Review: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

Posted by Peter Hall - November 3rd 2008 @ 12:47 am

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, 2008
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his novel

Knowing what is left to come and what has come before, I can’t imagine any film this year better equipped to touch quickened hearts, arrest lungs and widen minds than LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

There is a reason Tomas Alfredson’s film currently finds itself with a 98% on the Tomatometer, an 8.5 on IMDB, and a place close to my genre marrow.  There is a reason I now feel indebted to the gent who passed the film along to me.  There is a reason I’ll be thinking about it for days.  There is a reason I want to watch it again right away.  There is a reason I wish it never ended.  There is a reason R.J. Sayer calls it, “one of the top 10 vampire films of the last 20 years”.  There is a reason it will not be dethroned as Best Genre Film of 2008.  There is a reason I do not believe any of the sentences just written are exaggerations, as none share the same reason, rather a myriad of inspirations.

Forgive the abstraction, but I can’t help but think of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN as an ember in the fireplace of vampire mythos.  An ember from an overly familiar source.  Our ideas of what vampire movies are has become safe.  Watching LTROI one can feel the undeniable warmth, but only with closer examination can one realize the temerity of that heat.  In certain light the ember doesn’t even look aflame.  Dim the surroundings and its radiant scorch glows.  Dim further and the ember revels its true color, the deep red of beating heart.  No matter the light, though, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN will hypnotize, drawing senses closer still, bracing for a burn it never quite lets you prepare for.

Oskar is a tenous, friendless 12 year old boy bullied by the group of twats at his school.  Eli is a girl whose been 12 long enough to forgot just how long that’s been.  Living next door with her familiar, a sympathetic older man who can’t catch a break trying to find fresh subsistence for his master, Eli and Oskar develop a friendship more real, more challenged than any on screen this year.  Such is the simplicity of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’s synoptic plot, but the story’s foundation is trussed far and wide with an instinctual complexity few film’s based on preteens manage.  John Lindqvist’s script is a delicate pacing of cause and effect, be it seen in the hunger pains of a starving Eli, the fragility of Oskar’s affection for Eli, or heard in lines like, “What’s a matter Conny, can’t hear too well?”

The latter will make no sense out of context, but I find it representative of the film’s core.  It comes a few scenes after Oskar, encouraged by Eli, smacks the lead bully in the head with a pole.  For Oskar it is a moment of defiance, but in the scope of time, that is the moment Conny lost his hearing.  The line is spoken almost as a throwaway, but it echos the repurrucsions of our childhood indiscretions.  It seems a small thing, I know, but if I can find that one, seemingly inconsequential line to be an inspired insight, imagine what director Alfredson does with the meat of Lindqvist’s material.

I’ve not even brought up the violence, which is wise in its shyness.  Most of the blood letting takes place off screen.  In fact, the first moment of hostility takes place in the woods, where Eli’s familiar is about to drain the juice from a hiker.  His body blocks the opening of the wound, yet the sound of blood splattering down the funnel and into his collecting jug is unsettling all the same.  Similar obscurity happens throughout LET THE RIGHT ONE IN always to tremendous effect.  Not all is seen directly, but all is conveyed with an awe inspiring expertise.  There are sequences in LTROI that I would love to spoil if only to relive them through discourse.  Alas, I am not that mean.

I may have mentioned it before, but back in early high school my group of friends had coined the term ‘Peter Movie’ for anything I tried to get them to watch they normally never would.  At that age those were titles like REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, BATTLE ROYALE and SERIES SEVEN, movies that seem mundane today.  As all of our tastes collectively matured, the Peter Movie label died off.  Well, I’m bringing it back.  If anything ever deserved to be called a Peter Movie, it is LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.  The pacing is too slow for casual film goers, the violence too spaced to satisfy a new horror generation’s need for rapid slaughter, the stars aren’t stars, but child actors not afraid to deal with awkward, budding sexuality and, well, it’s Swedish.  So, if you’re the type of person who’d come up with a label like Peter Movie, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is not your cup of tea.  Me begging you to watch it even though it has subtitles isn’t going to change anything (Yes, I’m looking at you).  For those of us with patience, also known as taste, this is the birth of a new classic.

And I do not use those last two words lightly.

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  1. November 3rd, 2008 | 9:05 am | #1

    Too bad this won’t have shit on Twilight…

  2. November 3rd, 2008 | 9:11 am | #2

    “Peter Movie” is also what people in the 20′s called gay porn.

  3. November 3rd, 2008 | 9:50 am | #3

    Is..is Matt serious?

    I need to watch this so I can compare it to the book. When I read about this coming out I snagged it off of barnes and noble and I have to say it was one of the most unsettling books I’ve read in a long time.

  4. November 3rd, 2008 | 1:50 pm | #4

    Alright, I watched it, and it was great. They took a LOT of the stuff out from the book that made me squirm, but even so it was very well done.

  5. November 3rd, 2008 | 7:25 pm | #5

    No, no I’m not serious.

    I have yet to read anything Twilight, I was given a short synopsis from a friend, and I recall getting up and walking away from them three sentences in.

  6. Alabama Black Snake
    November 3rd, 2008 | 8:55 pm | #6

    Although I don’t always agree with some of your movie reviews (Vines…cough) I have to say I totally agree with every word you spoke on this movie.

  7. R.J. Sayer
    November 4th, 2008 | 1:38 pm | #7

    yeah, i’m seeing it for a second time on Thursday. i LOVE this fucking movie.

  8. November 7th, 2008 | 11:18 am | #8

    Hey R.J., I don’t know if you’re a reader or not, but I’d suggest picking up the book.

    The book is off the walls weird crazy stuff. Pedophiles, a pee cup, castration, etc.

  9. R.J. Sayer
    November 8th, 2008 | 4:43 pm | #9

    Sean, i am a reader. right now, however, i’m working my way through David Simon’s HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS (the book the awesome TV series was based on) and after that i’m gonna get back into CARRION COMFORT by Dan Simmons (author of the fabulous SUMMER OF NIGHT, which Peter practically married in his review earlier this year).

    but when i’m finished with those, i’ll definitely hit it up. thanks for the recommendation!

  10. November 9th, 2008 | 2:08 am | #10

    I still haven’t found freakin Summer of Night. I’m about to call his bluff and claim it doesn’t exist.

  11. R.J. Sayer
    November 9th, 2008 | 4:32 am | #11

    really? still can’t find it? have you checked online?

  12. Adrian
    November 21st, 2008 | 4:34 pm | #12

    Did anyone else get the impression that Eli’s caretaker, the old man, was not always so old? What I mean is that once upon a time he was Oskar, a boy who fell in love with Eli and lived out his days helping her. In that event the future might not be so bright for Oskar, and behind the sweetness in their affections there is something terrible.

  13. November 21st, 2008 | 4:47 pm | #13

    Aye, Adrian, that’s my take on it.

  14. R.J. Sayer
    November 21st, 2008 | 6:11 pm | #14

    yep. that’s how i read it, too.

  15. November 21st, 2008 | 9:11 pm | #15

    Actually, he’s a pedophile. >_>

  16. January 1st, 2009 | 3:10 pm | #16

    Saw it last night, finally. I couldn’t agree more . . . of course, I’ll need to see it a few more times, but I’m already quite sure that this one will eventually (hell, if it hasn’t already?) earn a spot on my Favorite Movies of All Time list.

    A wonderful movie — haunting, sad, and beautiful all at the same time. Pure genius.

    J.N.
    http://www.james-newman.com

  17. John
    March 16th, 2009 | 12:48 pm | #17

    “…the violence, which is wise in its shyness.”

    I loved loved loved this about the movie.

    I was angry at the way Oskar acted at the pool at the end. Had he learned NOTHING about standing up for himself?

    Of course not. In fifty years, he’ll end up cornered in a locker room with a jar of acid too.

    DVD rant: The copy I rented from Netflix had the English dub set as the default soundtrack. I had to manually change it and add subtitles. Is this the case for retail copies as well?

  18. Fernando Mathews II
    March 29th, 2009 | 1:22 am | #18

    I just saw the movie tonight and I couldn’t think of anything but that movie all night… I am looking for the book because a lot of things I would like answered have to be in the book… But all in all 10/10 in my opinion. I heard there is going to be a remake and I don’t understand why would they make a remake of something that was this intense and great… I could understand if the movie didn’t so well… I don’t know me just rambling… But it was a great movie… Twilight are you serious… That movie had me walking out at the very first sentence…

  19. Matt Wells
    May 12th, 2009 | 9:46 pm | #19

    I am clearly months behind but I finally watched this on blu-ray. It was good, but I didn’t get near the enjoyment you (and everyone else) did. I guess I’ll have to watch this again sometime.

  20. July 15th, 2009 | 11:51 am | #20

    “DVD rant: The copy I rented from Netflix had the English dub set as the default soundtrack. I had to manually change it and add subtitles. Is this the case for retail copies as well?”

    I saw the film for the first time last night, and I had this crap happen to me, except I wasn’t able to switch to subtitles. Not the end of the world, as the film’s best parts don’t involve much dialogue, but the dubbing was terrible. Not just because it was dubbing…it was terrible even for dubbing. The fact that I liked the movie anyway is a testament to its crafting, I suppose.

  21. Josh
    June 6th, 2010 | 10:19 pm | #21

    Adrian, Peter, R.J., I am reading the book and in it they describe Hakan, the caretaker/familiar, whatever you want to call him. He was always a pedophile, not a young boy like Oskar. The first killing in the movie and book was only his second or third attempt. It wasn’t spoken of in the movie but the book touches on it a bit further. If you want spoilers I can give them to you but suffice to say, he hasn’t been in Eli’s services long. And Matt, that second post was hilarious.

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