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Let the Right One In

Let The Right One In aka Låt den rätte komma in (Tomas Alfredson 2008)
Adapted for the screen by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his critically acclaimed novel Let The Right One In is a tender film about friendship, love, loneliness and loyalty. It's also a smart horror movie that isn't afraid to challenge genre conventions, and throw around plenty of claret.

Set in early 1980's snowy Stockholm where a serial killer is on the loose draining peoples blood; this is the story of Oskar (
Kåre Hedebrant) an only child of divorced parents. Oskar is a sensitive loner, who harbours revenge fantasies as he's constantly bullied at school. That is until he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson) an oddly mature, androgenous looking young girl who only ever comes out at night. The two outsiders gradually form a strong friendship finding solace together from their very different but equally isolated lives. It's then that Oskar discovers the truth about Eli, a truth that tests his loyalty like nothing else before it.

To simply call Let The Right One In an effective horror movie would be doing it a huge disservice. Whilst it definitely is a 'horror' film (and a very good one); Lindqvist and Anderson place the emphasis heavily on the friendship, acceptance, trust and loyalty aspects of the story rather than the scares. As a result when the horror does come it's integral to the plot feeling shockingly beautiful, rather than sickeningly gratuitous. Lina Leandersson is a revelation in her role as Eli, she injects her with a subtle maturity, tenderness and vulnerability ensuring the character is completely believable. Anything less and Eli might have come over as hokey or unsympathetic, but this is a classy production and the cast generally reflect that. Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar is also solidly competent (if a little one note) and perfectly convinces as the placid schoolboy.

That just leaves me to mention the pleasing combination of subdued photography and understated score, effectively capturing the minimalist architecture and snowy locales. I'd also like to offer some of my thoughts on the main talking points in this thread regarding the film. I actually saw it as being very much about isolation, as in retrospect every character in the story seemed lonely, unhappy and detached in some way. Whether it was Oskar's alcoholic father, Eli's aging guardian, or the gang of unwilling bullies and their cowardly leader (who was in turn bullied by his obnoxious older brother). They were all tragic figures, some caught in a spiral of self destruction having loved and lost, others crying out for love. Ironically only Eli seemed truly warm and animated, able to share that gift with a fellow lonely soul. Her/his gender was never issue with me even if it was for Lindqvist (I've not read the book...yet); I only ever saw Eli as an androgenous being who'd chosen to assume a female identity/form. Vampires are generally perceived to be shape shifters anyway, and this film stuck to the rules on everything else. Ultimately though I think it's Oskar's perception of Eli that is most important; he saw her as female so perhaps we were meant to see her the same way. I also wondered if in Eli's guardian we were supposed to be seeing a reflection of Oskar's future self/fate. Was Eli merely grooming Oskar for the same role? I don't want to believe that, I like to think they were soul mates, but it's this kind of depth that really fascinates me about Let The Right One In. It kind of reminded me of John Fawcett's werewolf flick Ginger Snaps, all be it far superior with a much more subtle sense of black humour. I can safely say I haven't enjoyed a film this much since Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, this is compulsive viewing, I loved it and will shut up now.

Oh and I really enjoyed hearing Flash In The Night by Secret Service on the soundtrack; synth-pop classic that is.