Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Let the Right One In" a keeper



Let the Right One In (2008) 
114 min., rated R.
Grade: A 

Lanky, lonely 12-year-old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant, with a touch of androgyny), who's cruelly bullied at school, finds a companion in his peculiar next door neighbor, the pale, homely-looking Eli (Lina Leanderson), who's “12...more or less,” happens to be a savage vampire and has a fondness for the red stuff. Don't you hate it when that happens? This female Nosferatu has just moved into Oskar's apartment complex of the wintry Swedish town of Stockholm, along with an older man responsible to collect blood for her thirst. Eli smells funny, only comes out at night, doesn't wear shoes in the snow, and she'll only enter Oskar's apartment if she is asked in (hence the title). 

This is a grim, atmospheric, and tender Swedish import with English subtitles from director Tomas Alfredson, based on writer John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel “Let Me In.” Although giving the vampire lore some new, unique blood (and reminding us by the title that vampires can't enter a home without an invitation), "Let the Right One In" isn't purely a vampire tale, exsanguinatory and frightening at times as it is, but it's also a fable about the fears and social awkwardness of adolescence, and revenge, and it's a captivating film. 

Adapting from his book, screenwriter Lindqvist's storytelling strays a bit with a subplot about one of the townspeople being bitten, but it adds to the horror element of the film. The two young leads are outstanding, bringing the film a much-needed sympathy to their misfit characters' friendship. Adding to the melancholy but ultimately hopeful tone is the frozen, snow-covered setting of Stockholm, circa 1982, beautifully and hauntingly photographed with a palpable chilliness, as well as Johan Soderqvist's moody musical score. Many gruesome set pieces are brilliantly conceived and artfully shot from afar with subtle dread, particularly the bravura final confrontation between Oskar and the bullies in a pool. See it already. 

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