The novel Låt den rätte komma in launched John Ajvide Lindvist’s career, and sired two film adaptations. This weekend’s Halloween Reviews will examine both, starting with the 2008 original, one of cinema’s best vampire films.

Title: Let the Right One In

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindvist (adapted from his own novel).

Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar
Lina Leandersson as Eli
Elif Ceylan as voice of Eli1
Per Ragnar as Håkan
Henrik Dahl as Erik
Peter Carlberg as Lacke
Karin Bergquist as Yvonne
Ika Nord as Virginia
Mikael Rahm as Jocke
Pale Olofsson as Larry
Patrik Rydmark as Conny
Mikael Erhardsson as Michael
Rasmus Luthander as Jimmy

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

This film may be purchased at Amazon.

Premise:

A mild-mannered boy, subject to frequent bullying, develops a friendship with the new girl—a vampire as unapologetically predatory as anything Van Helsing staked.

High Points:

Lindvist, Alfredson, and the cast craft a deftly-balanced blend of vampire lore with the mundane and horrific elements of everyday life. Many, many films have treated superstition and lore seriously, but few have placed so literal and engaging a vampire in such an ordinary setting.

Both Oskar and Eli have some serious problems. He’s developing a frightening inner rage, while she feeds on innocent human blood. Yet both characters become strangely compelling and sympathetic. I like Eli, and yet I recognize that, from any sane perspective, she is a monster.

Low Points:

You could scroll ahead to my one negative comment under “Effects,” or (if you don’t mind spoilers), you could read a rather lengthy digression about a minor but controversial point.

In the original novel, we learn that Eli is not a girl, but a male vampire, fully castrated a couple of centuries before (i.e. he not only had his testicles removed, but his entire penis. This less-common practice happened, historically; eunuchs of this sort often require a tube to urinate). The novel can develop this aspect of the character, and so it become relevant, another dimension of Eli. The film almost entirely ignores it, save for some cryptic comments, and a disturbing, uncertain flash of Eli’s crotch. Since the movie never elaborates, this element serves as a distraction, without the point of the original.. I correctly predicted that the American version (reviewed) tomorrow, drops this element entirely (and it goes without saying that Hollywood won’t go near even the implication of an underage crotch-flash).

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 We’ve seen more cinematic vamps than I can name. The film, at its heart, features a familiar trope: a troubled kid who finds a magical friend. However, I’ve never seen these elements look quite like this before.

Effects: 5/6 I wish I could give this film a perfect score for effects. The often low-key physical effects and evocative (if not always pleasant) sound choices work perfectly. The director also understood that the most understated effects often work best. Unfortunately, the phoniness of the cat attack sequence had me shaking my head. Could they have accomplished this scene any other way? They might as well have thrown stuffed animals.

Story: 5/6 So much of the plot—the revenge aspect, the confrontations—could have seemed cheap and trite. The script handles these elements almost perfectly.

Acting: 6/6 I don’t think this film contains a bad role, and the stars, each thirteen when the film was released, give mesmerizing performances. Even in a horror film, emotion doesn’t have to be punched into the red in every other scene.

The legally-aged couple in Twilight have not a drop of the chemistry these kids manage.

Production: 6/6. Shots have been composed elegantly and effectively, but the director does not linger needlessly on his artwork: cruciform flaming woman, a floating arm, snow falling on children and dead bodies.

Emotional Response: 5/6 This film, both horrific and touching, will stay with you after it ends, and will provide fodder for conversation.

Overall: 6/6. What, exactly, are Eli’s motives in approaching Oskar? That isn’t an easy question; I’m not certain even the character could answer to her own satisfaction. Humans are like that; apparently, so are some vampires.

With so many vampires stalking the screen lately, it’s good to see someone get the breed right.

In total, Let the Right One In receives 37/42.

Notes

Lina Leandersson gave a stunning performance as Eli, but Elif Ceylan provided the voice (in the original film; of course, if you’re watching it dubbed to English, that would be yet another voice).