Let the Right One In just won the critics award at this years Natfilm Festival in Copenhagen, where I attended a screening. Something tells me it’s not gonna win the audience award. See, this is a film you are either gonna love or just find kinda boring. Director Tomas Alfredson stays true to the arthouse-roots he planted with the masterful Four Shades of Brown and steers well clear of formulas and clichés traditionally associated with tales of the nosferatu. I loved it.
With a script written by John Ajvide Lindqvist based on his own novel, the film mixes an emotionally charged tale of prepubescent angst and school bullying with the problems of first love, devotion and the fact that your new-found, twelve-year-old girlfriend is in fact a vampire. We follow twelve-year-old Oskar in suburban Sweden 1982. A pale, skinny and quiet boy, Oskar is the obvious target of daily school-bullying, he’s estranged from his absent mother and only sees his father from time to time. The lonely boy finds a catalyst towards change when a young girl named Eli moves in to the flat next to his and takes interest in his nightly re-enactments of schoolday events – repetitions that always end in Oskar stabbing a tree standing in for head honcho Conny (obviously, Swedish boys who bully can be named Conny). The mysterious Eli looks sick, smells weird and walks about bare feet in the snow – a misfit like Oskar, the two engage in a friendship of sorts.
What follows is not even remotely close to your average fang-flick. Let The Right One In is a vampire movie more along the lines of Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day, relying on mood, a great storyline and detailed characters, but also employing sarcasm and ironic humour to great effect. Alfredson tells his story at a slow, but masterfully controlled, pace, unravelling bits of information at a time, allowing glimpses inside the suburban Swedish flats that cover the snowy landscape and building momentum for the explosions of bloody violence that hit you like Stuart Gordon scenes edited into a Bergman or Roy Andersson film.
To me, the result is mesmerizing. Beautifully shot and tightly scripted with Alfredson pulling impressive performances from the young cast, this is a movie that not only delivers the goods, but packs it’s blood and mayhem in an original and highly engaging story. Gorehounds will delight in scenes of the kid vampire jumping prey, acid-mutilation and the buckets of blood clumsily filled by Eli’s father, who drugs and bleeds teenage boys. Cinephiles should be satisfied by the impressive technical aspects of the picture, the unforgettable, tragic character of Eli and the subtleties in storytelling. The grotesquery is delivered as if the most everyday of events, bloody murder and homely intrigue weighing equal, and that’s what really sets the film apart. Forget about sensationalistic bullshit and stylistic excess. Let The Right One In has no flying CGI-vampires, no close-ups of fangs erecting in the mouth of the undead, no stakes through the heart, but unlike most vampire-flicks it does have heart, it does have a story and it does have character.
The slow pacing is sure to scare a lot of people of, but if European sensibilities and a complete lack of “action” in the stupid sense of the word doesn’t make you wanna run out the cinema and get home to your Blade or Underworld DVDs and Dracula comic books, then you are in for a treat. This is an original and new take on the vampire mythos, with enough regard for legend and folklore to make it a true vampire movie, but still completely removed from the legions of ridiculously uninspired turds that cram up the vampire sections of modern day video stores.