Let the Right One In [Låt den rätte komma in] (2008)
Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm, Karl-Robert Lindgren, Anders T. Peedu, Pale Olofsson
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not a Tomas Alfredson fan. I recently tried to watch his most recent film, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, and aborted it after about an hour. I was getting absolutely nothing from its dry, boring tone and Gary Oldman’s Oscar-Nominated performance literally consisted of him just staring thoughtfully at the camera while people talked at him. He probably said four lines in that entire hour despite the film basically revolving around his character. Whatever. Despite this bad experience, I decided to try Alfredson’s earlier film, Let the Right One In, as nearly everyone had hailed it one of the greatest vampire films of the modern era, if not of all time. OK… it’s definitely unique, but “greatest” is a far sight from the truth.
Perhaps if you didn’t care for vampire films, then this would be the case. Let the Right One In is more a coming-of-age romantic drama than anything else, and while it does feature some incredibly horrific imagery at times, it mostly trades in the fears of junior high everyday life. It’s an interesting mix of realistic, bully-based horror, and the supernatural horror we’ve come to expect from the vampire film. It’s also stunningly well-shot, with many of the images suitable for framing in some artsy painter’s loft. For me, though, these elements never came together to form a film that I really cared about. While the film definitely succeeds in bringing vampires and genre films to the arthouse crowd, it does so by sacrificing a lot of the genre thrills… and damn it, that’s all the fun bits!
So with the fact established that Let the Right One In is a well-made film that’s definitely not for me, I don’t know exactly what to say. If you’re not really a horror fan, you’ll probably really enjoy this because it’s not really a horror film. I think this is exactly why the critics embraced this film. I was also going to say something about this film bringing horror to a more realistic place, but then I remembered the things that bothered me more than the boring pace and the unengaging, clichéd bully story: the interesting, yet completely unrealistic father figure character to the vampire Eli.
Originally I had typed “elder vampire character” but then I thought about how we never see him do anything vampiric, and I got to wondering if he wasn’t just a normal dude that somehow got roped into helping this 12-year-old vampire. Given the nature of the story between the two child leads, it’s easy to extrapolate that perhaps Eli’s advances aren’t quite what they seem, and are more a survival instinct against her father figure’s complete lack of common sense than true love. Anyway, back to why that father figure is dumb. So this guy kills people to feed Eli, so that she doesn’t have to hunt. He then bleeds them out by hanging them upside down, slitting their throats and collecting the blood in a bucket. Where does he do this, you ask? A secluded thicket? An out-of-the-way corner of an abandoned building? Nope, he does it in the middle of a park lit by gigantic floodlights. Oh, surprise, surprise, here comes a couple with their dog on a walk! Imagine that in a well-lit park! His next attempt is just as poorly thought out, and just left me shaking my head.
But even these ridiculous moments can’t hold a candle to the fucking ending of this movie. Skip to the next paragraph if you still want to see this one. OK? OK, here we go. So after bonding and thwarting the bad guys, Oskar and Eli run off together on a train, but because Eli’s a vampire she’s in a big cardboard box so the sun’s rays don’t get her. So these two 12-year-old kids run off in some sort of homage to the ending of The Graduate? W. T. F. I literally could not believe what I just saw. Supposing they get off the train during the night, then it’s no big deal, but what if they need to get off during the day? Is the notably weak Oskar going to drag this box around the train station? And do so unnoticed? It’s just so ridiculous. I know I’m supposed to have gotten so wrapped up in the budding romance that the ending becomes a sweet, touching ride into the sunset, but I didn’t so it wasn’t. I gotta call it what it is, and it’s dumb as shit.
So yeah, after hearing nothing but hot shit about how Let the Right One In was the best vampire movie ever, and how it’s a modern masterpiece and all that, I’m just not convinced. It’s definitely made with skill, and it’s gorgeous to look at, and it is one of the most unusual vampire stories out there. But a great horror film? Puh-lease.