Acclaimed Swedish horror film based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a sensitive, fragile, 12-year-old boy, living in the suburbs of Stockholm in the early 1980s, who is bullied at school and spends his nights dreaming of revenge and rehearsing knife attacks in the courtyard behind his apartment building. There he meets his new next-door neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson), a mysterious girl of his own age who turns out to be a vampire. With Eli on his side, Oskar is finally able to face up to the bullies who have made his life such a misery, but Eli's unquenchable thirst for blood brings problems of its own.
The enduring popularity of the vampire myth rests, in part, on sexual magnetism. In Let the Right One In
, Tomas Alfredson's carefully controlled, yet sympathetic take on John Ajvide Lindqvist's Swedish bestseller-turned-screenplay, the protagonists are pre-teens, unlike the fully-formed night crawlers of HBO’s True Blood
or Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight
(both also based on popular novels). Instead, 12-year-old Oskar (future heartbreaker Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) enter into a deadly form of puppy love. The product of divorce, Oskar lives with his harried mother, while his new neighbor resides with a mystery man named Håkan (Per Ragnar), who takes care of her unique dietary needs. From the wintery moment in 1982 that the lonely, towheaded boy spots the strange, dark-haired girl skulking around their outer-Stockholm tenement, he senses a kindred spirit. They bond, innocently enough, over a Rubik's Cube, but little does Oskar realise that Eli has been 12 for a very long time. Meanwhile, at school, bullies torment the pale and morbid student mercilessly. Through his friendship with Eli, Oskar doesn't just learn how to defend himself, but to become a sort of predator himself, begging the question as to whether Eli really exists or whether she represents a manifestation of his pent-up anger and resentment. Naturally, the international success of Lindqvist's fifth feature, like Norway's chilling Insomnia
before it, has inspired an American remake, which is sure to boast superior special effects, but can't possibly capture the delicate balance he strikes here between the tender and the terrible. --Kathleen C. Fennessy