Let the Right One in Film Review
Let the Right One in (2008) is a dramatic horror film, directed by Swedish director Thomas Alfredson. The film follows Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a boy who struggles from bullying and loneliness and who can’t find his place in the world. Oskar encounters a strange neighbor girl Eli (Lina Leandersson). The girls turns out to be a vampire, traveling with a grown man Hakan (Per Ragnar) who kills people to get blood for her. What follows is a moving and tender story of love and friendship, unexpectedly mixed with intense and sometimes gruesome horror plot. The film is much praised for its character depiction, stellar directing and the questions it raises. It is an unusual example of a genre film, made in a tradition of European auteur cinema.
One of the strongest sides of Let the Right One in is its characters. Both Oskar and Eli are unusually fleshed out and layered characters, played by talented young actors. Oskar, while quite and harmless on the surface, has troubling violent tendencies. Eli is a monster in the disguise of a little girl. The innocence of her looks conceals her violent nature, but can’t hide loneliness that comes with immortality. The story of their relationships is also not as simple as it may seem. Despite Eli being supportive, protective and caring towards Oskar, her motives are not innocent. For her Oskar is another victim. He is her new “host”, a replacement for Hakan, who became too old and clumsy to feed her and take care of her when she is vulnerable. It is obvious that Oskar’s fate with Eli is the same as Hakan’s, which is not very optimistic. Thus, the ending of the film, while happy on the surface is rather ambiguous. Despite this dark and bitter aspect, their relationships are shown as moving and romantic and are depicted with great attention to detail. The small touches, like their communication with the Morse code and the plotline with the Rubik’s cube make their interactions feel real and believable. Along with its unconventional characters and plot, the film has a distinct dark sense of humor. As it is used in more violent and bloody scenes (like Hakan’s unsuccessful attempts to get blood for Eli, the extraction of a frozen corpse from the lake and almost a slapstick scene with cats), the humor creates the film’s special ironic, fable-like mood.
Another highlight of the film is its cinematography. The film consists of long shots with little to no camera movement. All of the shots are beautifully constructed. The contrast created by placing dark images against white snow is used to full extent. Most of the violent action in the film is shot from distance, or even happens outside the frame (as in the infamous swimming pool scene), which is used for the above-mentioned ironic effect, and also to create suspense and tension.
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The way the film treats the genre canon of vampire films is also interesting as it focuses on the aspects of vampire mythos usually ignored by other horror films. One of such elements – a belief that a vampire should be invited into the house, provided the film with its title. However, the genre tradition is only a fertile soil for the films numerous themes and motifs. It focuses on such problems as school bullying, relationships in the family (the plotline of Oskar’s parents remains in the background, but has a lot to say about the boy’s emotional state), loneliness and being an outcast among one’s peers.
Despite some controversy, caused by supposed pedophilic overtones of the film, it remains a vivid illustration of darker sides of childhood. Characteristic Scandinavian dark humor and deliberate pacing make Let the Right One in a one of a kind genre mixture, with deeper layers when expected from a horror film.