“Let the Right One In”
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson
Rated: R for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language
Running time: 115 minutes
Last week I wrote about a horror film that would be good to throw on at a Halloween party. I promised that this week I would talk about one that would be good for those of you having a more private and relaxed Halloween night. Last week was werewolves, this week it’s vampires.
For a while now we’ve been inundated with vampire material. The problem with a vampire-obsessed pop culture is that only the big stuff gets recognized. From the good (“True Blood”) to the bad (“The Vampire Diaries”) to the ugly (“Twilight”). “Let the Right One In” is a film that didn’t make it onto a lot of people’s radar simply because they were too clogged with other things involving the fanged undead.
Yet this Swedish film did so well in its homeland that it achieved cult status here before it was even released.
Taking place during the winter in Blackeberg, Sweden, it’s about a 12-year-old boy, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), who’s having a rough time. His parents are divorced, he has no friends and the kids at school do nothing but bully him. He lives at home with his mother who offers no real companionship and is blissfully ignorant of the difficult time her son is having.
Things take a turn for the better (and the surreal) for Oskar once Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves into the apartment next to his. She’s as lonely and as outcast as Oskar, but she has a good excuse. She’s a vampire.
Eli’s also the same age as Oskar, more or less. In truth she’s so old she can’t remember her own birthday, but since she never ages, she’s stuck being a 12-year-old for the rest of her un-life. To a degree she still has the mind of a 12-year-old, despite her advanced age, which makes it difficult to be on her own.
She and Oskar quickly form a friendship. He teaches her about the basics of “going steady” and she teaches him how to stand up to his enemies. They sneak out at night to talk to each other, and even go so far as to learn Morse code so they can communicate between the walls of their apartments. They could almost be a normal couple, minus the fact that Eli has to drink blood to survive.
That becomes a problem sooner rather than later. Eli prefers not to directly feed on humans and has quite a deranged system for not getting her hands dirty. When the system breaks down, in a manner of speaking, she’s forced to feed on her own. It’s not romantic, as is sometimes the case in vampire movies.
It’s also not conducive to an interference-free environment. One of her attacks is witnessed, which stirs up no end of trouble. It’s compounded when one of her victims gets away, and said victim’s significant other begins to poke around.
Eli has drawn so much attention to herself that if she stays in town any longer only bad things can continue to happen. To live, she must move on, but can she stand to be away from the first real friend she’s ever had?
Anytime kids play the leads you run the risk of seeing a terrible movie. Either the kids will be wise beyond their years, spouting soliloquies that 30-year-olds have no business speaking, or they’ll be so filled with sugar they make you sick.
Thankfully, we’re in good hands with our pint-sized stars. Their performances are very laid-back and honest. It helps add an extra degree of turmoil to the story because you never once forget that these are kids you’re watching — kids in situations adults would never want to find themselves in.
The child leads also make this movie a lot sweeter than it would be if it were about adults. Kids, for the most part, are innocent, and they bring that quality to their roles.
But don’t be fooled. Just because children are involved doesn’t mean it’s a kiddy movie. It’s straight-up horror. There’s plenty of blood and intense situations throughout to remind you, too.
Lastly, I mentioned before that this was a foreign film. I’m sure some of you are afraid of subtitles. You shouldn’t be. With a movie as good as this you barely realize they’re there because you get so sucked into the story. Pun intended.
Never fear, though, for there’s an audio track where English is dubbed over. Dubbing has gotten a lot better since the days of “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” so you can barely tell.
Either way, you won’t find it hard to watch this movie. With its mixture of childlike innocence and horror-movie goodness, this is a perfect movie to curl up with on the couch on Halloween night — or any old night for that matter.
The Movie Dude, Joe Altomere of Fort Myers, grew up in his parents’ video store in Plantersville, Texas. He owns close to 2,000 DVDs and Blu-ray discs and considers that only the start of his collection. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.