If this is the first time you’ve heard of this film, it’s likely to be because American director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield ) has swooped in and directed audience attention towards his American remake, Let Me In (2010). While it remains a matter of personal choice as to whether his version can match up to its original Swedish counterpart, what Tomas Alfredson’s original Let the Right One In (2008) certainly offers is a marvellously chilling adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel.
With Lindqvist behind the screenplay, the film is seemingly as faithful to its original text as cinema censors would allow (a little exploration into the novel will enlighten the curious). With its central protagonists played by two fledgling actors, both weighing in at the tender age of 13 at the time of the film’s production, it is certainly by great strength that the plot’s delivery is achieved. For those unfortunate enough to have not yet experienced the cinematic triumphs of both cast and crew, the story tells of two young outcasts who find solace and friendship in each other against the hardships of their individual lives, amidst the wintry landscapes of a non-descript town in Sweden.
Oskar (played by Kåre Hedebrant) is systematically bullied by older kids in his school, tormented and traumatised by their increasingly violent behaviour. He is miserable and a loner, until he meets the mysterious Eli (Lina Leandersson), who has recently moved into the dreary apartment block he resides in. Eli is however, no ordinary young girl, as Oskar soon discovers when she attempts to enter his house without invitation. Fans of vampire myth will instantly recognise this as a convention of such tales, and as his new friend begins to bleed profusely from the eyes, Oskar hurriedly welcomes Eli into his home.
Yet, as will be clear from the film’s subtext, this is not your average vampire film. Rather, it is a story of love, of a shared bond of admiration and friendship between two lost souls, trapped within the all-too judgmental constraints of their own society. A few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots lean further towards the more explicit content found in Lindqvist’s novel, adding an entirely new take on the film itself should viewers scour the internet post-viewing for further explanation.
Sporadic blasts of colour impact heavily against the largely cold colour palettes of the film, creating dramatic and lasting results on any viewer. A tale of genuine friendship in a quite literally cold world makes Let the Right One In a film to send chills down the spine, yet somehow warm the heart simultaneously. Never has a ‘horror’ film contained such a strong emotional context with which its viewers can connect. If you are excited about Reeves’ upcoming Let Me In, be sure to explore this stunningly beautiful and gritty original first, proof once again that American Cinema owes much of its greatest stories to European and Asian texts.
Laura J. Smith