Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer(s): John Ajvide Lindqvist
Studio: Magnet Releasing
Box Office: $11,227,336
Release Date: 10th April, 2009
IMDb Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 98&
UK Blu Ray release? Yes
Kåre Hederbrant – Oskar
Lina Leandersson – Eli
Per Ragnar – Håkan
Henrik Dahl – Erik
Karin Bergquist – Yvonne
Peter Carlberg – Lacke
Plot According to Google: When Oskar, a sensitive, bullied 12 year old boy living with his Mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbour, the mysterious and moody Eli, they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of local bloody murders.
Inertia’s Insight: Adaptations are often a difficult translation, as often the most important elements that necessitate the progress of the story in the novel are apt to become an impossible hurdle when committing it to celluloid. But with the writer of the original novel wielding the pen and a dramatic king at the helm, Let the Right One In is the deserved interpretation of Ajvide Lindqvist’s superb novel.
12-year-old Oskar is a bullied, troubled young kid. Picked on at school and nicknamed ‘Pig’, we first see him confidently rehearsing a confrontation with his bullies, armed with a small flip knife. At school, however, his confidence has all but disappeared. Seemingly obsessed with local murders and collecting news articles about murders in a scrapbook, its fair to say that Oskar is bordering We Need to Talk About Kevin territory. Caught stabbing the tree in rehearsed revenge by the new neighbour Eli, he is initially reticent to establish any form of relationship with her; but the mystery and intrigue of the neighbour that only comes out at night is just too much for Oskar to resist.
Alfredson’s direction is exquisite. He paints the Sweden of Oskar’s youth as cold and large, with wide shots showing his distance from most people or items in is life. The introduction to Eli gives us a sense of her mystery, that there is something else to her that we’re yet to explore.
The interesting maneuver is to make Håkan the evil in this film. As Eli’s situation is explored and revealed to Oskar, we understand her need; the need to feed. But it’s Håkan’s way of obtaining the blood for Eli that paints him as more than the helper; he’s a sadistic killer who needs to commit this act just as much as Eli needs the end result. Håkan and Eli’s relationship is further explored in the book, but here it’s all we need to see, and it so effective and powerful, right up to the moment that we realise how dispensable he is to Eli in a shocking and scary scene that Alfredson nails with the most beautiful lighting.
Eli is everything that Oskar has been waiting for – an ally against the bullies and the adults that don’t understand him. She’s a mystery but she’s willing to open herself to him, and she empowers him in his battle against the school bullies. To see Oskar’s transformation at the hands of Eli can’t help but make you smile yet its macabre, in the way that she justifies violence in Oskar, a kid already wielding a flip knife at a tree. His confidence is boosted, and the scene in which he asks her to ‘go steady’ is so beautifully juvenile; despite Eli’s age and all that she has seen, she still retains a youthful innocence and though she confesses her androgyny, their relationship transcends this.
The story of Lacke at first seems to serve the fact that Eli is a vampire, but even his story becomes a personal struggle that ends in a bloody confrontation between him, Eli and Oskar. We almost feel at this point that Oskar is ready to elevate himself to Håkan’s role but his hesitation hints at his reservations, and with Eli coming to his rescue then thanking him seals their unique bond. Lacke’s story also serves the vampire narrative – though it’s a word we only hear once, the shading in Eli’s apartment and her need to feed on blood as well as the invitation to come in (beautifully and horrifically explored in a scene between Oskar and Eli) is obviously exploring that myth, so the scenes with Lacke and his partner in the hospital further cement this. It’s just his Van Helsing-esque attempt to slay the beast that goes awry.
The ending is an incredible piece of filmmaking. As the bullies confront Oskar in the swimming pool in a game that is almost certain to end in Oskar’s death, Eli comes to his rescue in a brutal, bloody scene that practically goes unseen. The suggestion of the mayhem going on above the water, with the odd severed limb or head is ghastly but effective. We are Oskar, eyes closed to the brutality that Eli can cause, only seeing the remnants of her actions when she has returned to her innocence. It’s impeccable action and horror.
Though there are elements missing from the book – notably Håkan’s paedophilia and Eli’s gender and backstory examined and revealed in more detail, the film doesn’t feel like it’s missing a piece. Instead, Ajvide Lindqvist was able to concentrate on the heart of the story – the love and bond between Eli and Oskar, and its this that drives the horror film with a heart.
Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *
- The film takes place in 1981.
- Almost every scene in the film contains the colour red, in reference to Eli’s food source.
- The word vampire is only said once in the film.
- The word said in morse code at the end is PUSS, which means “small kiss” in Swedish.
OSKAR: Are you a vampire?
ELI: I live off blood… yes.
OSKAR: Are you… dead?
ELI: No. Can’t you tell?
OSKAR: But… are you old?
ELI: I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.
All images courtesy of Google
Tomorrow: Night #30 – Unfriended (2014)