Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar
Based on a novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also adapted the screenplay), Let the Right One In is not your typical vampire tale. First of all, nobody in this film “sparkles”, so that’s already a step in the right direction. At its very core, this film is a love story between two individuals desperate to be accepted for who they are.
Oskar (Hedebrant) is a twelve-year-old boy who is relentlessly bullied at school. He is awkward and lacks self-confidence, which inhibits his ability to connect and make friends. He collects newspaper clippings of grisly accounts of murders and keeps a hunting knife under the mattress of his bed. He spends his nights alone, either in his room or the courtyard of his apartment complex, and playacts scenarios of exacting his revenge on his oppressors.
One night, while out in the courtyard, Oskar meets Eli (Leandersson), who appears to be a girl his same age. Eli and her older companion (who Oscar believes to be her father) have recently moved into the apartment next door. But Eli is not a twelve-year-old girl, and her “father” is just a means to providing her sustenance by murdering locals and harvesting their blood. Oskar and Eli quickly form a friendship, bonded by the fact that they are both disconnected from society.
Watching this movie, I became so engrossed with Oskar and Eli’s relationship that I kept forgetting this was a horror film; which made the gruesome instances of death that much more horrific. There is, however, one scene that keeps this from being a near perfect horror film. And that’s the cat scene. If you’ve seen the film you know exactly what I’m talking about. The CGI is poorly done, and the whole thing just comes across as absurd. Luckily it doesn’t last very long, and the film recovers quickly and pulls you back into the story.
In preparation for writing the review for Let the Right One In, I decided to watch the American remake titled, Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves. It’s not a terrible film, but it is further proof that America can’t leave well enough alone. We’ve always got to go mucking about with things that don’t need to be mucked with (don’t even get me started on the decision to remake Oldboy).
Let Me In is an almost verbatim, word-for-word, scene-for-scene remake of the original. It was based off Lindqvist’s original screenplay. Which begs the question, what’s the point? If you’re going tell the same story without coming at it from a new and interesting angle, then why bother? The American version does have the addition of a police detective, but he does nothing to either change, further, or enhance the story in any way.
It’s amazing how something so similar can be so vastly different. I watched these movies back-to-back and was immediately struck with the difference in the sound of the two films. If you’re used to snowy winters then you understand how quiet the world seems when it snows. There’s less traffic on the road and fewer people out and about; it’s almost as if your immediate world is suffocating under its own frozen landscape. Snow is so prevalent in this story that it’s almost its own character. Alfredson understands that fact and embraces it in his version of the film. Let the Right One In is quiet and unassuming, reflecting the outward personas of the two main characters. There is almost no musical score to speak of and Alfredson allows the silence to permeate his scenes, creating an unsettling atmosphere where we know that something evil is lurking just beneath the surface.
On the other end of the spectrum, Let Me In is just plain noisy. It even starts off loud with the wailing of an ambulance that almost seems to scream, “Look at me, look at me”. The musical score is constant. And when I say constant, I mean to the point that it was irritating. Matt Reeves’ version relies too heavily on the score evoking emotion, so much so that it was almost insulting. It’s as if he’s saying, “The characters feel sad here, so you should feel sad too, okay?”
There is, however, one thing that Let Me In did better than the original. No cat scene.
If I had seen Let Me In without ever seeing the original, I probably would have come away thinking it was a decent horror movie and that would have been that. However, being absolutely mesmerized by the haunting beauty of Let the Right One In left me completely biased toward any attempted imitation. So in all fairness to the makers of Let Me In, in my eyes at least, it never really stood a chance.
Lindqvist has created a beautiful story that speaks to the desire in all of us to find that one person we can connect with, who accepts us for absolutely everything we are, fangs and all. If you have yet to see either of these films, please, choose wisely and make every effort to Let the Right One In.