Let the Right One In

Horror

  • Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, from his own novel
  • Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Last night I saw what may be the best vampire movie I’ve ever seen. Better than Horror of Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and Lost Boys; better even than Nosferatu. It’s called Let the Right One In. I’m really glad I finally caught it. I missed it at the Mill Valley Film Festival and at the Dead Channels festival, where it won the Best Film Award.

It opens today at the Bridge, the Shattuck, and the Rafael. Bad timing for a horror flick–coming out a week after Halloween.

Let the Right One In is a Swedish film, set in winter, and that’s an advantage right there. The nights are very long. And snow covers everything. People drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers.

It’s also a coming of age story, about first love in the blush of early adolescence. Or is it early adolescence? The girl says she’s twelve, but later admits that she’s been twelve “for a very long time.”

The boy she admits this to is the film’s protagonist, Oskar ( Kåre Hedebrant). Skinny, shy, and frustrated, Oskar suffers the pains of youth worse than most twelve-year-olds. He has no friends, and makes an easy target for especially cruel bullies.

Then Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves into his apartment building. She’s his age (or appears to be), seems almost as shy, and doesn’t go to school. How could she? She only comes out at night. Slowly, tentatively, they each let down their guard and become friends. Very close friends.

As is appropriate considering the age of the characters (and presumably, the actors), this is not a sexual vampire story. Yes, Oskar and Eli fall in love, but it’s the innocent, pre-sexual love of twelve-year-olds who’ve never so much as kissed. Even when she climbs into his bed, she does it for friendship and warmth (it is a Swedish winter), not passion.

Let the Right One In earns its R rating for language and gore. There’s quite a bit of gore. Many of the grisliest scenes are played, effectively, for laughs.

This may well be the first horror movie to make my top ten list.