Let the Right One In | Horror/Drama | rated R (A,L,V,G) | 1:54 mins | In Sweedish with English Subtitles
Bullied at school and ignored at home, Oskar finds a kindred spirit in new neighbor Eli – a 12-year-old girl who only seems to come out at night, isn’t 12, isn’t a girl and can only feast on human blood.
If you’ve ever even heard of Let the Right One In it probably came wrapped in 10 pounds of hype and critical acclaim that seemed to grow exponentially with every mile it traveled from Sweeden to the U.S. shores. That would usually indicate a level of foreign film pretentiousness, but that isn’t the case here. Right is a rollicking, crowd-pleasing genre flick that is so juicy, rich, full, heart-felt and intelligent that it reaches out of it’s genre. Coming in the same year that Twilight kicked off teen vampire mania, Right is the vampire movie that actually follows the vampire rules – and shows us how much fun you can have with them.
The one thing I don’t buy about the hype is that I don’t by the movie as a deep and profound love story as some may gush. It’s about as deep as a love story can be staring 12-year-olds. What I got of it was less an unconventional romance between human and vampire (with a homosexual subtext lurking around under the surface) but a story of two lost souls, social outcasts, bonded by loneliness. Their yearning for a connection, to love and be loved, is palpable. The warm center in an otherwise cold and stoic film.
Right paints it’s canvas in snow banks with a smattering of blood. It’s an art film that works because it is deeply entrenched in the lore of the vampire genre, with just enough creature violence for the horror fans balanced with a romantic center for the non-horror fans. It’s a good story, well told, cleverly, subtly rolling out Eli’s character in bits and pieces. Sticking strictly with the vampire rules but creatively playing with them ever so slightly. What really makes the movie sing is the way it slowly unfurls her on the rest of the town, specifically a coffee clatch of old people in the neighborhood who get together for drinks and gossip. Eli’s vampirism spreads through them like a disease, as the incompetent attempts of her handler to get her blood get him nearly caught and force her out on her own. It’s that extra shading and detail with the supporting characters that makes Right such a rich storyteller.
The movie moves with patience, deliberation and a supreme confidence in what it is doing and where it is going. The final payoff is indeed as jump-out-of-your seat satisfying as it comes. Terrible, awkwardly translated title aside, Let the Right One In is the rare movie that lives up to the hype with brains, blood, heart and inventiveness with the genre. It is a refreshing take, the result being one of the best vampire movies ever made – one that will most likely even be enjoyed by people who might not like vampire movies. By itself a story of an outcast befriending a child vampire would have been inspired, but the way it spider-webs out into a combining mixture of small town supporting characters, supernatural bits and subplots involving bullying, parents and androgyny is what makes the movie so wonderful. It has all the makings of a modern classic.