Vampire movies tend to come in two flavours -- either they're gory bloodsucker actionfests, or celebrations of goth hotties tortured by their immortality.
But "Let The Right One In" is neither kind or story. Instead this haunting, atmospheric Swedish movie is a poignant look at a very unique friendship between a young boy and a vampire child. Brilliant acting and a sort of pale, ghostly directorial style make this a vivid experience, but the brilliance is in the story itself.
One winter night, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) sees a car drop off his two new neighbors. He doesn't pay much attention at first, since he's always either ignored or bullied.
But as he vents his frustrations by stabbing a tree, he sees the ghostly, rumpled Eli (Lina Leandersson), who informs him, "Just so you know, I can't be your friend." She turns out to be as much of an oddball as Oskar -- especially since she only ventures out at night, smells a bit funny, and is unaffected by the winter cold. But despite her odd greeting, the two strike up a friendship.
At the same time, a series of brutal murders are taking place all around town -- and it's no great shock that Eli's companion Hakan (Per Ragnar) is harvesting blood for Eli. Being no idiot, Oskar realizes that Eli is a bona fide vampire, and doesn't intend to let that get in the way of their puppy love. Yet when Hakan's errands go horribly awry, Oskar finds himself to be the only person Eli can rely on.
It's no great exaggeration to say that "Let the Right One In" is undoubtedly the best vampire movie made in many years. While the movie has plenty of more violent moments and a snowy backdrop, director Tomas Alfredson is far more focused on the sweet, eerie relationship between two lonely, otherworldly young children. And actually, one of them is young in appearance only.
Alfredson paints the movie in white, scarlet and black -- pale, wintry light and snow that covers the world, occasional splatters of blood and deep shadows that seem to swallow everything up. And he handles the entire storyline gracefully. Every part of the movie has the same matter-of-fact, unflinching treatment, including the nastier parts -- such as a gruesome blood-harvesting murder by Hakan, or when Eli attempts to enter a house without being invited. Trust me, it's bad.
The most loving attention is devoted to the children's friendship, which manages to be as strange and beautiful as a rare dragonfly. Their nighttime meetings almost have the quality of a dream ("I might not be here tomorrow") and Alfredson keeps their blossoming relationship from ever seeming cutesy or contrived. And it has an innocent quality that transcends the sometimes bloody, disturbing storyline.
And trust me, "Let the Right One In" has no sentimental ideas about children (even vampiric ones). They can be more violent than anyone, because they are more vulnerable than anyone.
The stars of this movie are undeniably Hedebrant and Leandersson, and it's nothing short of amazing that they have never once acted before this movie. Both have the ice-pale faces and deep eyes of otherworldly creatures, making their friendship seem almost inevitable. Leandersson in particular is brilliant at showing the different sides of Eli -- one minute she's shyly asking about a Rubik's cube, the next she's bellowing at her creepy familiar.
"Let the Right One In" is a hauntingly beautiful story of children's friendship and love, wrapped in the most unique vampire stories in many years. A must-see.