Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let the Right One In (2008)

There's a new vampire movie out and it's not Twilight. Not even close.
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.

10 comments:

Dead Pan said...

I am dying to see this film. I doubt they will release it in the Cincinnati area though.

Nice review, it made me even more interested.

FROM THE EYES AND EARS OF FOTOG INK said...

Not that seeing this in a theater isn't the BEST way to see it...but it is all over the net as an avi file, a screener in fact. Try NINJA Movies online to see it. I loved it. The simpe fact it hasn't been done before, to the sensitive nature of both children and the "pain" of being alone as a vampire I loved every bit. YOu have valid points however, but in light of the recent slew of decent to great vampire flicks ( True Blood and 30 Days of Night NOT Twillight) I'm hoping this is a return to real horror. I'm less a fan of Jason or Freddy as I age, and more so thinking horror myself.

Caitlin said...

DAMMIT I NEED TO SEE THIS.

Yes, I'm bitter that I haven't seen it yet.

The Film Fiend said...

Nosferatu meets Elephant? Since I'm not really a fan of the latter, I'm more than a little worried at this point.

Great review, though.

whitney said...

Vampires are for sissies: Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps.

elgringo said...

Dead Pan -- If you do get a chance to see it on the big screen, do it. The beauty is in the details. If it doesn't play in Cincinnati, then wait for DVD and find a friend with a big screen TV and a surround sound system, you won't regret it.

Fotog -- You're very right about the return of "non-Jason" horror. I think that's the biggest reason why this film has been receiving so much love. There just so much potential within the genre that just isn't being tapped into.

The market is absolutely FLOODED with straight-to-DVD horror flicks without an ounce of art to be found in them, and everyone just seems to accept it as just the way it is.

The problem is that horror has always been the sad bastard child within cinema's critical circles so there just aren't enough people championing for high-quality horror films.

Also, I'm going to check out NINJA Movies right now. Thanks for the recommend.

Caitlin -- See my "Old Boy" reply.

The Film Fiend -- Even if you aren't a fan of Elephant, you can love this movie. There are certain similarities in shooting style that can be drawn but each are their own movie and deserve to be judged by their own merits.

Whitney -- Canadian Werewolf movies > Swedish Vampire movies. Agreed.

FROM THE EYES AND EARS OF FOTOG INK said...

Ginger SNaps did NOTHING for me. And I forced myself to watch all of them , so I could say, I SAW them all and they still did nothing for me.
I understand their appeal in "idea" . It's actually a kinda "David Cronenberg" twist on werwolfs. But , if you even want to lump them in the werewolf movies which is where they seem to be in .That said, I saw bad acting, ill direction and well - BORING . I was bored. I recently have been going back and re-watching movis I loved as a kid. a lot don't hold up at all. On the other hand, if you come across THE BEAST WITHIN, that one I actually LIKED MORE than I did as a kid, where it creeped me out. And there's a twist on the werewolf legend. Or , well, giant monsteroe. Whatever...anyway. Thats my two s=cents, which ain't worth more than well, two cents.

Jonny said...

Scott, I thought Let The Right One In was sensational. Best of '08, in my opinion (although I haven't made it out to see Four Christmases yet). I can see where you're coming from in regards to your gripes about the film, but I do think a little grace should be given to the poor quality of the CGI as it was filmed on a relatively low budget. The pacing didn't really bother me (although I agree that a few scenes were more "fat" than anything else). I thought it really helped cultivate this uniquely desolate and isolated environment that the characters resided in.

****SPOILER ALERT****

One thing I'd like to get your thoughts on (and I'm surprised you didn't mention it -- maybe too "spoiler" for your review, perhaps?) was the pool scene at the end. What did you think of it? Personally, I thought it was masterfully staged and shot. It's one of my favorite cinematic moments of the last few years. Even if you didn't like it, I think it's a Horror fan's credo to support the use of a severed head in any way, shape or form in a movie.

Nick Plowman said...

I freaking loved this movie, and for some reason, I seriously want to see Twilight just to see how they compare. Don't ask why.

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