Let The Right One In Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
Let The Right One In is the vampire movie people have been waiting for. It is the most intelligent and sophisticated film of its ilk since Cronos. It is also the very best genre film to come out this year and in my mind one of the top genre films of the last decade. To classify Right One as pure horror would be a disservice as it plays more as an extremely dark coming of age tale mixed with horror elements. Let The Right One In is a movie hardcore fans of the genre looking for freshness will love.
Based on the novel by John Ajvde Lindqvist (who also pens the screenplay), the film centers around a young boy named Oskar. Oskar is tormented endlessly at school and fantasizes about taking revenge upon the bullies. One night, a man named Hakan and girl named Eli moves in next door. Oskar likes the new, awkward girl, unaware she is a vampire.
Let The Right One In lacks much in the way of “jump” scares, however what director Tomas Alfredson brings to the movie is layers of atmosphere, suspense and scenes that will get under your skin and stay there. The movie doesn’t strive to scare you outright as it is to move you emotionally into states of fear and unease. There isn’t a moment that you feel completely safe watching the film as action is happening during the daylight scenes as well.
Alfredson however doesn’t play up on the ‘scary’ scenes of Eli feeding or her human helper Hakan maiming himself (elements the American remake will spend infinitely more time on) but keeps the film focused on what is important and what the story is; the budding, awkward relationship between Oskar and Eli.
Alfredson keeps the camera out of much the action and the long minutes of close ups and POVs that are suppose to generate suspense do not exist here. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camerawork and use of lighting is beautifully stark and simple while being intimate at the same time. The film doesn’t have any fancy filters to give it any sort of tonal shade and this is helps it immensely.
Remaining solemn in the best circumstances, the dark cloud that hangs over the film is occasionally punctuated by moments of awkward humor. The tone grows slowly darker as the film progresses, coming off as very natural. The darkest scenes however are reserved not for Eli but between Oskar and his tormentors at school. These are the most vicious things about the movie as the real evil isn’t Eli at all but a gang of boys with nothing else to do but bully one of their peers.
The main focus of the film is between Oskar and Eli and these scenes are beautifully orchestrated. They are incredibly natural in progression from their first awkward meeting to a closely bonded friendship. There is a sense of innocence about them, while one of them is a killer and the other dreams of killing; both Eli and Oskar are sympathetic characters and watching them navigate this new relationship is somewhat heart warming.
Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson play the leads of Oskar and Eli respectfully. There is neither exaggeration nor over praise when I say that the pair excel in their respective roles and both are extremely mature and skilled actors, more so than any young child actor I’ve seen recently, especially considering the material they work with. But you must give a big kudos to Leandersson for being able to act so well in the frozen Scandinavian night during several scenes where she wears only a loose pair of pants and shirt. It’s tough for an adult to do something like that, for a child actor…astounding what she was able to do.
To single out a single one is near impossible, both work wonderfully off each other and bring their own energy to the parts. Hedebrant comes off scared, slightly socially inept and with inner rage in the beginning that slowly turns into great strength. Leandersson gives a stellar performance with a mix of adult certainty and power but at the same time with a childish innocence and vulnerability about her that reminds the viewer she is still a child. I can see good careers ahead for both Hedebrant and Leandersson, they’re off to one hell of a start and in my mind easily show up actors twice their age in American films.
The supporting cast is well acted and do not hamper the film in any way. However they aren’t given much in the way of development so you don’t have much of a feeling for them as complete people. And there are so histories that are probably explained far better in the novel. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as once again, they are not the main focus of the film, they simply inhabit the world to give it space.
Right One has the least amount of makeup effects I’ve think I’ve seen in a vampire film. I like vampires with fangs, that’s just me, however Eli is never shown to have any but that’s okay. Eli’s skin tone is obviously different than that of Oskar and there are some brilliantly executed changes to her eyes and face that are subtle that unsettle you. The biggest work is the maimed face of Hakan after he pours acid on himself. The look is seamlessly and beautifully grotesque, it isn’t played up and this makes the impact even greater. There is blood in the film, however it isn’t a bloodfest so vampire fans looking for spraying arteries will have to look elsewhere
My only quibble with the effects of the film is briefly used CGI. It isn’t terrible CGI, its good quality but it doesn’t look completely photo-real and with the rest of the film is done practically it is painfully obvious. Thankfully the CG is limited to a single sequence that doesn’t last for too long. Thinking back on it, I wonder if they could have used practical methods or if the practical route was tried and it didn’t work.
The score by Johan Soderqvist is a beautiful orchestral classical score. It is used sparsely with many scenes that rely more on ambient sound and silence over music. Even so, when it appears, Soderqvist’s music is familiar and delivers the emotion and tone for the scenes in which it is used. Anything but use of orchestra music probably would have hurt the film.
In my personal rankings, I put Let The Right One In alongside Cronos and Near Dark as the three best modern vampire films. Right One also stands alongside The Mist as one of the best horror films of the new millennium. There is no doubt in my mind it will achieve classic status and will be talked about in years to come.
Let The Right One In is sophisticated and thoroughly intelligent coming of age drama horror film. Casual viewers and those who prefer straightforward genre films will probably not like this film. Those searching for a fresh and mature film with wonderful layers and almost poetic storytelling will find a golden gem with this film.