As I’ve been travelling the last few days I’ve been unable to update, so apologies all round for that. The upside of my travels, however, is that I’ve watched a lotta films. So I’ll be putting the Best Speeches in Movie History on the backburner for a few days whilst I digest and review the four movies I’ve seen in the last couple days.
So I’ll begin with 2009’s surprise horror hit, the Swedish vampire move Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in in Swedish). Following the stories of the 12-year-old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a lonely bullied child in a small, isolated Swedish rural town, and the mysterious Eli (Lina Leandersson) who has just arrived. Quickly we realize that Eli is not a normal pre-teen girl, and it becomes apparent that she is, in fact, a vamp.
So far, pretty standard fare. But director Tomas Alfredson (and screenwriter John Ajvide Linqvist, on whose novel the movie is also based) have not followed any of the usual vampire stereotypes, making a visceral re-envisioning of what is normally a repetitive genre. Instead of fearing crucifixes and garlic, Leandersson’s Eli is in essence a survivalist who just drinks blood to get by, and the violence of her acts is simply an unavoidable by-product.
Eli and Oskar’s relationship produces some wonderful chemistry, and it’s hard to believe that the two young leads are first-time actors given how truthfully they portray their roles. Perhaps it is their lack of acting experience which creates this film’s realism, but also worthy of a lot of credit is Alfredson, whose direction is masterful and captures both the desolate, frozen landscape of this small town and the violence of Eli’s vampiric meals equally well.
However, the thing that for me was the highlight of a brilliant film was the sound. The soundtrack itself was excellent, with doleful strings and haunting echoes aplenty, but the sound effects themselves were absolutely superb. The crunch of footsteps on snow, the sound of a vampire’s teeth digging brutally into someone, even the turning of a Rubik’s cube were all tremendously captured, and Alfredson has clearly put a lot of effort into the taping of these noises. The wonderful sounds, combined with some excellent acting and some visceral attacks make for a compellingly realistic vampire movie, not a common occurrence in a genre overflowing with fantastical surrealism.
Let The Right One In is not a typical horror film. It’s not a typical vampire film. In fact, it’s not really a typical film in any sense of the term. But its difference is what makes it so exceptional. Everything from a chat between Oskar and Eli about friendship to the murderous acts Eli commits to survive to the terrifying, brutal and superb climax is wonderfully realized, and cements this movie as one of the best of the last year. Part bewitching horror, part pulse-racing thriller and part awkward romance, Let The Right One In is one of the best films of the last few years and should be canonized as one of the greatest vampire films ever.
10/10 – Almost flawless, encompassing several genres and handling them all masterfully. Watchable if you’re a fan of horror films or not, this is a cracking movie which never drags and has a multitude of fresh ideas. Essential.