Film Review: Let The Right One In

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Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) lives in a suburb of Stockholm with his mother and is bullied at school. He strikes up a friendship with Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl who has recently moved to the area and the two develop a close relationship, talking to each other using Morse Code through their apartment walls. However, their relationship takes an unexpected twist when it transpires that Eli is, in fact, a vampire and the recent murders in the area are down to her.

In a time when vampires now sparkle and find themselves in love triangles with werewolves, it’s sometimes nice to remember a little about the true folklore of Transylvania’s favourite exports. Let The Right One In does just that, exploring the tradition that vampires cannot enter a dwelling without first being invited to do so. However, it takes it a little further than just the literal interpretation and looks at the effect it can have when you let the right person, not just into your house, but also into your life.

The film exhibits a certain melancholia, a bleakness that has become a hallmark of recent Scandinavian film and television output. Here we have two seemingly ill-fated children, not living but merely existing in the claustrophobic concrete jungle of a suburban tower block estate. As you’d expect, we rarely escape the clutches of darkness (it’s probably quite handy for a vampire to live in Scandinavia) and there’s a very oppressive atmosphere that envelopes the whole film. However, underneath all that is a story of hope and acceptance when there seems to be none left. Both Oskar and Eli are outsiders who find solace in one another irrespective of (or maybe because of) the prejudices that others hold (or may hold) against them.

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This is all explored with a deliberate slow pace, a brooding that, whilst not without its chilling moments, doesn’t aim to scare or shock. We’re not subject to the cheap scare tactics employed by far too many horror films, which succeeds in allowing us to become that bit more invested in the characters rather than being torn from the narrative by an ill-timed jump scare. It’s a very visual film that relies on the atmosphere it creates more than anything else. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and yet there’s rarely need to question what’s going on; it’s really rather straightforward in its construction.

That’s not to say it’s without its flaws, however. Certain parts of the story don’t feel quite as developed as they could and it almost feels as if certain storylines have either been abandoned or tacked on as an afterthought. Oskar’s relationship with his mother, for example, is hastily touched upon whereas it could have done with fleshing out a little more. Similarly, Hakan, the man with whom Eli lives, is an intriguing character who perhaps isn’t afforded enough depth, whilst the plotline of Eli unintentionally turning a local into a vampire also feels a little rushed.

Let The Right One In is a story of young love, friendship and acceptance, which may sound like it treads close to Twilight territory, but it couldn’t be more different. It feels more like a traditional vampire tale made relevant for today’s audiences, with themes of longing and sadness plucked straight from Bram Stoker’s original novel. It may be a little on the slow side for those expecting a straight-up horror film, but that’s because it isn’t a straight up horror film. Let The Right One In is a horror film that dispenses with tropes and cliches to transcends its genre and deliver a character piece that’s touching and tender.

4 pigeons4/5 pigeons

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63 thoughts on “Film Review: Let The Right One In

  1. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I haven’t heard of this film before but it sound very interesting.

  2. Cameron says:

    After seeing his work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alfredson is really fantastic at a creating dark and oppressive atmosphere. Excellent write up.

  3. theipc says:

    This is an excellent movie and an excellent write up. I love this movie and the first time I ever watched it the swimming pool scene blew my mind.

    It’s hard to judge the American version and this together. They’re the same movie, obviously, but in the end I went with favoring the American one. To me, it had more “meat” and a very excellent stolen car scene. You should give it a watch.

    Great work today!

  4. I’ve yet to see this still, unbelievably. Great write up, maybe you’re the final proof I need to finally check it out ;).

  5. Dan Heaton says:

    I really liked this movie and want to check out the American remake sometime. The scene in the pool is such a chilling moment and still sticks in my mind. Such a different vampire movie in the best way possible! Good review.

  6. filmhipster says:

    One of the best horror films since the Exorcist.

  7. “Let The Right One In is a horror film that dispenses with tropes and cliches to transcends its genre and deliver a character piece that’s touching and tender.” and SICK. LOL

    Good review, I didn’t really feel that any of it was underdeveloped though. I thought this was a really really well done movie. Its borderline great IMO!

    • I don’t know whether you mean ‘sick’ as in the true sense of the term or the cool new way all the kids nowadays use it 😉 Either way it works!

      I did think a couple of plot strands felt a little light, like the woman Eli turned into a vampire. I’d have like to see a little more on that. And the whole relationship between Oskar and his mum felt very glossed over. Didn’t stop me really enjoying it in any way though.

  8. Garrett says:

    Very nice review. This really intrigues me. I’m adding it to my Netflix queue immediately.

  9. CMrok93 says:

    That “cat on fire” is so, so, so dumb, but everything else is great. The remake wasn’t all that bad either, which is saying something if you take into consideration what remakes usually are. Good review.

  10. Tyson Carter says:

    I’ve only seen the US remake, and I wasn’t a huge fan……good not great. You make the original sound more appealing.

  11. Great job as always. As Mark Kermode correctly said about this great movie, it’s a children’s film featuring vampires rather than a vampire film featuring children.

  12. Chris, It took me forever to watch this film despite hearing how awesome it was. Well everyone was correct this is a powerful and engaging horror film. I was mesmerized for the entire runtime. sweet ass review as usual my friend.

  13. Nick Powell says:

    I agree that the film is flawed (if only the slightest), but it’s still too beautiful and well-acted to hold much against it. I like your comparison to Twilight, because while it has similar themes, the foreign gloss and the added level of professionalism, adds a lot more than that sappy sparkling love story.

    • The flaws are only minor, I agree. It just takes Twilight, gives it a good slap round the face and shows how a proper vampire story should be done. There was more emotion in this film than in all the Twilight films put together.

  14. Fantastic review! I love this movie and I’m quite fond of the remake too. It gives some bite back to the vampire genre!

    -Steve

  15. Nice write-up. I love this film deeply… 5/5 from me. One of my favourite films of the last 10 years. It’s gorgeous and original with great performances from the kids. It does flaws – but then I’m not sure that there’s a perfect movie. I know that all of my favourites problems of their own.

    The re-make was ok – but one of the most pointless exercises in film-making I’ve ever seen.

    • I would definitely put this amongst my favourite horror films. Horror films have to do something a little special to resonate with me but this one certainly did. I was very close to giving it a 4.5 and to be honest, I wouldn’t have any problem with doing so. My gut just told me 4.

      I feel the same way about the remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Decent film but it just doesn’t need to exist.

  16. ruth says:

    Great review Chris!! I haven’t seen this yet but I’m curious about it. Sounds like it’s as far away from Twilight as it could get, despite having a somewhat similar theme. I don’t mind that it’s not a straight up horror film, in fact, I’m more inclined to check it out.

    • Thanks Ruth! Yeah it’s miles away from Twilight and shows how to really do an emotional vampire film. It gets a little gruesome in places but nothing too bad and I don’t think I actually jumped once, which shows how scary it is as I jump at everything! Ha!

  17. Dan says:

    Brilliant film. Love these contemporary interpretations of gothic horror. This is up there with near Dark for best vampire flick in my opinion.

  18. Sir Phobos says:

    I actually never viewed this movie as one about friendship and hope, which is interesting. I always thought of Oskar and Eli’s relationship as something much more depressing. Eli needs people like Oskar to survive, and it’s apparent that he’s basically going to turn into Hakan as the years go on.

    I like your interpretation, though, because Oskar did see her as the right one to let in, although I’d argue that he wasn’t truly able to understand what he was getting himself into. I mean, he obviously had issues that ended up drawing him closer to Eli, but I think he pretty much doomed himself.

    The remake is almost as good, by the way. It differentiates itself from the original in some key aspects.

    • I like that theory that Oskar will turn into Hakan eventually, it gives Eli’s motivations a bit more of a sinister turn and Oskar has already shown that he can have violent tendencies if he has to. I suppose you could argue that she physically needs him, whilst he emotionally needs her. I can’t remember exactly but I’m sure there’s an epilogue or sorts in the book where Oskar lets himself be turned into a vampire by Eli. I may have made that up, however! 🙂

      • Sir Phobos says:

        I should read the book. I bet it’s excellent. If he gets turned into a vampire, then I’m not sure what that does to their relationship. I guess it would be more like you suggested.

        I really liked how they portrayed Haken and Eli’s relationship, too. There was an obvious bond between them, but while he did love her in some way, he also feared her. Remember how she reprimanded him at the beginning, sounding like an old woman/monster or something, while he sat there trying not to piss her off.

        Ok, now I want to watch it again.

      • It was definitely a strange relationship between Eli and Hakan and I would actually like to have had that explored a little more, but I guess that happens in the book and the film did a pretty good job. I think you’re spot on when you say he loves her in some way but she needs him.

  19. keith7198 says:

    Ok, enough procrastinating! I gotta get off my duff and see this one! Nice review buddy!

  20. le0pard13 says:

    Great look at this, Chris. It’s such a haunting bit of horror and love story.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Excellent write-up Chris. Ididnt find this to be the classic that many critics did but it was still a very good flick. It was a tad too slow for my liking but on the whole, very well delivered. 4/5 sounds about right, man.

    • Thanks very much! There are some who absolutely adore this film and whilst I’m not quite to that level, I still thought it was great. It is a little slow in places, I get that, but that could just be because I was expecting something a little faster paced.

  22. vinnieh says:

    Great post, I’ve heard so many good things about this film.

  23. sati says:

    Great review! I liked the movie but I must say I enjoyed American remake even more, even though the pool scene wasn’t nearly as effective there. That said, the music and atmosphere in this one were incredible.

  24. nediunedited says:

    Awesome review! I loved this film. It is haunting and brilliant.

    As a lover of vampires (real ones…NO sparkling allowed 😉 )–it is great when you get an original approach that still pays homage to the fundamental mythology. The “invitation” scene is one of my favorites–chilling.

    Until next time…later! 😀

    • Thank you! I really like monster movies if they’re done right and play with the original lore. That invitation scene is brilliant, probably one of my favourites in the film. I’m not sure anything has ever actually covered what would happen should a vampire enter without being invited, I could be wrong there though!

  25. Zoë says:

    Wonderful review! I have this and I just really need to get to it, I keep on hearing about how brilliant it is!

  26. Monkeyboy says:

    Good review of an excellent movie. I’ve seen the remake too which was surprisingly good, although I would recommend anyone watch the original first. I’m also more in line with Sir Phobos’s comment further up the page about Oskar turning into Hakan.

    • Thanks man. I’m definitely gonna try and get round to the remake just so I can compare. To be honest, when I watched it, I didn’t even think that Oskar could become Hakan but I think that’s a really interesting theory and very plausible.

  27. table9mutant says:

    Great review. 🙂 One of my favorite horror films of recent years. And there have been very few good ones in recent years…

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