Review: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In is hard to pin down. It's a story about a boy and a girl, it's a story about relationships, it's a story about bullying, it's a story about isolation, and it's a vampire story. Oskar is isolated, bullied, and harboring pent up aggression. When he meets his new neighbour Eli a friendship rapidly developments and we learn Eli is not a normal girl. The story is a study of two damaged people finding each other, with some disturbing overtones enabled by supernatural story points. Let the Right One In had my full attention as it unfolded and left me saying "wow" when it was done.

Rated: 4.5 / 5

Let the Right One In is the story of Oskar meeting Eli. Technically it's a horror story — one of the characters is a vampire &mdash but Let the Right One In is first and foremost a drama about childhood relationships and isolation, not the supernatural. There is some gore about equivalent to what you'd see on an episode of Dexter, but Oskar and Eli are the focus.

Oskar's estranged parents care for him physically but aren't connected with him emotionally, neither knows what's happening in his life. Quiet and withdrawn on the outside, Oskar has low self-esteem, pent up aggression, and a morbid fascination with death. When Eli moves in next door and meets Oskar for the first time there is a sense of two very lonely children making a tentative but real connection, bridging a great isolation they both feel. It becomes apparent very quickly that Eli isn't a normal child. The foreshadowing in both the cinematography and dialog is wonderful, it's not so subtle you'll miss it but it's not "hit you over the head" obvious, either.

The setting and visual ascetic created from winter filming in a small Swedish suburb is, as you'd expect, "cold", accentuating the character's isolation. More than that, the snow diffuses the light's harsh edges removing much of the sinister effect of shadows in the night. Both day and night are muted, almost melancholy. Similarly, the sound track sets a somber mood but doesn't tell you what to think. It might cue you on whether something is about to happen, but not on whether it's good or evil.

Let the Right One In very much leaves the audience to make what they want of the movie. There is no narrator, police officer, prescient neighbour, supernatural investigator, medium, or sage grandparent with a monolog to explain things, you draw your own conclusions. I suspect a viewer's personal experiences will colour their conclusions of Let the Right One In more so than other movies. This can lead to different interpretations and great post-movie discussion. It also means your experience and conclusions could be quite different than mine.

Eli is clearly a good influence of Oskar. Their friendship and her consul inspires him to stand up for himself. I was fascinated by the emotional progression of Eli and Oskar's relationship. Although Eli is clearly a powerful creature, she's still 12 years old in many ways. And both Oskar and Eli sound and act like children, not children speaking adult dialog. But it's here that the vampire thread sneaks in potentially disturbing elements making the drama far more thought provoking. Is Eli really emotionally 12 years old or is this the seduction of youth by an adult, and what is Eli's relationship to the adult in her life? And there's one very brief scene from Oskar's point of view where we see Eli changing her cloths that could give the movie a completely different spin, depending on how you interpret it.

If all of this sounds too sedate, there's also some great moments as predator stalks prey. The predator isn't always the vampire. The movie's climax as Eli fulfills her promise to Oskar is sudden, mildly shocking, and very satisfying.

Let the Right One In is a calm and deliberate film that delivers a thoughtful story with a supernatural punch. I've seen it twice now, and it was even better the second time. All horror should aspire to be this good.

Official Website:
IMDB: Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In)

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