Monday, June 27, 2011

"Let The Right One In" (2008)

Starring Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, and Patrik Rydmark
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Rated R - Violence, language, gore
Running Time: 114 minutes

Let The Right One InYoung Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is bullied at school, constantly called a piggy and pushed around.  He'll walk home in the snow from school in shorts because the bullies put his pants in the toilet during gym class.  He has no real friends, no one to defend him.  He's being raised by his mother, occasionally visiting his father in another town. 

One evening, a man and a young girl move into the apartment next door.  The girl, Eli (Lina Leandersson) informs Oskar that they can't be friends.  But soon enough, the two have grown close.  She tells Oskar that if he ever wants to be free of the bullies, he has to fight back.  One day, he does, sending the bully to the ER in the process. 

Meanwhile, the truth slowly begins to unravel: Eli is a vampire.  The man everyone thinks is her father is actually a servant who goes out to fetch blood for her.  She is very, very old.  But her servant, Hakan (Per Ragnar), has failed twice to bring her the blood she needs.  And so Eli is getting very, very hungry...

"Let the Right One In" eschews many of the normal conventions of vampire and horror films.  The focus is purely on Oskar's troubles at school and home, and on the burgeoning relationship with Eli.  The film is quiet, almost mundane.  There's a nervousness about the relationship between Oskar and Eli, and not just because one of them is a vampire.  Oskar is quiet, withdrawn, but he recognizes something of himself in Eli. 

The violence is quick, and brutal.  The film does a good job making the deaths not just your standard throat rips and roaring creatures.  Each small outburst of violence is more inventive than the last, with special effects that don't stand out or seem overly fake.  The film doesn't glorify the violence, or even really focus on it.  It seems to want to get past the violence so that it can get back into the story it's slowly trying to tell.

If there's a problem with "Let The Right One In," it's that it can sometimes be a little too slow.  In its strong attempt to build an impregnable atmosphere of loneliness for the characters, it goes a little too far.  But it does do an excellent job creating that atmosphere.  The film was shot in Sweden, and much of it takes place at night, in snow-covered locales and cold-looking interiors.  There are very few bright colors to break the sense of physical and emotional cold. 

"Let The Right One In" is an intriguing take on the vampire genre.  It carefully crafts its atmosphere, its violence, and its characters.