As I may have mentioned before, one of the best things about living in Manhattan is the chance to see foreign and indie films that are released only in New York and Los Angeles. I had heard great things about the Swedish film Lat Den Ratte Komma In (Let The Right One In), so I was very excited to see that it was playing in a small theater right downstairs from my apartment. The movie had been released in 2008, but I missed my chance to see it, so I was lucky that my neighborhood theater chose to show it again. Very lucky, actually – Let The Right One In can be considered the best vampire movie ever made, but even classifying it as a “vampire movie” undermines the film as a whole. Read the rest of my review after the jump.
In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to the young protagonist, Oskar, a clearly troubled boy who is fantasizing about attacking someone with a knife, stabbing a piece of wood instead of a person. We don’t know why he’s troubled, but naturally, we find out. Things take time to get moving, and a mysterious man in Oskar’s apartment complex is seen doing mysterious things. Eventually, a 12-year-old girl named Eli – who lives with the mysterious man – befriends Oskar and develops a very tender relationship with him. Of course, Eli isn’t normal, nor is she really a girl, as she herself confesses during the film. She’s a vampire.
However, calling Let The Right One In a vampire movie pigeonholes it in the company of many, many crappy vampire movies; Queen of the Damned and Twilight come to mind. I love Blade and thought Interview With The Vampire was pretty good, but Let The Right One In blows them away. The production quality, the direction, the acting, the cinematography, and the score are all at the level you’d find in an Academy Award-winning film, and frankly, I’m shocked that this Swedish film wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s not like it wasn’t well-received; it earned a 97% on rottentomatoes.com.
Director Tomas Alfredson captures the cold, dreary atmosphere of a snowy suburb of Stockholm and injects it into his film, creating a feeling of anxiety and fear throughout while also supplementing Oskar’s melancholy demeanor. Alfredson also knows how to frame a shot and how to “show” the audience crucial aspects of the story (as opposed to “telling” them through dialogue). One scene that stands out in particular is the climactic scene at the swimming pool, where the muffled sounds give you an idea of what Oskar is experiencing. Despite the gore that soon follows – and it’s very, very gory – the scene is actually quite beautiful.
The relationship between Oskar and Eli is unlike any between normal 12-year-old children, but it’s still sweet and, for the most part, innocent. Lina Leandersson practically steals the movie in her performance as Eli, as she’s able to simultaneously play a quiet girl, a guardian to Oskar, and a vicious blood-drinker. The standard vampire lore is present, but subdued and sprinkled throughout, as the focus of this film isn’t so much what vampires can and can’t do (that’s been done to death), but the relationship between a young boy and a girl vampire that appears to be around his age. It’s a fresh, interesting look at vampires that doesn’t get too far away from the movie’s foundation.
I’ve read that there is already an American remake underway, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be passing. For one, there are issues and violence in the Swedish version that will not be found in the remake, and I doubt there are children who can pull off the roles of Oskar and Eli as well as Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson did. Another thing the remake will lack – and this is major, actually – is Johan Soderqvist’s score. Soderqvist composed a beautiful score that fits the movie perfectly. It’s chilling and at the same time very sweet, which only goes to enhance the already powerful and emotion scenes found throughout the movie.
Vampire fan or not, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. If you want to see brilliant film making and a fresh, understated take on vampires, you really shouldn’t miss Let The Right One In.
Bottom line: Five out of five stars. I can’t wait to see this movie again.