A note from the reviewer: OK, I really liked this movie, enough to want to write about it. It’s only after I began writing it in fits and starts that I realized what a difficult thing a review is to do! So my hats off to all those people that write for a living, it’s a tough job! I started this review a while ago, and so many weeks have passed since I saw the movie now, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to finish it properly, my memory for arcane movie trivia is slowly slipping away. Oh well, first time for everything…
“Let The Right One In” was a great movie we saw the other day. There’s enough on the internet about it now: essentially the protagonist Oskar is a lonely Swedish boy in the 1980s who is befriended by a mysterious neighbor, a light-fearing 12 year old girl, Eli, who moves in next door. I knew nothing about this movie before we watched it, Sophia heard good reviews about it and put it on our Netflix queue.
Spoiler alert: if you have heard nothing about this movie, except maybe the title, I’d suggest you don’t read on – I loved the way this movie opened up for me, even though it was clear what Eli was some sort of monster very early on.
This is foreign language (Swedish) movie, so if you can’t watch a movie with subtitles, this movie isn’t for you. For some this may be a bit slow paced, and it is a little at the beginning, there is no American style gore-fest to titillate, in fact the first “kill” of the movie is absolutely creepy in that it’s so methodical and slow paced, and done with a total lack of emotion or empathy for the victim, (although the victim does seem to not suffer a painful death.) Eli’s human companion, an older man who appears to be her father or uncle is shown earlier very matter of factly packing what appear to be mechanical or supplies, but which is actually his murdering and blood-letting kit.
In this early scene, the companion is interrupted by a couple and their dog, and so fails to bring home sustenance for his charge. He is chastised by an angry Eli who shouts “Must I do everything myself!” I’m not sure if the director means for us to not know that this is Eli shouting, he only shows the back of her head in many of these early scenes, and there really aren’t that many scenes where we see her being angry at anyone. Ferocious and insatiable, yes, angry, no. It seems to me, the reason we never see her face in that emotion, is because we’re meant to sympathize with her when she befriends Oskar, the other protagonist of the movie, a young 10 year old boy that is just as lonely and out of place in the world as she is.
The movie plays on the idea of the weak and powerful, on isolation and violence, on hidden emotions and battle scars that are not visible.
This was not an action-heavy American production, but was pretty gruesome and violent, non-the-less. There are moments of pure thrill and horror when Eli’s companion is interrupted in an attempt to capture a school boy and drain his blood, and must use acid to disfigure himself so that they cannot identify him as Eli’s companion.
It’s a little ambiguous whether this act is done out of love or fear of Eli. She finds out from the news that he is captured and held at a nearby hospital, and goes to look for him. This slight, pale, and bare-footed girl comes in from the cold Swedish night and asks the nurse at the reception desk where her “father” is being kept; and leaves once she has the information. There is a moment of anticipated horror when the nurse runs out to find the little girl, and I expected another grisly murder. Instead, the nurse stands outside, scanning the night for Eli, with the hospital behind her, and we see a scuttling figure climbing quickly up the side of the several-storey high building; Eli is going to pay “her father” a visit.
When at last they see each other, the old man offers himself up as a last meal to her, because he knows he is doomed, and this will sustain her. The moment is quite frightening, unlike the old Hollywood movies where the handsome vampire seduces the voluptuous, young maiden; in this scene, it is an acid-deformed old man willingly offering himself up to what amounts to little more than a ravenous animal in the form of Eli. (And there is no pretense in this movie that drinking blood is a clean affair which is neatly accomplished by two snake-like fangs – in this version, Eli does have to quite viciously rip open her victims’ flesh so that the blood vessels will pour out their life-giving fluid.
to be continued…
the reviewer comes back to finish the review…
So I’ll just end by saying there are some really great scenes in this movie, and for me, I always thought that Oskar would be Eli’s next human companion. It was so obvious once her older companion died that he was the most obvious sympathetic choice. I don’t think Eli set out to make Oskar her companion, at the beginning of the movie she said she couldn’t be friends with him. Although, in order to survive, perhaps that’s been her M.O. all along, befriend a sexually immature youngster who is weak, but will do her bidding… I guess we’ll never know unless they do a prequel (Please please please DON’T make a prequel). Let the audience fill in the gaps. There’s a lovely sense of ambiguity that independent or European films have, that American blockbusters are always afraid to touch, you’re really asked to take sides or form an opinion on your own about what it all means… (and then the studios go and make “Doubt” and make that argument toothless)
Of course sometimes this ambiguity can also lead to what Sophia and I call “¿por qué es por qué?” movies – you know – one of those Arty Farty Avante Garde movies that don’t say ANYTHING for 2 hours but you try to hold out for something at the end where there’s a great payoff, but there rarely is.
Overall, the movie is just lovely, the characters are so mellow and “Swedish” even the school bullies. Make no mistake though, this is a horror movie, it has flashes of pure horror, surprise, disgust, sympathy, teen angst, humor and innocence, the only equivalent that comes to mind in recent years is the Canadian Werewolf take-off “Ginger Snaps”
Spoiler: The pool scene at the end of the movie — sure to be a CLASSIC.