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Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), 2008

Oskar, a bullied 12-year old, dreams of revenge. He falls in love with Eli, a peculiar girl. She can't stand the sun or food, and to come into a room she needs to be invited. Eli gives Oskar the strength to hit back - but when he realizes that Eli needs to drink other people's blood to live, he's faced with a choice. How much can love forgive? Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) is a story both violent and highly romantic, set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982.

I'm not usually a big fan of vampire movies - granted, I grew up with the old Hammer movies with Christopher Lee, think that Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula looks beautiful, have a soft spot in my heart for Near Dark and The Lost Boys, adore Trouble Every Day (Yes! YES! I will write a review some day!)... but I consider those to be classics. Just as I'm not a particular fan of zombie flicks, I can still name about 10 movies that I really like. It's just part of the horror franchise - the vampire. Just another sort of monster.

However, just as Trouble Every Day challenged my idea of a movie about vampires, so did Låt den rätte komma in.

As the initial synopsis (courtesy of imdb.com) told you - this movie is about
Oskar, a 12-year-old boy in Sweden, 1982. He's the kind of kid that has one big problem: He gets bullied around and mobbed by the other kids at school. There are several possible reasons for this: He is skinny, pale, weaker than the other boys. He loves to read (books about serial killers and crime and forensics) and is a loner. In short: The perfect victim for more ...actively aggressive kids than him. He ran afoul of one group in particular: The little gang of Conny, who seems to get some sick enjoyment out of humiliating and beating up Oskar.

Oskar also keeps a journal about killings and deaths.

Sounds familiar. Well, I don't know if it sounds familiar to you, but it sounds all too familiar to me. Now, the thing is: Oskar harbours an intense aggression against those fucked-up kids who like to torment him (understandably). His evenings usually consist of going outside into the (very empty and desolate) park in front of the house he is living in with his mother, together with his hunting knife, and re-enacts the slights and insults he has received during the day at school in front of a tree - which always results in him violently stabbing the tree.

It's sad to watch those scenes. Oskar's aggression is palpable - but so is his sadness and loneliness.

One night, though, a girl appears on the climbing thingie only a few meters away from him.

What follows is one of the most brilliant dialogues I've ever had the pleasure to witness.

And I mean absolutely brilliant. You'll know what I mean when you see it - unless you're one of those people who want their vampire movies to be full of action, T&A and whatever - like Blade and its sequels, or Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 and its sequels, or the Underworld franchise. No, this is a calm, silent and atmospheric movie. When it comes to the use of colour and the atmospheric flow, Let the Right One In reminds me of Trouble Every Day.

Speaking of fans of aforementioned modern vampire flicks: You should avoid this one. It requires intelligence, an appreciation for atmosphere, colour, characterisation, dialogue... the art of fine film-making, to cut this short. There is nothing flashy or sensational to this movie. It's clearly a European movie - and for some reason (I don't want to go into detail, as this would derail into one of my rants), European films differ markedly from USAnian ones. They are slower... more focused on processes and situations rather than action. And I like it. Maybe because I'm a European, so there's a possibility that I'm being biased. Anyways, I fully approve.

Anyways, back to the plot.

The second most-awesome poodle-scene in a vampire movie. Now, there's not just Interview with the Vampire, but also Låt den rätte komma in.

Oskar and Eli (the mysterious girl that only comes out at night, can't eat food or enter rooms without being invited first without disastrous consequences) become friends. There is a slight but distinct sexual tension between the two young kids, which lends a deep dimension to the film, which is not always comfortable (unless you get off to such stuff; then I by no means want to imply that your desires and/or fantasies are in any way wrong - do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, man...). Over the course of the first and second act of the movie, we can watch them bond slowly - a very realistic and careful process. Kudos to the writer.
But as their slow and careful friendship, also characterised by a constant keeping of distance between the two kids, progresses, Eli's nature becomes more and more apparent. Unable to go out during the day, unable to stomach normal, human food, the need to be invited into a dwelling before able to enter... and the fact that she needs to drink human blood. Oskar is troubled by this - the supernatural is introding into his world, and it wears a cruel, beautiful face with smears of blood all over it and its cold, slender hands.

This movie is also a visual journey through the development of Oskar's character and mind. He learns to stand up for himself (okay, maybe beating someone's ear with a giant pole so that they bleed out of the ear and scream constantly is not the nicest and most polite way to go about this, but hey, cut the kid some crap...) because of what Eli tells him. And he learns how to make choices... resulting in the ultimate choice.

This movie is... I don't know how to say it. It is touching, on several different levels. You might have to watch it several times in order to realise the various layers on which this movie is resting, and some things might become apparent only on a subsequent watching (especially if you're not used to movies such like this), but... wow. Just wow. I am truly impressed.

I was looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I heard of it, and I was definitely not disappointed. Everything was perfect - well, everything besides one scene. It's one of "those" scenes - one of those which the movie could have done without. It features fire. You'll recognise it when you see it. Then again, I think it was important to the general understanding of the vampire's condition, so it did serve a purpose. I would have preferred if they had done it in a different way, but still. Låt den rätte komma in is a very special, very different movie. It's not your usual kind of horror - in fact, it's only partly a horror movie. It is also a romance, a movie about friendship, loyalty, growing up, the terrors of it, a study about dysfunctional families and people, childhood, being a teenager... and death and need.

Another thing I want to mention is that I cannot stress enough how brilliant the performance of our two main characters - Oskar (Kare Hedebrandt) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) - is. These teenagers truly carry thewhole weight of the movie's impact on their fragile shoulders, and both do it with extraordinary ability. There is no single second in which the actions, words, gestures or eyes show that these two are not real characters but fictional ones portrayed by young actors. The range of their behaviour is realistic throughout the whole movie. It is rare that I am truly impressed by an actor, much more that I'm impressed by a child-/teenage-actor. But Oskar and Eli truly are memorable, sympathetic characters. I hope they both continue to pursue a career in acting, because they would be a great boon to the general quality of actors. I'd definitely want to see more of them.

Another thing that I enjoyed was that the movie doesn't portray the vampire as our great, awesome, flawless, slightly suffering (morally speaking) hero. The character of Eli is completely human - and at times, completely inhuman. The vampire character has two completely different sides to it - and Lina Leandersson manages to portray both in an eerily convincing way. There is no artificiality to the way she shifts between the two. Great acting. Wherever you found Lina, keep her (and Kare Hedebrant as well!).

And the camerawork... what should I say? Brilliant? Awesome? Outstanding in this specific subgenre of my beloved horror? All of those.

An outstanding movie. It will not appeal to everyone, though.

11/10 solved Rubik's cubes...