Let the Right One In (its actual title is Låt den rätte komma in), a Swedish suspense film, is not a vampire movie. Instead, it just so happens to have a vampire as one of its central characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which mysteriously appeared in my Netflix Instant Watch queue. I don’t remember putting it there, and it doesn’t seem like the sort of movie my husband would be interested in. Whatever the case, I am glad that I discovered it. So what makes this movie worth watching? Let’s take a look.
The Movie’s Tagline
- “Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.”
- I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, beyond this vague plot synopsis. What I got was a movie that was disturbing more for its realism than its gore. There are certainly some gory scenes, but more often I got chills and had disturbing reactions to the moments where the situations seemed like something out of real life: the mundane setting of a quiet, small town where people don’t notice when something bad is happening because they don’t expect it to; the clueless teacher sitting inside at her desk while a student is being traumatized by bullies outside; the lonely misfit with rage brewing just beneath the surface; a reclusive neighbor getting more than he bargained for when he looks out the window…
- Oskar – He’s a 12 year old boy who doesn’t have any friends, whose parents are divorced (he lives with his mom), and who has a morbid fascination with murder (he cuts out articles about various murders from the newspaper and keeps a scrapbook).
- Eli – She is a lonely and mysterious 12 year old (“more or less”) girl who walks barefoot in the snow, only comes out at night, and faces a constant predicament of where her next meal will come from.
- The Supporting Players – The secondary characters include the bullies, Eli’s “father,” Oskar’s mother and father, some teachers, and a handful of neighbors who all live in the same apartment complex as Oskar and Eli.
- Oskar and Eli live in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, and it’s the early ’80s. The unsettling atmosphere is enhanced by the presence of snow, which blankets the town and the disturbing events, in silence.
- The cinematography is amazing, as every scene is strategically and artistically shot, with utmost attention paid to the lighting, shadows, and angles.
The Plot - There are three main threads to the story (don’t worry – I’ll keep this spoiler free)
- Oskar’s constant and escalating bullying by a group of boys at his school
- The effect that Eli’s presence has on the community
- Oskar and Eli’s burgeoning friendship, based on their common bond of loneliness and being outsiders
- Their friendship is the main focus of the movie, which makes this more of a coming of age tale than a horror or suspense movie.
The Result - No, I’m not talking about how the movie ends. I’m talking about my overall impression of the movie, based on its ingredients.
- I really enjoyed it. The movie poses some interesting questions, and provides some surprising answers
- What would it be like for a vampire to be the only one of its kind living in a community of humans? How would that vampire balance the needs for companionship and survival?
- What is the breaking point for a child who thinks the whole world, including his parents and his classmates, are against him?
- In a world where people don’t know that vampires actually exist, how do they react to, process, or explain situations where a vampire has left its mark?
- At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Let the Right One In isn’t a vampire movie – it just has a character who is a vampire. That’s not to say that it doesn’t present some interesting vampire mythology, but that aspect takes a backseat to the more interesting character development. The result is a world in which you empathize with just about everyone, and aren’t sure what to think when the credits roll – other than saying that everything about the movie was fascinating and well executed. So, if you are interested in vampires, but also value character development and cinematic artistry, skip Twilight, and watch Let the Right One In.