Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #205
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson
Welcome, boys and ghouls, to the first of two horror movie posts I'll be doing today in honor of Halloween! I'll be the first to admit that the atmosphere of Let the Right One In has almost nothing to do with typical Halloween horror movies, but I'm on a big Swedish film kick right now (I just reviewed the stellar The Girl Who Played With Fire for my paying writing gig), and All Hallow's Eve is the perfect excuse to blog about the last one remaining on the Top 250. And while the atmosphere of director Tomas Alfredson's brilliant 2008 vampire picture isn't particularly "Halloween-y," it's certainly creepy, and is unequivocally "horror." And yet the horror movie tone isn't what prevails as the most pervasive vibe of the film. It's the beautiful reflection on how hard growing up is. Human or vampire, being twelve sucks – everyone is bullied, everyone is uncomfortable, everyone is lonely, and no one knows how to deal with new feelings like falling in love. Let the Right One In has plenty of bloody, disturbing images, but they're a mere backdrop for the tender tale of twelve-year old boy Oskar and twelve-year old vampire Eli, whose relationship is as bizarre as it is touching.
One of the biggest strengths of the supernatural side of Let the Right One In is its respect for vampiric legend and tradition. The very title is derived from an oft-forgotten aspect of vampire lore, that a vampire may only enter someone else's home if they're invited in. In one scene, Eli asks Oskar to invite her in, and when he refuses but makes her come in anyway, she starts to bleed all over her body. Oskar quickly realizes his mistake and tells her she can come in. It's just one of many scenes that show the collision of Eli's vampirism and Oskar's very real, human love for her, and it examines how those competing elements learn to coexist. Lying naked in bed with Oskar, Eli is asked if she wants to go steady and replies "I'm not a girl." Oskar doesn't ask any questions, and it doesn't change his mind about wanting to be with her. Even when he catches on that people are being killed that Eli may continue to live, he doesn't mind, and in the film's best (and most wonderfully shot) scene, she even comes to his rescue by killing the bullies who torment him throughout the movie. In her own unconventional way, she validates his love.
If we can fairly call Let the Right One In a horror movie, then it is the best horror movie of the last ten years at least. While so much of the horror scene today looks to gross-out "torture porn," scary "jump-out" scenes, and an abundance of sweet, sweet titties, Let the Right One In is a quietly introspective film that retains all of its scare factor, reminiscent of the genre's heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s. There's a place for check-your-brain-at-the-door horror, of course, but that place isn't the IMDb Top 250.
The Good: The slow, methodical nature of a movie with a subject matter that has been done diametrically the opposite (and badly) for so long is extremely refreshing.
The Bad: The scene where a character is attacked by cats looks pretty terrible, and doesn't fit tonally.
The Skinny: I'd have it higher than #205, but then, I'm a bit of a horror nut, and seeing a genre that I love done so well makes my heart smile.