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Overall Rating
4.64

Awesome76.27%
Worth A Look: 18.64%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 3.39%
Total Crap: 1.69%

5 reviews, 29 user ratings


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Let the Right One In
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by Jay Seaver

"Best vampire film in ages, bar none."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: A couple years ago, "Frostbite" got a little hype as the first vampire movie to come out of Sweden. It was a wild teen comedy, perhaps not quite what people expected from the nation that produced the likes of Bergman, and not something that particularly stays with you. "Let the Right One In" hits closer to that mark, playing as moody and morose as well as bloody. It's quite frankly brilliant. (It's also nearly impossible to review without spoiling some good surprises in the first half, so consider yourself warned!)

The time is the early 1980s, the place is a suburb outside of Stockholm. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a small 12-year-old, pale almost to the point of being an albino, and he's picked on all the time. He plays with a knife which he clearly fantasizes about putting into his tormentors, and is fascinated by a series of crimes happening in the area. A pair of new neighbors has just moved in - Hakan (Per Ragnar), whom we see kill a teenager, preparing to drain his blood before a dog scares him off, and Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl about Oskar's age ("twelve, more or less") who is rather odd: She only shows up in the apartment complex's courtyard at night, doesn't go to school, and isn't familiar with certain figures of speech and other everyday accouterments of a kid's life. She tells him they're not going to be friends, but soon they've got nobody closer.

Though there is apparently an English-language remake planned even before this film is released in its native Sweden, I find it hard to imagine this film transplanted to another milieu. Director Tomas Alfredson fills the frame with heavy snows, dark skies, and dread, lingering on establishing shots and giving the audience a real sense of place. Everybody but the children seems weathered, and even they seem to be hardening quickly. It's a natural place for a vampire to be found.

Eli doesn't fit into most of the classic vampire molds, though. She's not a hideous Orlockian creature, tortured by guilt, or possessed of peculiar sexual energy; if there's any sort of hidden vampire cabal, she does not appear to be part of it. She's lonely, hidden during the day and necessarily cautious at night, having little contact with anyone besides Hakan before meeting Oskar. Her relationship to Hakan is interesting - he often plays the part of her parent, protecting and providing for her, but she is the one who exerts authority over him rather than vice versa. One wonders if he is actually her father, or whether he was once someone like Oskar, meeting this young/old girl as a child himself and so captivated that he wound up devoting his life to her.

For Eli to inspire such devotion requires a remarkable performance on the part of Lina Leandersson, and young Lina delivers. She doesn't look especially otherworldly, but there's something exactly right about the way she plays Eli, able to speak with knowledge and experience when advising Oskar on dealing with bullies, but still lacking the maturity that comes from living among others and having to answer for one's mistakes. We're actually more forgiving of her nature as a killer because she's not an innocent, wide-eyed kid.

Kåre Hedebrant is just as good as Oskar, small and picked-on and responding in a way that's a bit worrisome. He's introverted, and we can watch the desire to connect with any other kids being chipped away from his face before he meets Eli, even though he smiles and seems genuinely happier during the scenes where Oskar goes to visit his father. Hedebrant is good at showing the subtle changes in Oskar's mental state over the course of the movie.

Horror fans shouldn't turn their noses up at this one, though - it's not all sad kids in a sad land. There need to be killings for bodies to pile up, and the number that do merits some investigation. Alfredson and writer (of both the screenplay and the original novel) John Ajvide Lindqvist don't spend a lot of time on people trying to hunt Eli and Hakan down, but it's there. What they do wind up doing is reinventing the on-screen depiction of vampirism to make it fresh and new. Vampires are given a few cat-like traits although cats themselves really do not like them, and the visuals for what happens when a vampire is exposed to direct sunlight or fails to obey the rule about having to be invited in are fantastic. Alfredson also has a real knack for knowing what to show and what to leave to the viewer's imagination, as best evidenced by a brutal climactic scene that is at once understated and bloodily graphic.

That's why "Let the Right One In" is the best vampire film in years - note-perfect characterization, stunning visuals, and the sort of imagination that takes something as played-out as this variety of bloodsucker and makes it feel like something being discovered for the first time.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17613&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/08/08 01:41:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2008 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2008 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/05/13 David Hollingsworth Poetic, stunning, and a very worthwhile tribute to the vampire genre. 5 stars
3/07/12 Marty Eli/Oskar work great together. re-make's good, but this 1 has the heart. 5 stars
10/20/11 Magic Enchanting and haunting, touching and creepy. The best vampire movie in decades. 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan best vampire film 4 stars
6/06/11 mikie best film iv ever seen i was those kis when i was 12 eli n oscar are magic 5 stars
1/12/11 Matt Stilwell What a vampire movie should be. You hear that, Twilight ? 5 stars
5/03/10 PAUL SHORTT SUPERBLY CRAFTED MIX OF GRIMY REALISM AND GOTHIC FANTASY 4 stars
11/22/09 FrankNFurter Overrated, incredibly boring & pretentious. "Foreign" does not = "deep." 2 stars
10/18/09 daveyt Don't do Hollywood remake, PLEASE!!!!! 5 stars
10/18/09 Joise Cotton is a goddess Might be the best horror/drama hybrid since 'May' 5 stars
8/11/09 Benny Lava Atrociously slow and drab and without a redeeming plot to keep one awake. So dull... 1 stars
7/11/09 art A NIFTY FABLE! 4 stars
6/08/09 Man Out 6 Bucks This and Martyrs are best of 2008 5 stars
5/29/09 anthony A thoughtful, fresh approach; while staying true to vampyre lore! 5 stars
5/13/09 Matt great performances, great cinematography, great film. boycott the remake 5 stars
5/11/09 Darkstar Excellent! 5 stars
5/07/09 jeanne The two kids were beyond amazing - all right, everybody into the pool! 5 stars
4/17/09 Mark Just a great film. 5 stars
4/04/09 Sevarian Easily the best vampire film of recent years 5 stars
3/20/09 Baloney Reveals a horror paradox. The more the monster's humanity shows, the less monstrous she is. 5 stars
2/11/09 ES It was good, a preteen romance that makes one hope for as happy an ending as possible 4 stars
1/22/09 sidd dis movie rox.. XD 4 stars
12/28/08 mr.mike Recalls both Herzog's Nosferatu and Warhol's Dracula. 5 stars
12/17/08 damalc maybe best vamp film ever, since 'Near Dark' at the least 5 stars
12/08/08 brian c. The best horror film of the decade, and the best film of 2008 so far. Very beautiful. 5 stars
11/23/08 Jack Sommersby Overdeliberate and enervating, it's more bark than bite. 2 stars
11/14/08 Dan Feeney Yeah, that's how I felt too. My favourite film of 2008 so far, including The Visitor. 5 stars
11/10/08 stephen goodridge scary, but i loved it 5 stars
10/30/08 tiffany pettey movies like this that are realistic keep me enthralled and dont suck need a good review go 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Mar-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Oct-2008
  DVD: 10-Mar-2009




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