Jay Burleson gets bitten in this edition of Film Appreciation.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Starring Lina Leandersson and Kare Hedebrant
Easily one of my favorite horror themed movies of the past 10 years, Let the Right One In isn't just a good horror movie, it's nearly a perfect film. Originally a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the material was also remade as an American film called Let Me In (directed by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves), which I thought was good enough to be worth mentioning last year, but I feel the Swedish film is still hands down the better of the two.
The story centers around a young boy named Oskar who lives in an apartment complex in Stockholm in 1982. Oskar is bullied at school, his parents are split up, and he seems to be altogether lonely. He spends his time outside in the snow-covered yard of his apartment complex, but not with other kids his age, instead he plays alone. This is his routine until a young girl moves in nearby and starts spending time with Oskar in the yard. Her name is Eli and the two quickly form a bond together-- of course, Eli is not as she seems. Oskar can tell she is odd from the start. She walks around barefoot in the snow, but it doesn't seem to bother her in the slightest. Her arrival also coincides with a strange rash of brutality that sweeps through the area. It ends up that Eli isn't actually a 12-year-old girl, but a vampire who hasn't aged in hundreds of years.
Eli has a keeper, an older man named Hakan, who brings her fresh blood and passes as the girl's father to anyone who might see them. To the outside world they probably seem like the normal single parent family, much like Oskar's own. It's interesting to think that since Eli never ages and Oskar will, that he could end up being in the role that Hakan currently is. After all, at some point Hakan had to be young and enamored with Eli as well.
It works as a horror film, but also as a coming-of-age story about the awkwardness of growing up. The relationship that blossoms between Oskar and Eli feels very genuine and is a joy to watch. It's a good story, enhanced by the fine acting from Kare Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) as our two lead characters. This film has a ton of things going for it, but the acting puts it up a notch as both characters are so enjoyable to watch. Lina Leandersson gets most of the love, and she rightfully deserves it, but Hedebrant's Oskar is also a very well designed character and his acting stands right up there with his female counterpart.
The film is directed by Tomas Alfredson, who went on to direct Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and a lot of the credit for the film's success must be given to him. His direction here is superb, and the world he creates near perfect. If you want a moody and dark yet touching horror story, this film is definitely the one. This is a film that even without the horror elements that drew me in would still be a favorite of mine. Eli could've just been a strange girl next door and the story still would've worked for me. This is the type of horror film that we aren't lucky enough to see very often, a horror film with heart, and it comes highly recommended from me. I admittedly have too short of an attention span to keep up with most movies that feature subtitles, but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen during Let the Right One In.