Let The Right
Last year, I had the privilege of being invited by a group of friends to see a little-known movie (to me, at the time) called LET ME IN. As always, with films that my radar neglects, I was immediately sceptical though not about to turn down a free ticket. Subsequent to watching it, I sat down at my laptop and did some research as my curiosity began to stimulate the pre-teen AV club nerd within me. Typically when such a thirst for the intimate details and intricacies of a project rears its head, it means that I probably enjoyed the film significantly more than expected. Suffice to say I did and I attributed all the congratulatory kudos to writer/director Matt Reeves for this adaptation. That was until I found out about Let the Right One In.
Now here is me formally reclaiming any and all plaudits lorded onto Reeves and reassigning them to writer John Ajvide Lindqvist and director Tomas Alfredson. Why you ask? It turns out that Let Me In is merely the remake of Let the Right One In - a film that was produced only two years prior. No, a "remake" is not the word; Let Me In is exactly the same film only Americanised for the English-speaking audience. What I am attempting to articulate is the implication that if Let Me In - LTROI's carbon copy - was so triumphant amongst theatre goers like me, then the original will unequivocally receive the thumbs up too.
Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a young outsider often bullied by classmates, begins a romantic relationship with a young vampire, Eli (Lina Leandersson). Soon Eli instils in him the courage to fight back against his tormentors whilst he struggles between head and heart over the morality of knowing that his great love and best friend must kill in order to survive.
This movie marks an unparalleled gem of filmic ingenuity; something rarely executed well - the multi-genre film. It is easy to simply fasten several labels onto a film with the hopes of appealing to as large a demographic as possible but, in truth, LTROI encourages all of its genres magnificently. This is no mean feat considering it is a drama/fantasy/romance/ horror.
Let us break it down: It goes without saying that it is dramatic as it combines several narratives identifiable from reality. Take Oskar's torturous daily grind, Eli's relationship with her father by day/servant by night, Hakan (Per Ragnar), or even Virginia (Ika Nord) and Jocke's (Mikael Rahm) tempestuous relationship complicated further when Virginia is transformed by Eli's bite. It has the qualities of a soap opera dialled down several notches yet far more considerate of the emotionality of it all.
It has its touching romantic aspects in spades. This is not the goofy sparkling teen love that you are fed in some nameless vampiric screen adaptations; this is that awkwardness of prepubescent love expertly embodied by our two young protagonists, Eli and Oskar. Though they do not kiss everything remains so delicate and tender between them. The connection they have makes you recall similar picturesque moments from youth.
Finally, there is the fantasy horror factor; the gothic contemporised. This is where Alfredson knew that he must remain eloquent yet subtle. There is a fine line between depicting mythical creatures as empathetic antiheroes or pure evil so what Alfredson had to avoid is the audience's ability to safely distinguish between the polarities. Consequently when Eli returned to being that nice wholesome young girl after a bout of blood lust, Alfredson would use Oskar as a crux to assure the audience that she is not heartless - she is victim of circumstance; cursed into having to do things that she does not agree with in order to survive. However, when she does become bestial it is an instant to fear. Not solely because the scenes are graphic but it is the nature of these animalistic attacks. She swoops down from the shadows onto her prey whilst their hellish squeals chill our very essence. It haunts you to see it. It haunts you because, though this is a child and something unworldly, the situations are all too familiar. Assailing you as you near your home on a desolate winter's night or whilst you are travelling under that unwelcoming bridge on your way to the shop happens with muggings and rapes I hasten to say. Alfredson knows this and unashamedly utilises it to provoke believability into that which you know is not real. It works a treat.
The attacks look real. Eli's uncanny abilities are rendered artistically by a team who have an appreciation for basic camera trickery and space. With a budget of just over four million, you cannot expect copious amounts of CGI levitation and morph sequences. Instead what you do see and hear is all that is necessary; everything is displayed in such a way as to suggest dynamics like speed and ferocity. For example, there is a scene in which Oskar is at home sleeping and Eli turns up at his window. We do not need to see how she got there, all we know is that she is a vampire and somehow she managed to hoist her way up to the window on third floor of an apartment block. The rest is audience assumption. Additionally, in a different scene, Oskar's father returns and Eli must make a quick escape. She is forced to scale the apartment block once more; we see her move off camera and hear her shuffling across. The next shot sees her sat on the ledge of an adjacent window. It is effortless cinematography but it is very efficient and just as effective. In my opinion, what all of this also does, whether intentionally or otherwise, is cause the audience to question the validity of our understanding. Citing the example I have just expressed once more, we can sometimes be left wondering whether these are the talents of the supernatural or just the slightly surreal capabilities of a human girl who can climb well. The whole movie seems in this vein - hence the fact that she never actually confirms herself as a vampire. It is always obscure utterances like "I live on blood" or "I am 12, but I have been twelve for a long time".
Ultimately, LTROI is a less corny independently styled version of Twilight. Which makes it surprising that Hollywood even contemplated taking it onboard. Hardcore splatter fans; Hatchet types will probably wretch at the sight of this but those who are interested in appreciating filmic aspects will be contented with how a Swedish title can relate instantly to the English-speaking West simply by including English speaking actors. So it is definitely worth a look in.
- Daniel Davidson-Amadi