• Vishaal Desai

'Let the Right One In'


'LET THE RIGHT ONE IN' (2008) (Låt den Rätte komma in)
 
Directed by – Tomas Alfredson

Written by – John Ajvide Lindqvist

Adapted from the novel by – John Ajvide Lindqvist

 

WARNING: SPOILERS ahead!

Vampires are arguably the most oft used ‘supernatural creatures’ in media entertainment. From Bela Lugosi’s chilling portrayal of ‘Dracula’ (1931) to Robert Rodriguez’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (1996); from Marvel Comics’ ‘Blade’ series to Joss Whedon’s popular TV Series – ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ vampires and their incarnates are used in many ways, whether evil or good or simply mindless bloodsucking monsters. These films are generally consistent in their use of the vampire myth. The vampires may be allergic to garlic and holy water, or UV rays and silver might to the trick. In some cases the writer completely throws out the ‘myths’ and the only thing that works is a stake to the heart. However, there are always recurring motifs – the vampires are a sub-race of humans or they are affected by a disease that results in their blood-lust; they may be hell bent on ‘world domination’ or they may go on feeding frenzy. But occasionally, there is someone who breaks the trend and takes the concept to a unique place.

‘Let the Right One in’ – (Låt den Rätte komma in) is a Swedish film adapted by writer John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel of the same name. Although it retains elements of the Vampire Myth, the story itself avoids clichéd parameters of the genre and brings in a fresh perspective. The story takes the characteristics of the genre and turns it on its head, without sacrificing the tone. The pacing is slow, but apt and there is a marked subtlety to the interactions between the characters. There is a certain endearing quality to the central character – the young boy Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) – that makes him easy to relate with. He is an outcast and an easy target for school bullies. A silent sufferer, his life is compounded by being shuttled between divorced parents. Kåre Hedebrant’s performance is subtle but strong. The lack of overt facial emotion gives him the appearance of someone who has shut out the rest of the world.

The arrival of the young vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson) changes things for him in many ways. Suddenly he finds a companion not unlike himself in the way that she seems to shy away from social contact. Though she initially refuses to befriend him, she is intrigued and they eventually form a tentative friendship which continues to develop and evolve as Eli begins to trust Oskar enough to reveal her secret to him. The relationship between the two comes across as sweet, tender and yet something about Eli’s demeanor exudes an uncomfortable feeling both for Oskar and for us as the viewers. However, for all her apparent strangeness, there is a genuineness about Eli. Once she begins to trust Oskar to keep her secret, she does not hesitate to show affection in her own way. Lina Leandersson gives us an eerie and captivating performance as Eli that evokes equal parts sympathy and unease.

The setting of Blackeberg in suburban Stockholm makes for an ideal location, providing an eerie atmosphere that accentuates the pace and tone of the story. Oskar’s loneliness and Eli’s desperation are both a product of this environment and in some ways a cause, particularly in Eli’s case. Her arrival along with her ‘keeper’ or ‘guardian’ affect the community in terrible ways, though the people are unaware as to who is responsible. When Eli needs to feed, her ‘keeper’ kills stragglers and drains their blood for her. In many ways, Eli grooms Oskar to be her next ‘keeper’ and by the end of the film, this is exactly what is hinted.

For all the subtlety in his approach, Alfredson doesn't shy away from employing a sense of the ghastly with Eli’s vampiric tendencies. The climax in particular is horrific - Oskar is in mortal danger as his head is forcibly held underwater a swimming pool by a bully. The camera perspective is from underwater and we can see Oskar struggling. In a shot that can only be described as a ‘reverse shark attack,’ we watch from Oskar's point of view as one of the bullies holding him underwater is attacked by Eli and dragged across the pool. All we see are his feet from below as they are pulled along the water as if caught by a shark. This terrifying image reveals just how dangerous Eli can be.

'Let the Right One In' is a film that is anything but a typical rendition of this genre. It is both stark and poignant, with a well emphasized atmospheric environment and a story that is capable of enchanting and disturbing you at the same time. This odd juxtaposition of emotions make it a unique and rewarding film to watch.

VishRates - 4 / 5

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