Let the Right One In is a 2008 Swedish horror film directed by Tomas Alfredson. It is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay for the flick. It tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy Oskar who develops a friendship with a vampire child Eli. The film was met with a ton of critical acclaim and has won a slew of awards.
There are several versions of this film including versions with the original Swedish dialog, a dubbed version in English and a subtitled version. I watched the dubbed version (more on that later).
SPOILER ALERT: As per usual with my reviews, I’ll speak openly about the plot of the film. If you’ve not seen it and don’t want to be spoiled stop reading now and return after you’ve seen the film.
Oskar, a frail 12 year old boy, lives with his mom and occasionally visits his dad in the country. Oskar is clearly a disturbed child collecting newspaper clippings talking about local murders. Sadly, Oskar is bullied relentlessly at school and when left to his own thoughts plots his revenge (though he’ll never carry them out).
A little girl Eli moves in next door and they strike up an awkward relationship. Eli is living next door with an older man Hakan, though it does not appear they have a father / daughter relationship. After a while, Oskar and Eli start using a code made of scratches to talk to one another through their adjoining walls between apartments.
It becomes apparent that Eli is in fact a vampire when Hakan kills a jogger to harvest fresh blood for her. Why she’s not doing this herself isn’t told at this point (or ever for that matter). He is interrupted by a dog walker and returns home with nothing for Eli. She is then forced to kill a local man to feed. A friend of the killed man (and local drunkard) sees the attack but doesn’t quite believe what he’s seen. Hakan hides the body in a local lake.
Hakan tries again to harvest blood for Eli but is once again successful this time being trapped by authorities. Before being trapped he pours acid all over his face so he cannot be identified. He is taken to the hospital but kept secured. Eli goes to the hospital and appears outside his window. He opens the window, allows her in and offers her his neck.
On a school trip to go ice skating, Oskar stands up to the bullies hitting one with an awkward strike on the ear, splitting it open. A fellow classmate finds the body that was previously hidden in the lake. Oskar finds out that Eli in in fact a vampire when he suggests “going steady” and trying to form a blood pact. He cuts his hand and at the sight of the blood Eli goes nuts, dropping to the floor and lapping it up.
The drunkard tells his friends that he’d see the attack. This ultimately leads to another man Lacke going to Eli’s apartment looking to kill her. He gets there and finds her sleeping. He’s about to kill her with Oskar appears, shouting and waking up Eli allowing her to kill the man. Eli leaves town soon after realizing the town is on to her and that she is no longer safe.
Oskar receives a phone call from one of the bully’s looking for revenge. They lure Oskar to school for an after-school fitness program at the pool. The bully’s older brother forces Oskar under the water, threatening to stab his eye out if he does’t hold his breath for three minutes. While Oskar is underwater, one of the bully’s feet are seen dangling just under the surface of the water as he is dragged over the pool. His feet leave the water and his severed head falls into the pool. The older brother’s arm, which held Oskar underwater, is ripped off, and floats into the water. Oskar is pulled out of the water only to see the returned Eli has saved him. They smile as they look into each other’s eyes.
The film ends with Oskar traveling by train with Eli in a box beside him, out of the sunlight. They’re showing scratching code on the box to one another as credits roll.
This was a tricky one for me. It came very highly recommend by a friend of mine who likes foreign horror flicks. I’ll admit that foreign horror typically isn’t my sub-genre of choice and I’m not a huge vampire buff so I had some muted expectations. Let The Right One In is very slow and methodical. There are very few what I would call “action” sequences here, but that’s because it’s not REALLY a horror flick. This is more of a coming of age, relationship story really. What starts out as (quite frankly) a rather boring story to me eventually morphs into a very sweet story about a relationship between two tweens.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is so awkward it’s painful. He may very well have the worst haircut in the history of horror movies, but despite all of it he’s a very likable character. I found myself begging him to stand up for himself and when he finally (sort of) did I was happy.
Eli is played brilliantly by Lina Leandersson. In looking through her IMDB entry it doesn’t look like she’s done much acting since and that’s a shame cause she does some amazing work here.
The rest of the cast is quite frankly pretty forgettable but they don’t do anything so egregious that I need to point it out. They’re there and help move the story along. They allow the stars to shine and for that I have to give them props.
My biggest issue with this was that I was watching a dubbed version. The voice actors were simply atrocious. Their inflection was bad and I got the impression that the translation wasn’t all that great to begin with. They made several of the characters come across quite differently than I think they were supposed to be portrayed. There were several times where I think (I don’t know cause I don’t read Swedish) there was some information I missed on the screen due to the fact it was printed in Swedish and wasn’t subtitled. If you’re going to watch this one I’d definitely suggest the subtitled version.
For a vampire movie, there’s surprisingly little blood or gore here. There’s only a handful of attacks here and none of them are especially gory. The bloodiest spot of the whole flick is the final scene where all of the “destruction” takes place off screen (while Oskar is being held under water). I do have to say that that scene was amazing and were I sitting in a theater I may have stood up and cheered. If you’ve seen the trailer (above) it makes it look like a super disturbing and action filled vampire flick. That’s just not the case but it’s well worth your time to watch.
I have to say that after reflection Let The Right One In is definitely a recommendable movie. It’s certainly slower than most modern horror flicks and it’s definitely not for the gore hounds out there. But the story of Eli & Oskar is actually a sweet one and you find yourself rooting for both of them. I’d definitely recommend watching either the original version (if you understand Swedish) or the subtitled version if you don’t as I think there really was quite a lot lost in translation. In doing some research and chatting with fellow ScareTissue compatriot Trapjaw, I hear there are quite a few differences between the source material and what was put on film. I’m going to add that to my reading list for sure cause it sounds like some of the dropped sub-plots were very interesting.