Let the Right One In (2008) Review

As a movie fan, I have a confession, I am ignorant and quite snobby towards foreign language films. Unless it’s a movie that has caused enough hype to catch my attention or has an English language remake, I won’t usually bother with it. It goes as far as trailers. I subscribe to a podcast which downloads new trailers and I’m awful for skipping foreign language trailers the minute I see subtitles appear on the screen. It’s a terrible habit and my darkest movie-watching secret.

It’s a shame too because it means that, if it hadn’t been for the remake, I would have missed the very peculiar but very good Let The Right One In. I also have a general rule that if I’m aware it is a remake, I want to see the original first. I want to see why a remake was deemed necessary and whether it improves on the first attempt. I still haven’t seen the remake of Let The Right One In (titled Let Me In) but it did mean I rooted out and found this movie.

Let the Right One In is a perfect example of why I shouldn’t dismiss foreign language films.

I’m pleased I did too because what I found was a movie that I struggle to categorise. It was always advertised as a horror movie but I wouldn’t count it as such. Instead, its probably more a coming-of-age drama with vampires. Two children are at the center of the movie and its their story and journey the movie is focused upon.

Those children are played by Kare Hedebrant as the male lead, Oskar and Lina Leandersson as the female lead, Eli. To say the film relies on their performances is an understatement and the two don’t disappoint. They are both fantastic and in a film about vampires, filled with blood, gore and very tense moments, they under-play and subtly deliver their brilliant performances.

They both have different aspects they have to bring to the movie, Hevebrant’s Oskar is a bullied boy looking for a friend. His role is full of a quiet but unnerving intensity that a lot of grown actors would struggle with. We see small moments of anger and joy but for the most part he is cruising through life. The movie naturally focuses more on Eli, the vampire.

The two central performances are delivered brilliantly.

It’s great to see a “proper” vampire on-screen. No sex, no glorifying the monster or trying to make it seem cool. Eli is an animal, desperate to feed and scared of her actions. This is where the horror element enters the movie. When Eli and her human father strike, its shown in all its grisly, gruesome and realistic glory. There is blood, screams and most of all, consequences. It feels like a “real life” vampire movie. Nobody in the audience wants to be a vampire or date a vampire after seeing Leandersson’s quiet, focused but menacing performance.

The horror is amplified further by the overbearing, constant feel of tension and uneasy the movie delivers. The scenes between Oskar and Eli, as they get to know each other and befriend each other, helping each other through their own issues and difficult lives, are always filled with an uneasiness. You know Oskar is safe and that Eli won’t attack him but she is presented as an animal, like a small boy playing with a tiger, and it adds danger to each scene.

Although there are vampires, blood, gore and graphic deaths, calling it a horror film feels like it under-sells the main theme of the movie.

Above all, the movie is a drama. There are vampires, killings and other aspects associated with the horror genre but at its core its a story about two children trying to use each other to cope with their own issues and lives and that makes it such a better film than it would have been if it had been a straight horror movie.

That isn’t to say its perfect though. It can move at a snail’s pace, with huge set-pieces between much longer, less interesting parts of the story. There are also scenes that feel like they are lost in translation or made very little to sense to me, anyway. It does make me wonder how an American version of this story would change things, like the pace or some of the more “generic” scenes.

Overall, Let The Right One In is the perfect example of why foreign language films should not be so readily dismissed. It’s a fantastically acted, scary, tense but above all, dramatic story which presents some very interesting views and questions. It’s also a chance to see how vampires should be done on film.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

It does make me curious as to how an American version would translate.

 

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