Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)


Rating 5

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel

Kåre Hedebrant (Oskar), Lina Leandersson (Eli), Per Ragnar (Håkan), Karin Bergquist (Yvonne), Henrik Dahl (Erik), Peter Carlberg (Lacke), Mikael Rahm (Jocke), Karl Robert Lindgren (Gösta), Ika Nord (Ginia), Patrik Rydmark (Conny), Mikael Erhardsson (Martin), Johan Sömnes (Andreas), Rasmus Luthander (Jimmy) and Cayetano Ruiz (Magister Avila)

Oskar, an introverted 12-year-old boy who seems to have no friends, lives with his mother in an unprepossessing apartment in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. He fantasises about taking revenge on his classmates, who routinely bully him, and when he meets Eli, a strange androgynous girl who has moved next door and initially tells him she cannot be his friend, they find a connection and form a close bond in their shared loneliness. All the while, local residents of the housing complex where they live are dying or disappearing in mysterious circumstances.


‘Let the Right One In’ is a very strange vampire film based on a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The book, which I have not read and which I believe contains imagery that is much more disturbing than the film, delves into the dark underbelly of Swedish society, a seemingly common theme amongst Swedish authors.

Generally speaking, I am not all that fond of vampire films, which is odd, given that I adore the television series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and have watched all 144 episodes at least half-a-dozen times, but that is not really about vampires – it just happens to have vampire in it. I want to like the television series ‘True Blood’, but I seem to have stalled at the first episode, unable so far to move onwards from there. As far as vampire films go, once you get past Bela Lugosi intoning, “I am... Dracula,” with melodramatic splendour there is not a great deal more to be said. I don’t like ‘The Lost Boys’ or the cult favourite ‘Near Dark’. ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ is a film I guess I can take or leave, but have no real desire to see again. I have tried twice to watch ‘Interview with the Vampire’ and given up both times, defeated by a storyline that holds no interest for me and some terrible acting. I do like ‘Shadow of the Vampire’, the 2001 film that tells the story of the making of ‘Nosferatu’ and imagines that the actor Max Schreck was a real vampire.

‘Let the Right One In’ is a vampire film, but much like ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ it is not like any other vampire film that I have ever seen. It’s really the story of two lonely and displaced children who befriend one another and form a kind of secret bond for mutual protection from an alien and often vile outside world. It is set in a drab and depressed urban landscape, the permanent covering of snow adding to the greyness instead of creating shimmering wintery beauty.

The film, which is set in the 1980s, although I did not realise this until I read about it after watching it, has a pervading aura of dreariness and boredom and creeping melancholia affecting the lives of the characters it portrays. That is not to say that the film itself is boring, quite the contrary. It is the absence of relentless set pieces and the idea that audiences need a constant supply of thrills and spills that helps to make it such a fascinating film to watch. When the acts of violence do occur, they become increasingly shocking and disturbing, even though they take place mostly off camera. The shock-value is partly, of course, created by the knowledge that these acts of violence are perpetrated by a twelve-year-old girl, although in reality she is over 200 years old, which also provides a slightly unsettling added element to her friendship with Oskar, one that contains a kind of innocent and not-so-innocent sexuality.

The film tricks us into feeling sympathy for Eli, who we view as an alienated and, later on, orphaned twelve-year-old, but Håkan, who the local people think is her father and who she refers to as such when she goes in search of him at a local hospital, is actually her Renfield and Oskar will eventually take his place.

Oskar is a strange character. He is an innocent victim of bullying that is not addressed by the adults and the product of a dysfunctional family environment, but he is also, I thought, rather creepy. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, or if it is simply my misreading of the character, but it was an increasingly interesting facet of the film as his friendship with Eli grew and we were perhaps invited to ponder just how much of a self-regulating moral compass a twelve-year-old should be expected to possess.

‘Let the Right One In’ had a production budget in the region of 29 million Swedish krona, which equates to approximately $3.8 million. It had a worldwide box office gross of $9.3 million. The film has a 98% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 142 reviews, just three of which were deemed to have been negative, and won forty-eight awards from fifty-nine nominations, primarily at various film festivals.

Review posted 13 June 2009


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