die-hard aficionados of the horror genre because the film is a clever study of two distinctive characters and their unusual relationship with each other within the context of a romantic drama (with horror elements incorporated) rather than an all-out supernatural fright fest.

That being said, Let the Right One In is at times shocking in the way it depicts violence i.e. Eli’s sporadic attacks on other neighbours, and the process in which Eli’s caretaker collects blood from victims are visually disturbing. Eli’s attacks are often accompanied by a loud, unique ‘wham!’ which intensifies the shock value ala The Sixth Sense. 

Alfredson has so richly developed the film’s two leading roles that he neglects the supporting ones, giving them nothing more than paper-thin portrayals. This means that viewers are less emotionally attached to the latter, and would not care much about their fate. The climax is a masterstroke; Alfredson employs inferential visuals that evoke startling, nightmarish images yet brilliantly capturing the universal love between Oskar and Eli through the latter’s determined quest to fulfil Oskar’s dreams for revenge.

Let the Right One In is not flawless, but its total focus on the story and lead characters as well as the excellent creation of mood makes it a film of substantial class, consigning pretentious movies like the popular vampire-romance, Twilight, to its rightful place in the cinematic rubbish dump.


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