Saturday, January 31, 2009

let the right one in

Let the Right One In is like no other vampire movie I've seen. It's a Swedish flick, based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Our protagonist is Oskar, a 12-year old boy living in a suburban community near Stockholm with his mother. He is blonder-than-blonde, slight and frail, and the target of incessant bullying at school. We also quickly learn that he's a bit obssessed with "true crime" and keeps a somewhat disturbing scrap-book of murders tucked under his mattress.

One day, a sickly looking girl, Eli, moves into the apartment next door. The two become friends, much as one might expect. And yet there's something not quite right about Eli: she's never out in the daylight, she seems far more mature than her years belie, and she alternatively appears to be on the brink of death or brimming with health.

She's a vampire, of course, and the filmakers don't attempt to hide this fact from the audience for long. Instead of feeding on random victims herself, she sends out her "father" (more a caretaker) to murder young men in the community, drain their blood into a jug, and bring it back to the apartment. Things get complicated when her caretaker gets caught in the act and Eli is forced to fend for herself.

Throughout, Let the Right One In is a poignant love story between awkward pre-adolescents, much as we've seen before. But Eli and Oskar's relationship develops in a fascinating direction, and their evolving co-dependency is at once heart-warming and absolutely horrific. I love how carefully the movie progressed, and how it fully embraced the classic horror dictum (all but forgotten in modern America) that "less-is-more." With approximately 15 minutes left to go in the film, I had decided that it was good but not great. However, those last minutes, and especially the final scene on the train, push Let the Right One In into the realm of truly exceptional.

Be warned: an American remake is planned for release in 2010 and is likely to be far bloodier, extreme, and mundane.

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