Anybody who was depressed, bored or annoyed at the chaste blandness of Twilight is going to have their faith restored in the power of vampire mythology when they see the intriguing Swedish horror drama Let the Right One In. Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, Let the Right One In is about the friendship between Oskar, a shy and bullied twelve-year-old boy, and Eli, the strange girl who moves into the same apartment block as Oskar in suburban Stockholm. It is reminiscent of Brian de Palma’s classic Carrie and the underrated Canadian werewolf film Ginger Snaps but far more understated than both. This beautiful film balances brief moments of horror with a genuinely touching story about first love and coming of age.
The simple, unobtrusive camera work captures the stark beauty of the snow covered setting. White is the dominant colour in this film and it is used incredibly effectively to create the sense of purity and childhood innocence. Even Oskar, played remarkably by first time actor Kåre Hedebrant, is blond haired and white skinned giving him an immense vulnerability that contrasts sharply in the scenes where he plays with a knife and fantasises about having violent power over his classmate tormentors. Another first time actor, Lina Leandersson, plays Eli who is a vampire forever in the body of a twelve year-old-girl. Leandersson’s gives an astonishing performance for a girl her age and when the camera gazes into her eyes you really believe that she has lived way beyond her years.
Let the Right One In assumes that the audience are aware of vampire mythology and the word “vampire” is only ever spoken once. The film adheres to the conventions of the genre while still maintaining a fresh and original perspective on the idea of vampires needing to drink blood, having to be invited into rooms and having to avoid sunlight. Having the vampire character as a twelve-year-old girl allows the filmmakers to explore the particular vulnerability that she has while also exploring the concept of the monstrous child.
Refreshingly free of over explanatory dialogue or the need to spell things out to the audience, Let the Right One In is a subtle film but not an obscure one. Moments of gore are discrete and integrated into the film without ever feeling exploitive. In fact all acts of violence are so brief and artfully depicted that they create an impact that lingers long in the mind while taking up hardly any screen time. Let the Right One In is a slow burning film with an engulfing atmosphere that leaves you feeling moved and mesmerised long after the credits have finished.