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Let the Right One in [Blu-ray]
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Blu-ray edition.
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Let the Right One In is a quietly thrilling gem that works wonders with the vampire genre - it surprises and bewitches in its own particular way, delivering a unique, original experience that should satisfy cinephile and horror-fan alike. It's the most tasteful and magical take on the undead for some time - everything "Interview with the Vampire" wanted to be and "Near Dark" actually was for its time.
In case, though, you're getting visions either of some fey, cod-romantic nouveau horror, or of some gritty, sweat- and blood-streaked actioner, let me also say that this gorgeously-composed glory manages to work its spell by exploiting the ordinary, even banal side of the mythos. It's set in a modern, urban (Stockholm-suburb) reality whose understated "glamour" comes from being perfectly photographed and pin-drop sound-engineered. It's the perfect backdrop for this wonderfully oblique tale of childhood trauma, neighbourhood gossip, mundane lifestyle - and outrageous slaughter.
The film is a contradictory, bitter-sweet, excitingly low-key horror-romance; easily the most affecting story of mismatched childhood love (quietly awesome performances from the kids, indeed) for ages. If you loved "The Innocents" or the original "Haunting" or "The Woman in Black," this should really grab you; there are also reminders of the best elements of such works as "Innocent Blood" and "Salem's Lot."
The imagery of "Let the Right One In" is pitch-perfect in counterpointing the joy of well-observed everyday detail (hand-prints on glass - very specifically (visually and acoustically), double-glazed; frosted breath, the light at night in snowbound suburban forest)... and starkly-suggestive grue (frozen blood, hungry child's eyes, fear-stricken cats).
There are constant shots that had me breathless at their composition and the skill of the lighting camerawork (many examples, but especially a shot of the vampire-child's accomplice lurking in a darkened changing room as a torch shone from the other side of a frosted door-panel lights up his hunted reflection on the other side of the glass; or the masterly framing of the sequences in the estate's courtyard play-area, with, as the Director remarks in the excellent commentary, things intentionally happening at the edges, or off-centre, of the frame). It really is a film totally immersed in looking, listening and feeling.
The "artful beauty of the ordinary" is key to the film's success: letting the wildly imaginary tale of a blood-parasite child and her bullied "boyfriend" appear so casually, unarguably real. The film is brilliantly simple and calculatedly ordinary; the net effect being a heightened sense of bathos, a kind of exquisitely laconic truth to things. Bloody poetic, you might say!
The sheer ingenuity of the way the tale is told is captivating. The swimming-pool climax had me gasping in admiration and wincing all at the same time: just the right balance of subtle suggestion and out-and-out dismemberfest. In many ways, this is a jewel that defies any evaluation beyond an exhortation to see for yourself; you won't be disappointed (either climactically - or at any point).
An outsider boy, fragile, picked on, and harboring violent fantasies of revenge is befriended by a strange, pale young girl who doesn't
seem to feel the Swedish cold.
It's a strange and fascinating mix of tones; bloody, gory killings, very sweet, well acted pre-teen romance, and occasional black comedy. There's also an interesting, complex morality here. Both our young heroes have deeply violent, sadistic streaks within them. Yet we root for them, even though some off her victims are truly innocent, and he collects stories about murder like a nascent serial killer. It grew even deeper emotionally on 2nd viewing.
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