Let the Right One In: Bye, bye, Blackeberg

Let the Right One In directed by Tomas AlfredsonLet the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson

Let The Right One InThe winner of at least 50 international film awards and a popular and critical favorite, the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In is, as it turns out, highly deserving of all the many accolades it has received. Adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his best-selling novel of 2004, the film introduces us to a 12-year-old boy named Oskar, who lives with his mother in a suburb of Stockholm, and who is more than effectively played by newcomer Kare Hedebrant. Oskar’s life as a friendless soul who is helplessly bullied at school takes a turn for the better when some new neighbors move into his apartment complex. Eli, who is apparently his age, initially tells Oskar “I can’t be friends with you … that’s just how it is,” but the two ultimately DO bond, although Eli later reveals that she has been 12 “for a long time.” In point of fact, Eli is nothing less than a vampire … and a particularly ravenous one, to boot! And before long, the sleepy suburb of Blackeberg is roused by a string of shockingly bloody, nighttime slayings…

Beautifully shot by Hoyte van Hoytema and sensitively directed by Tomas Alfredson (who would go on to helm 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Let the Right One In showcases some nice wintry settings that go far in abetting the film’s chilly mood. Stockholm, of course, is a fairly unique setting for a vampire film, and offhand I cannot recall another Scandinavian picture dealing with this horror subject, at least not since Carl Dreyer’s Danish classic Vampyr, of 1932. The film features a fairly restrained use of violence, but at the same time does not shy away when the occasion calls for it; the gorehounds in the audience should be well satisfied, with the picture’s climactic swimming pool sequence already a horror-fan favorite. Other good scenes include Virginia (a middle-aged woman whom Eli “infects” at one point) having the blinds opened in her hospital room, her boyfriend Lacke hunting Eli down, and Oskar’s literally ear-splitting vengeance on the bully Conny.

But the best scenes of all, of course, are between Eli and Oskar themselves, as this film is more about their sweet and evolving relationship than anything else. Lonely outsiders with apparently no other friends to speak of, it is perhaps inevitable that the two should be drawn to each other, and their interactions here are both fascinating and touching. Over the course of the film, each manages to save the life of the other, with Eli becoming Oskar’s avenging angel/fairy godmother of sorts, and Oskar becoming Eli’s protector and (as suggested by the film’s ambiguous ending, which could almost have set up a wonderful sequel) possible blood procurer.

In the two leads, Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson are quite marvelous, especially given that these were the first film roles for both children. It took the filmmakers an entire year of searching before opting for these two, but I would have to say that the search was well worth the time invested. Baby-faced Hedebrant’s reaction shots are often remarkable to behold (just look at his face after he realizes that Eli has successfully mastered the Rubik’s Cube), while Leandersson manages the tricky task of appearing at once innocent, childlike, ancient and deadly. Although perhaps not quite as pretty as Chloe Grace Moretz, who portrayed the character in the 2010 American remake Let Me In, her performance is flawless and memorable, and her Eli is a very special addition to the vampire subgenre. An understandable worldwide smash, Let the Right One In is a bona fide treat for the sophisticated horror buff, and from what I hear, its source novel is even better. Guess I’m going to have to place that title on my “must-read” list…

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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  1. I have not seen the movie, although I enjoyed the book (which was very, VERY dark even for a vampire story.) I’ll have to queue this up for close-to-Halloween viewing!

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