Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let the Right One In (2008)

Having read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist two weeks ago, I waited with bated breath for Netflix to ship this movie. Not only was the book one of the best I've read, everywhere I turned this movie was getting rave reviews.
Entertainment sections of newspapers swore by it, coworkers rhapsodized about it, and the blogosphere was set ablaze by the Swedish film Låt den rätte komma in. Even the widely trusted granted the movie a 97% freshness rating.

Now, I'm not going to spend too much time talking about the book since I read it prior to my blog and since this is supposed to be a review of the movie, but I feel it's necessary in order to show how high my expectations were set prior to watching the film.

The book, as I said, was one of the best I have ever read. It is simply the product of good, solid storytelling from a skilled writer. Lindqvist seamlessly wraps readers in a bleak, morose setting and tone. Next, he drops in vivid characters and causes us to ache for them. Finally, on top of the aforementioned, he delivers a chilling--yet unconventional--vampire tale. I was glued to this book, letting everything else in my life fall to the shadows for the duration.

Two things worked against the movie's effect on me. For one, as you've read thus far, my expectations were set outrageously high. Usually, this is the worst thing that can happen when it comes to any sort of subjective matter: movies, books, music, et cetera. Someone you know sees/watches/listens to it and they turn to you, singing its praises. You rush off and experience it for yourself, giddy out of your socks with excitement, only to find something mundane, banal. This my friends is why I fervently try to avoid trailers and any form of review before checking things out for myself.

The second thing that worked against me was reading the book first. I am one of those people who will read the book before seeing the movie because, yes, it is almost always exceedingly better. Take Stephen King for instance. His writing is some of the deepest, though-provoking, creative writing on the market. But the movies based on his books do the writing little if no justice whatsoever. This is simply because a two-hour film cannot possibly capture all the elements good authors explore in their books. In most cases, I will not even watch a movie based on a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

So, at roughly 8PM I locked the doors, shuttered the windows, and killed the lights. The living room was awash in the TV's pale blue light. I seized the remote from the coffee table, aimed it at the player, and fired. It was time. The moment I had been both anxiously awaiting and slightly dreading was upon me.

The film began to play...

...and then it was over.

What took place in between was possession. Despite my unreasonably high expectations, this film pulled me into its trance from the opening credits to the ending credits. I think the fact that the author of the book was also the screenwriter for the movie helped a lot, but this was well shot and well directed to boot. The film captured the setting and mood of the book in a way I've never seen before. Come to think of it, I've never seen a movie from Sweden before. Maybe they are superior at creating a mood. Snowy, cold, dark and raw, the audience becomes a guest of Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm.

Instead of jumping straight into thrill after thrill, Let The Right One In follows the book like an instruction manual and produces real characters we care about and pull for. This is important when trying to move people. Give us someone we care about, someone we ache for when they're in the foreground. Oskar, the 12-year old who is bullied at school, and Eli, the who-really-knows-how-old vampire are a perfect match in the film. Together they dazzle the audience. Had Eli not needed to prey on other characters in the movie for her sustenance, I'm convinced the two could've carried the movie by themselves.

A major theme in the book/film was loneliness and the movie gives this to us from many different angles. Oskar is not only ostracized at school, but his parents are divorced and he longs for attention from his dad. Only, when he visits his dad, alcohol gets in the way of their time together. Eli, meanwhile, longs for a friend, for acceptance in such a strange life. The film is very dramatic in bringing these situations to life, but don't fret, there's plenty of bloodshed, including some graphic facial damage that puts Two-Face from The Dark Knight to shame!

Eli, played by Lina Leandersson is the most haunting vampire I have ever seen. Her enormous eyes, pale skin, and constantly bloody mouth (from recent feedings, to be sure) will chill your spine. The contrast between her love for Oskar and her need to kill are unnerving. To see a little girl clamping down on people while they flail about is ghastly to say the least.

If you need a breath of fresh air from all the other movies out there you need to Let the Right One In.


  1. I'm expecting to receive this one from Netflix today. Really looking forward to watching it. Typically, like you, I read the book first and then watch the movie. I may do the opposite in this case!

  2. Jenn - Either way your'e going to love this story. I could definitely see how watching the movie first would be a real treat, though the book expands on certain themes.

    Enjoy it and let me know what you thought!

  3. Happy to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did. I watched it again last night in the stunning Blu-Ray transfer and found myself wondering how this movie gets it so right... the best film released last year and maybe the best vampire film ever.

  4. Sounds like a scary movie hon! I'm glad you didn't come chomping on me when you came to bed last night! :-)

  5. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for dropping by my page - from what I can tell, I am going to enjoy yours as well [even though we are starting out with a difference of opinion [Bo & I do that frequently as well] ;-)

    Even though I did not enjoy the film as much as everyone else out there, I still plan on checking out the novel [I too like to read a book before the movie, however in this case I just didn't have the time. . .

    Great review by the way!

  6. Im right up there with everyone else that loved the flick, it achieves so much with so little, easily the best of 2008! Im fearful of what the remake will entail, and pissed that people just dont get it and continue to remake amazing foreign films that havent even hit the 5yr mark. Yet.. I will still inevitably watch it. I guess Im part of the problem and not the solution lol.. Great review!

  7. dragonmanes - I wish there existed a magical petition against the remake of this one. There is no way this can be recaptured. The bleak atmosphere of a Swedish winter will not work here. I guess they could go up Maine or over to Fargo or something...but who would they cast? And--like you pointed out--why are they already remaking it?

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  9. I love vampire movies. I'm gonna have to check this one out. It's been a while since I've seen a good one.

    Sounds like I might enjoy the book too. Should I read it before or after the movie?

  10. Lucas - I've given this careful thought and decided that you should watch the movie first.

    Enjoy the cinematic experience to the fullest!

  11. I agree with you completely: this was the best horror film of the year. Completely original and compelling.

  12. Duplicity - Je suis d'accord! Thanks for stopping by.