03 November 2008

Let the Right One In

Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Written by: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Full credits from IMDb

Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In), a Swedish film about pre-adolescent angst and loneliness, centers on two 12 year olds: Kåre Hedebrant, a pale and friendless pantywaist, and his new neighbor, Lina Leandersson. She ignites his passions with her Rubik’s Cube prowess, and soon they’re sharing solving secrets and candies, the gateway to trustfully confessing their vulnerabilities. It’s a graceful, if somewhat ordinary, tale of young melancholy enhanced by its vampire parallel. Oh—Leandersson’s a vampire.

Slated for an American remake before the original had its American theatrical release, Let the Right One In is the best kind of horror movie, in which the horror isn’t the end but a means of amplifying the core human themes—a supporting story element. Vampirism takes a back seat in this film except when functional—when it’s used to inform the parable of tweenage love and loss. Above all, Alfredson’s interest lies in establishing Sweden’s snowscaped stillness and the emotional reality of the bullied bookworm. He deals not in pools of blood, only in small, occasional streaks and tasteful splashes onto white backgrounds. The remake should be awful.

It’s tough to imagine a Hollywood for-hire possessing the sensitivity with which Alfredson draws a parallel between being undead and being a lonely pre-teen or with which he approaches the blood suckers themselves. A la Chigurgh, though more severely, the vampires treat people like cattle: they stun them, hang them upside down by the hind legs, slit their throats and bleed them dry; the sweet stuff is collected in large plastic jugs. Or they lunge like wolves at unsuspecting humans.

But the monsters are still sadly sympathetic. A lady vampire chews out her family’s breadwinner for failing to properly collect blood, as though he were any un-undead man who couldn’t provide (and answered to a harridan). The vampires kill with guilt, satisfying an unfortunate but incurable addiction. Pitiably, Alfredson’s vampires lilt with hunger, their eyes rimmed with dark circles, their stomachs growling and gurgling with literal bloodthirst. In its view of violence, Let the Right One In ultimately tacks centrist. It says that sometimes it’s morally forgiveable to kill—when you must do it to survive—but it’s unacceptable to do it out of sheer anger. From the country that didn’t sign up with the Coalition of the Willing. Grade: B+

Watch the trailer:

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