Friday, April 3, 2009

Mini-movie review: Let The Right One In

What's better than a Russian vampire movie with subtitles? A Swedish vampire movie with subtitles, that's what. Not only is Let The Right One In an outstanding genre movie, but it's an excellent film in its own right. Twilight should cover its face in shame.

The story is set in 1982 Stockholm and is told through the eyes of young Oskar. Badly bullied at school and all but ignored by his single mother, twelve-year-old Oskar is lost and alone until the new neighbors move into the apartment next door. Oskar reaches out to the little girl, Eli, who at first resists his overtures of friendship but then succumbs to her own loneliness. Eli, you see, has "been twelve for a very long time." Their relationship grows through the course of the movie, each isolated child taking strength and consolation from the other.

I watched the quickie "Behind the Scenes" feature with the Swedish director and appreciated some of the points he made. One was that he thinks the movie has a happy ending in that abused children often develop a penchant for violence themselves, and that Eli serves as the outward manifestation of Oskar's innate violence so that he does not have to exhibit it himself. Another thing I found interesting is that the filmmakers searched for over a year to find their Oskar and their Eli, needing not only capable child actors, but children who would be able to handle the intense material. I thought the casting was wonderful - Oskar is weak and pathetic, but luminous in his damaged innocence; Eli switches deftly from waif to menace, all big eyes and preternaturally pale skin.

This is a horror movie about vampires and, as such, there is some blood and vampirish activity. But there's less gore and violence than in any Quentin Tarantino movie or even most Scorcese flicks. The bloodletting is there but it's almost tangential to the rest of what's going on. My favorite scene was the penultimate one at the swimming pool where Oskar's bullies finally get what's coming to them - and all the action happens off-camera.

There has been some recent hubbub about the DVD release: apparently the English subtitles have been "dumbed down" from the subtitles in the theatrical release (the film company is going to release another set of DVDs with the original subtitles due to the uproar from fans). I'm guessing that the movie I watched had the altered subtitles but, to be honest, I loved this film as I saw it and can't imagine how much better it could be with the "right" words.

Excellent, excellent little film - great fun for genre fans and a solid movie even for those who don't like horror. I really, really, really hope the Americans don't try to remake it.


  1. I loved the cats the most.

  2. The cats were awesome! Once I had a kitten try to climb up my leg while I was wearing shorts - I can't imagine having a whole pack (herd? gaggle? squad?) of 'em on me.