“Let the Right One In” (2008)
“Are you my age?” “Yes. But I’ve been this age for a very long time.”
Twelve year old Oskar is the product of a life of neglect; his parents, divorced, appear to have come to the consensus that neither wants him, and he’s alone in school where he must contend with perpetual harassment and bullying meted out by his classmates. Eli– age unknown– can’t go out in the sun, must be invited into a room, possesses superhuman strength and speed, and has to drink blood to survive. They’re two souls completely unalike (even Eli has a grown-up guardian who “cares” for her where Oskar doesn’t), and yet improbably they’re drawn together and a friendship blooms between the two.
In a nutshell, that’s Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 vampire picture Let the Right One In, a movie that mixes differing parts of innocent childhood love with something much, much more unnerving and disturbing. Yes, this is a film about pre-teens. No, this film is not intended for (MOST) pre-teens. Let the Right One In slow burns its way to a mesmerizingly brutal and unforgiving finale, leaving trace amounts of carnage along the way that serve to cushion the understated and genuinely sweet relationship shared by both child and vampire. Alfredson’s film is quiet, subtle, and still in a manner both alluring and eerie; he beautifully captures snow-capped Swedish landscapes and architecture with the same unflinching eye with which he portrays the violent and unsettling sides of Oskar’s and Eli’s respective lives.
We live in the Twilight era, a time of de-fanged glitter vampires whose sexual desire and desirability receives greater emphasis than their bestial nature. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but part of Let the Right One In‘s worth lies in how it reminds us all that this iconic monster of legend is just that– monstrous. Certainly Alfredson instills Eli with more humanity than the living members of the cast and portrays Eli as being as much of a victim of her own circumstances as those who die to feed her, but his picture not only refuses to gloss over the inherently violent characteristics of the vampire, it revels in them. And ultimately, it’s Let the Right One In‘s willingness to confront and even embrace the gruesome attributes of the vampire myth while making us feel sympathetic to Eli’s plight at the exact same time that irrefutably identifies the film as a genre classic.
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