Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In) (2008)
SWEDEN --- horror

Dir: Tomas Alfredson

From the land that gave us Ingmar Bergman, ginger snaps, and ABBA (Two out of three ain't bad) comes this fairly minimalist vampire love story. Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In) tells the tale of a twelve-year-old boy named Oskar living a lonely and bullied life in a Swedish suburb. He lives alone with his mother and has a kind of morbid fascination with death, in which he collects newspaper clippings and articles about crimes.

One dark snowy night, Oskar espies a cab drop off a man and a young girl to his apartment complex. Boy sees girl. That night, Oskar imagines vengeance against his bullies outside in the cold snow-bathed playground, and but being watched by his new neighbor, an anemic looking young girl, who outright wants no friendship with him. We are then shown the man named Hakan, who seemingly parents the girl, preparing for some kind of work, little do we realize it's to murder a man in cold blood. Unfortunately, the man haphazardly fumbles up the murder of which it appears he was attempting to drain the victim of his blood by hanging him upside in the woods over a canister. He flees from the scene of the crime when a dog being walked by two girls, finds him. This is cause for concern for his anemic young girl, who scolds him of his terrible mistake, leaving her to have to handle things the old fashion way. She feeds on a bar patron on his way home that same night, leaving Hakan on clean-up duty in which he dumps the body in a reservoir of sorts.

The following night, boy meets vampire girl, Eli, as he introduces her to the Rubik’s cube. In the meantime, Oskar’s bullies get more lethal in their reindeer games, and the police is on the alert for a killer. The townsfolk are all suspicious as one of them was an actual witness to one of the murders of the late bar patron. Oskar in the meantime must deal with his bullies, and the loneliness he feels at home and between his divorced parents, as we are shown his father is in a separate town altogether; also that he may have a bit of a substance abuse problem. This draws Oskar ever closer to his enigmatic new crush Eli, whom he eventually learns is indeed a vampire, and yet that does not change his love for her. She even advises him to fight his bullies back. Eli’s Renfield, Hakan, makes one last attempt to find her food, and this time fearing his identity is known and will lead authorities to Eli, he brings a jar of acid just in case.

Hakan fails again, and Eli severs their relationship forever. Meanwhile, having taken Eli’s advice about fighting back against his bullies, Oskar enjoys his comeuppance and wants to cement his relationship with Eli as going steady. Eli does so and falls him, but must feed one more time on one of the female bar patrons, who is accidentally turned from Eli’s failure to finish the job. The female bar patron destroys herself, and her inquisitive husband goes after Eli during the day with her only defense in Oskar. She returns the favor by destroying his nemesis and they like all fairy tales, they live happily ever after.

In my opinion, Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In) is just that, a great and twisted variation on the fairy tale. It is based on a Swedish horror novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Inferences can be made about Sweden’s neutrality and the cold war of the 1980’s, in which this story is set. Vampirism in this tale could be seen as the aforementioned Red Menace as opposed to Oskar’s bullies, who in turn could be seen as the Western world. I only make these comparisons based on the newspaper clippings of terrorist acts, and the fact that Eli comes off as a manifestation of Oskar (representing Sweden) somewhat pacifist nature to his bullies and neutrality between his parents. The film also has a simplistic color scheme and quiet starkness that attracts attention to it's attention to detail. Red on white i.e., if I'm not mistaken, one beautiful shot has blood drops on a snow-covered branch. Oskar's seems to be surrounded by the color blue consistently throughout the film, until he falls for Eli in which he borrows a red shirt from his estranged dad. Her color of choice seems to go from grey to red.

This is one of my favorite films from '08, because I think there's something to be said of a prepubscent love, in its true innocent form. True romance is an adventure, and it isn't always going to end the way you think. Twelve is an age before all the adult issues can really creep into decisions of what you base love on. In a sense this is a slight variation of the alien visitor motif in films such as "E.T. : The Extraterrestrial" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still", except of course, it has a vampire girl, but if you watch those films again you'll get what I mean. I can't recommend this film more highly, watch it before the American remake you will not be disappointed.