Let the Right One In

November 18th, 2008


Låt den rätte komma in; 2008 (Sweden); Director: Thomas Alfredson; Novel & Screenplay: John Ajvide Lindqvist; Oskar: Kåre Hedebrant; Eli: Lina Leandersson

Snow-white and preternaturally delicate tween boy Oskar takes his pent-up aggressions out on a tree in the courtyard of his dreary tenement until he meets the new girl next door Eli; a glum little vampire who smells funny when she’s due for a meal.


At the risk of just echoing what’s being said all over the place, Let the Right One In is one of the most haunting and fun combinations of teeth-aching sweetness and rapacious, unromantic bloodletting that I’ve seen since… I don’t know, Spider Baby? …but unfolding in a trickle of dialogue, still camerawork, patience and restraint.


The breadth of the aesthetic gap it straddles won’t seem spannable to everyone. Some may find it an aimless flow of moments crystallizing in isolation, while others may find it going off the deep end with a few of the sudden bursts of violence. But it left me warm as a cocoa and thirsty for more. The old gothic romance between hunter and prey is contextualized here in the reluctant revelations of earliest adolescence. A curious backstory and two sets of conflicted emotions are hinted at without comment, and traditional vampire tropes are parsed out sparingly; just when you might begin to forget or overlook the supernatural element.


It’s a rare horror movie that effectively stages its unnatural transgressions – not to mention its characters’ fleeting triumphs – so deep in the quotidian. Due to the banality of their presentation, a couple of this film’s scenes are a visceral stomach punch that can make a viewer like me break into a cold sweat. At the same time it’s a persuasively disturbed coming-of-age story, eternally delayed – an obliteration of innocence necessarily frozen in time. It’s as soft, gooey and strange as a romance between a snail and a leech. The implications projected into Eli’s past and Oskar’s future, as suggested by an ambiguous third character, complicate Eli’s selective naivete and perverse bond with the boy for whom she is far too old, yet who would soon outgrow her.


I’ve read that a British remake is already in the works. However that might turn out, I recommend seeing this first.

Chris Barber









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