Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson has adapted John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel "Låt den Rätte Komma in" into a quiet and stunning film that's been the target of quite a bit of buzz on the interwebs lately. This was to be the one that did vampires differently. One screening later and I'm agreeing with the "different" claims, the film certainly is different. As for good or bad, it's good but maybe not as good as the hype that's floating around. This might be one of those situations where the film has recieved so much praise that any sort of criticism will automaticly brand that critic as someone who didn't like the film. Hopefully, this won't be the case for myself. I don't want to nitpick at Let the Right One In, but there were a few elements of the film that, in my opinion, make the film...less strong. I'd like to discuss those first and then move on to the numerous positive aspects of the film.
First, the CGI cats. A potentially gripping scene turned into straight comedy. I wasn't the only one who thought it was funny, the entire theatre was laughing at the blonde woman's fate. Second, the scene where Oskar is sitting with his dad and they're joined by one of his father's friends. Third, the pacing. I know, I know, I know. Attacking a slower-paced film for its slower pace is a cardinal sin among cinephiles. But that doesn't change the fact that there was some fat that could have been trimmed without hurting anything, might have even helped the film. Those are really my only gripes concerning the film, except for the fact that, at times, Oskar looked like a Harmony Karine/Gummo wetdream.
Writing about Let the Right One In is a "give credit where credit is due" situation. Lindqvist and Alfredson set out to do something different within the vampire genre. It would seemthat every movie dealing with monsters, especially vampires and zombies, must take the obligatory time to explain the "rules" that their characters will and will not be following (slow or fast zombies? crosses and holy water: religious props or effective weapons?) Alfredson takes it to another level with his explanation concerning the vampire's need for an invitation into someone's home. No spoilers here, but for those who have seen the film know exactly what I'm talking about. This particular scene is just one small example of the impressive use of genre conventions Alfredson toys with. Others include the vampire domestic dynamics, their killing rituals, and new twists on the romantic aspects of the vampire culture.
That brings us to the film's two main characters Oskar, a twelve year old human, and Eli, a "twelve" year old vampire. Both of the leads are first-time actors who were given a script containing pretty weighty roles, especially for such young performers. The highest praise should go to Lina Leandersson who plays Eli. Her role is the most complex and her performance is the most captivating out of any in the film. Her need for human blood weighs against her hesitance to kill. As the film progesses, we watch that sclae tip towards murder more often than not. It would seem at times that the scale is completely tipped over but then a new scale is created: one between her need for sustenance and her love for Oskar. One might find it a little odd that the film features a romantic (albeit a non-sexual) relationship between a twelve year old boy and a much older vampire who's physical appearance remains formed as a twelve year old girl. The taboo is downplayed as it becomes clearer that while Eli have been alive for many years, her maturity has leveled off around the same age as her body has.
For fan of traditional vampire stories, Let the Right One In should meet many of your expectations. But if you go into the film with an open mind, the picture will take you further in the direction these other films were headed and expand on the conventions set in place by writers such as Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. Think Nosferatu the Vampyre meets Elephant.
Suck on that, Twilight.