"I'm twelve. But I've been twelve for a long time."
"A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire." Yuck. That is a one line synopsis for the film that redefined the concept of the vampire. As a coldblooded American male who also loves movies, Twilight (2008) is my enemy. It is the film that made consumers take the idea of a monster lightly. As unfortunate as 2008 was for the vampire community, one film put forth a solid effort against the Robert Pattinson-led melodrama.
Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In is a film that takes the vampire concept very seriously. In fact, it very much reminds me of the Nosferatu pathos. We are forced to understand that being a vampire is a curse. Though we ultimately fear the monster, we feel pity for the person inflicted by the nightmare. These feelings are intensified in Let the Right One In because our monster is a child. And she befriends another child. We are tricked into watching a highly emotional coming of age drama under the pretense of a horror flick.
This is not a horror flick. It is a very grim and dramatic look into the fragile psyche of twelve year old children. The film follows the story of a boy named Oskar. He is a very skinny, pale and awkward child with uninterested divorced parents. He is constantly feeling alone and has no understanding of how to reach out and make friends. He is violently picked on by a couple of his classmates - who go as far as to force him underwater and nearly drown. Oskar gets his release by stabbing the courtyard tree with a rusted pocket knife and fantasizing about standing up for himself. It is here that meets Eli. And everything changes.
It is pretty obvious that Eli is not your normal twelve year old girl. She cannot remember her birthday, but she knows that she is somewhere around Oskar's age. Without giving anything away, Eli is a vampire. But this does not frighten Oskar. He is at a tender place mentally where he is not shocked by the cruelties of the world. They are both forgotten and cast aside by the others, but they have each other. "Will you be my girlfriend?" Oskar asks. To which Eli responds "Oskar, I'm not a girl." Now we know.
I think the best part of Let the Right One In is its innocence. Like most coming of age stories, all we see are two young people trying to get a grasp on their feelings and ideas. Love, attraction, bullying and neglect are all presented with a childlike sense of confusion and hopelessness. John Ajvide Lindqvist based the screenplay off of his own novel, and if the book is even half as emotionally driven as the film - it should be considered a must read.
It is the strong emotional content that makes the vampire plot so dynamic. This film takes you all over the place. There is some blood throughout the film. It is also quite violent. Let the Right One In does what films like Pan's Labyrinth (2006) could not. It combines two brilliant, but polar opposite, aspects of storytelling into a perfectly crafted plot.
Aside from the plot, there are some really interesting things going on in this film. The color scheme is particularly interesting. There are no "happy colors" in Oskar's world. Everything is shadowed in a darker red or gray. Even human blood resembles a red so dark that it is almost black. Black - the color of death. This is a beautiful film to look at, and we notice this in the very early going. Even the opening credits are calmly, but also urgently, striking.
The title of the film comes from the legend that a vampire cannot enter a building without being invited. Vampire or not, I invite you to see a foreign film that will make you respect the well made monster movie. Eli is a child. Eli is a monster. We are proverbial concerned parents. We are afraid of her. This is one Hell of a movie with a jaw-dropping ending.
Let the Right One In: B+
My Next Film....Johnny Guitar (Ray. 1954)