Let the Right One In: Movie, DVD, Blu-ray Review

10/23/2009 Posted by Admin

Editor's Note: Halloween is nearly upon us. So, over the next 8 days--or, as we'll call them here, "Week in Rewind's 8 Days of Horror"--we'll offer up reviews of some great horror movies you might want to consider for the big day. First up? The terrific movie, "Let the Right One In."

Week in Rewind's 8 Days of Horror
“Let the Right One In”

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, written by John Ajvide Linkqvist, 116 minutes, rated R. In Swedish with English subtitles.

This Halloween, people will turn to vampire movies to satisfy their thrills, with many flocking to Catherine Hardwicke's "Twilight." That's a shame, particularly since it isn't really a horror movie.

"Let the Right One In," however, is a horror movie--and a brilliant one at that. What's curious is that the comparisons between Hardwicke’s “Twilight” and Tom Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” come so swiftly and easily, it would be an oversight not to compare them for a specific reason--one movie courts an American sensibility driven by box-office greed, the other a foreign sensibility driven by artistry and the quest to tell a story well.

Guess which is the better movie?

Obviously, the weak link is “Twilight,” an overheated potboiler about the potentially undeadly physical attraction that ignites between two hot-and-bothered teens, one a male vampire fresh from an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, the other a pouty mortal female trying to stuff down one mother of a hormonal rampage.

At its core, “Twilight” uses its vampire angle to promote abstinence, an interesting twist for tweens that’s unfortunately suffocated by too much action-movie clutter, purple romantic pining and blue dialogue. In other words, the movie is filled with the very rainbow of qualities that make for the blockbuster “Twilight” became. Abstinence never will sell a movie, but kisses, randy teens and explosions do, so that’s what audiences got upon the movie’s release.

“Let the Right One In,” on the other hand, is a quiet, more intense vampire thriller from Sweden that features a similar storyline, though one which goes deeper and darker than “Twilight” ever could imagine. It’s the story of a pale, bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), and how his budding relationship with a pale, 12-year-old girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who is a vampire, leads each to a dangerous precipice that must not be crossed.

Unlike Bella from “Twilight,” who would happily die for her stud vamp if it meant spending an eternity marveling at his fright wig and killer cheekbones, Oskar has more substance. He comes to love Eli, but in spite of suffering a cruel life that also includes divorced parents (just as it does with Bella), he doesn’t want to end it.

From the start, there is a wariness between them that draws you into the movie, which is set in the snowy chills of winter (Hoyte Van Hoytema’s stark cinematography is one of the movie’s chief pleasures). Each child is lonely. Each needs a friend. Given that Oskar is on the cusp of adolescence--and all that entails--his conflicted feelings for Eli are charged with a sexual undercurrent he doesn’t fully understand.

But she does. Eli might exist within a 12-year-old’s body, but she’s been 12 for some time. And so, as they grow closer, she becomes his protector, feasting gruesomely when she must (the poor thing never remembers to wipe her bloody mouth), but remaining as true to Oskar as he is to her.

Unlike “Twilight,” suspense and spareness are the motivators here, not violence. That isn’t to suggest that the movie isn’t violent--it is, sometimes wickedly so--but those moments are few. Alfredson understands the power of subtlety. He knows precisely the right moment to shock, but more important, he does so in ways that you’ve never seen on a movie screen. That he does so in a genre nearly as old as the movies themselves lifts “Let the Right One In” into the coveted realm of one of the year’s more memorable films.

Grade: A-

View the R-rated trailer:

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