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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