Like the vampire itself, the vampire film never dies. In recent years it’s been mashed up with (or feeds on) almost every conceivable genre, from Matrix-style eschatology (Underworld) and biological warfare (I Am Legend) to Mormon-inflected teen melodrama (the soon-to-be-adapted Twilight series). So at first glance, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In seems like it could be the latest attempt to rehabilitate the vampire flick by packaging it for the tween puppy-love set, a sort of My Life as a Dog meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But where Buffy playfully deployed vampire lore as an allegory for adolescence, taking literally the idea that high school is hell, Let the Right One In is surprisingly straightforward and grim. The film dispenses with metaphor in favor of a gritty realism where, far from being exceptional, vampires must struggle along with everyone else in the bleak, near-perpetual darkness of a Swedish winter.
Based on the best-selling novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also adapted the story for the screen, it’s set in 1982, where Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a frail-looking boy of 12, begins an unlikely friendship with Eli (Lina Leandersson), a slight girl who has just moved into his apartment block and always seems curiously underdressed for the weather. As strange murders begin to occur—Oskar secretly collects newspaper clippings that detail savage bite marks and desanguinated bodies—Oskar beings to realize that Eli is a vampire. Yet there’s nothing particularly fantastic about Eli or Håkan (Per Ragnar), the older man who dutifully retrieves her victims’ blood so she doesn’t have to. No elaborate rituals or decadent attire: just a coltish girl with sad eyes and a dingy apartment littered with a few modest trinkets.
Click here to read the rest of Genevieve Yue’s review of Let the Right One In.
With its calm, wintry rural setting, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish best-seller Let the Right One In depicts slaughter, death, and dismemberment as though sprung from the stanzas of Robert Frost. This is hardly the first film to drench teen angst and burgeoning sexuality in supernatural bloodletting (De Palma’s Carrie, Romero’s Martin, and, more recently, John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps equate, respectively, telekinesis, vampirism, and lupine transformation with pubescent turmoil), but Alfredson sets his film apart with a memorably stringent (dare I say, Scandinavian) visual design.
From the opening moments, in which the screen is overtaken by silent, softly falling snowflakes that, with their lovely morbidity, might as well be leftover sprinkles from the closing lines of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” to an underwater climax as gory as it is hushed and idyllic, Let the Right One In means to push the contemporary vampire film into an ambitiously poetic realm.
Alfredson mostly fulfills his charge, even if many of his techniques are borrowed from a trendily wan art-house aesthetic that relies too heavily on tight framing and oppressive close-ups (why are so many directors today scared of a good old-fashioned medium shot?) and a moodily melodramatic score that could have come straight from the plunked piano of Thomas Newman (American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption). Yet for every cliched move, there is an abundance of memorable images in this drab fairy tale of tween vampire love: a well-groomed poodle eloped from its master silently staring at a killer doing his dirty work within a forest of birch trees; a girl swiftly crawling up the side of a hospital building, as if glimpsed from the corner of your eye; two youths tracing with their fingers each others’ alabaster skin while huddled in a warm bed.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Let the Right One In.