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April 16, 2024

Let the Right One In revives horror genre

By HYO JIN HA | October 20, 2016

Let’s face it, vampire movies have become overrated. After the release of the Twilight Saga movie series the vampire genre has taken a turn from classic horror to cheap entertainment. Now, it is hard to take a vampire movie seriously unless it is meant to be laughed at (i.e. What We Do in the Shadows). Thankfully, we still have one vampire movie that can satisfy our thirst for something that’s chilling, creepy yet artistically profound: Let the Right One In.

Based on a popular Swedish novel written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a Swedish movie directed by Tomas Alfredson. The film centers on the frigid loneliness of a 12-year-old boy, Oskar, and his developing relationship with a vampire child, Eli. Since its release in 2008, it has gained international fame and won many awards, its success even led to a stage adaptation that was performed in New York, Stavanger, Seoul and several other cities.

The main character Oskar is an unassuming quiet boy trapped by the people and the town around him. At school he is tormented by a gang of bullies, and at home he lives in an uneasy aftermath of a divorce. Even his hometown, 1981 Stockholm, is a picture of icy isolation. Hurt and helpless, he struggles to cope with his suppressed emotions by collecting newspaper clippings of murder incidents and pretending to take vengeance on his tormentors.

His life is drastically changed when a young girl Eli moves in next door. She soon becomes his only source of friendship and then his eventual lover, happily tapping Morse code with him through the apartment walls and discreetly visiting his room at night. To Oskar it seems as if Eli has brought new meaning into his life, but there is a catch: Eli is a vampire who is several centuries old. Tension begins to build around Eli’s increasingly public appetite and Oskar’s growing determination to take revenge on his bullies. The audience is left to wonder: Will Oskar ever find his true happiness?

What truly sets the film apart is its ability to convey raw emotion through stark yet hauntingly beautiful cinematography. Alfredson keeps his shots simple and imbues them with an incredible stillness that creates an atmosphere of deceptive peacefulness and lurking darkness. Frequent wide shots of barren snow and the lack of pedestrians emphasize the overall sense of isolation and loneliness. Furthermore, the simplicity also lends a feeling of detachment that accentuates the emotions. Amongst the muted colors, the impact of each scene is jarringly clear and poignant.

This simple aesthetic is combined with seamless acting to create the film’s trademark eeriness. Oskar and Eli are both painted as young children pushed to do unimaginable things such as brutally murdering people and gradually developing callous attitudes towards violence.

It is their near impassiveness to murder, more so than the gruesome deaths themselves, that sends shivers down your spine. The actors who played Oskar and Eli put on such a convincing performance that this eeriness never faltered or felt forced throughout the entire film.

On top of the haunting cinematography and exceptional acting, the main themes of the film itself are also highly memorable. Although it is categorized as a horror movie, the film is far from the senselessly gory films that often dominate the horror genre. It instead focuses on the profound idea of what makes us truly human.

Its themes of love, sacrifice, isolation and vengeance are depicted in a way that, even during the bloodiest moments of the film, you find yourself sympathizing with Oskar’s deeply human struggles. His intense loneliness and his desire to be loved is something that we can all relate to, and by the time the credits roll, you realize you’ve formed a heartfelt attachment to the character.

If you find yourself wanting to watch a vampire horror movie this Halloween season, Let the Right One In should definitely be on the top of your list. Although it isn’t for the light-hearted, its dark yet tender human themes and poetic execution will undoubtedly leave you satisfied.

Alfredsonwent on to direct the critically-acclaimed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (fronted by Gary Oldman and also including Tom Hardy and Mark Strong). Alfredson is currently signed on to direct an adaptation of the acclaimed Jo Nesbø novel, The Snowman, starring Michael Fassbender, J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer.

As for the two stars of Let the Right One In, Kåre Hedebrant (who played Oskar) went on to star in the cult Norwegian science-fiction series Real Humans (currently adapted for the American/British audience in the AMC-Channel 4 joint production, Humans).

Lina Leandersson (Eli) has starred in a few Norwegian films since Let the Right One In’s release, including Broken Hill Blues in 2013 and The Arbiter, also in 2013.

The film itself was the subject of a popular Hammer Films remake for American audiences titled Let Me In. Kodi Smit-McPhee (perhaps best known for his recent role as Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse) and Chloë Grace Moretz (of Kick-Ass, Neighbors 2 and Hugo) starred as the young duo of Owen and Abby (the Americanized versions of Oskar and Eli).

Let Me In achieved critical success in the United States with relative box-office success. It also served as a vehicle to prove Moretz’s acting ability even further. That film, alongside the original Let The Right One In, serve as part of the new wave of Halloween classics that have come out in the past 10 years amongst others like You’re Next.

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