FANTASIA: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Review

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In is a film difficult to summarize not because of its content but because of the way Alfredson handles that content. The story of a vampire befriending a twelve year old boy, a very bloody story of a vampire befriending a twelve year old boy, you’d think it would be easy to categorize and file away but it is not. Why? Because while Alfredson is certainly not shy in indulging in graphic imagery and laying on the blood this is not a film about the blood itself, it is not driven by the need to get from one gore scene to the next, instead being far more concerned with the budding relationship between its two young leads.

Oskar is twelve, a shy and introverted young boy, the product of a failed marriage, bullied mercilessly by a trio of his stronger classmates. They are vicious and unrelenting in their attacks but Oskar never retaliates, instead retreating into violent fantasies of one day cutting the bullies down. Oskar seems to have no friends whatsoever until one day a strange girl moves in to the apartment next door.

Eli is distant, verging on antisocial. She never appears during daylight hours, only coming outside to talk to Oskar in the evening time, regularly wandering out into the snow barefoot and wearing only thin indoor shirts and pants. But she never complains of the cold. She is unusual, strange even, but she talks to Oskar, even encourages him to find strength within himself to stand up to the bullying at school. And so the two strike up an unlikely friendship.

When asked Eli tells Oskar that she is twelve. More or less. Confirming later, only after Oskar has figured out the truth for himself, that she has been twelve for a very long time. Eli is a vampire, the man she lives with – who everyone had assumed was her father – her human helper, responsible for keeping her hidden while also well supplied with blood, an appetite which cannot go long unnoticed in a small community …

As Oskar and Eli’s relationship grows so too do the consequences of her most basic nature. The bodies are piling up and the search is on for a culprit. She must be careful but what to do when her helper is discovered at his work? And what is Oskar to do when his new found confidence against the school bullies leads to violence from the leader’s elder brother?

Make no mistake about it. As Let The Right One In progresses it becomes significantly more bloody. The film may take a slow burn approach but burn it does and it is simply loaded with shocking, haunting imagery. There are moments here that are truly iconic, that you will carry with you long after the final frame but the film is also so loaded with a quiet sort of poetry, so resolutely focused on the relationships rather than the actions that I hesitate to call it a horror film. While Eli and her helper certainly carry out some graphically horrific acts the camera never leers in at them, it simply presents them as they are and moves along, an approach that makes things simultaneously more shocking and less exploitative. The film is beautifully shot and anchored by very strong performances from its young leads and stands quite easily as the most compelling new entry into vampire mythos in … well, as long as I can remember. An exceptional piece of work, Let The Right One In comes with the highest possible recommendation.

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More from Around the Web

Check the trailer here.
Ard's review here.

More about Let the Right One In

SwarezFebruary 11, 2008 4:30 PM

You just made me want to see this film even more now. Damn this sounds very good indeed.

Ard VijnFebruary 11, 2008 6:41 PM

Heheh. Glad you agree Todd!

This was my personal number one movie at this year's IFFR, even though 'Estomago' (which is also good, make no mistake!) ended up far higher in the audience award.

goweftusApril 29, 2008 5:42 AM

I just saw this film at the Tribeca Film Festival. It is indeed one of the highest-quality films in the vampire genre within memory. I agree that the horror elements were handled with a wonderful balance between memorable macabre images and interest in the main characters. I feel that it falls short of being a completely satisfying film in a number of ways, but is very much worth seeing for any horror/vampire aficionado. My criticisms would be that the story needed to be tightened up -- too many loose ends and questions left unanswered -- and that the characters, other than the leads, are not well-defined enough for the viewer to care about them. This meant, for me, that I failed to be completely drawn into the story. There is a first-rate, unique horror atmosphere created, particularly in terms of the cinematrography, but for me it kept weakening and losing me every time the story lost its thread because of tangents that weren't filled out or characters that weren't convincing. However, with those reservations, I agree that it's a classic.

goweftusMay 2, 2008 10:07 PM

It was just reported that LTROI won the $25,000 Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival. Congratulations!

Kurt HalfyardJuly 16, 2008 1:15 AM

The best word to describe this film is: 'delicate'

BradJuly 16, 2008 6:45 AM

Hmmmm...delicate.

From the reviews, I've kinda prepared myself for the flick but I guess I should approach it lightly...like a ninja.

I'm really looking forward to this, I just hope it strikes the right balance.

jandrewJuly 16, 2008 6:52 AM

Without a doubt, my favorite film of the year so far!!