Eugene Weekly : Movies : 2.12.09


You Kill Me
The other vampire movie of the year
by Jason Blair

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Låt den rätte komma in): Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel of the same name. Cinematography, Hoyte Van Hoytema. Music, Johan Söderqvist. Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. R. 114 minutes.

Lina Leandersson in Let the Right One In

They say junior high can be awkward, but what a curse to be 12 and a vampire. Eli (pronounced Eeley, played by Lina Leandersson) has just moved into the neighborhood, but there’s little hope of her making new friends since she only goes out at night. Enter Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), the neighborhood night owl. Thin-limbed and with delicate features, like some fragile vestige of the Victorian poets, gentle Oskar screams helplessness, a cry easily heard by the bullies who regularly target him. When Eli makes her first tentative step toward Oskar — she touches his hand, saying she can protect him — his hesitation is pitch-perfect. Better a girlfriend that smells like a crypt than no girlfriend, right? It’s a masterful scene, one of many in this vibrantly intelligent, magnificently stylized film. Imagine Smilla’s Sense of Snow directed by Guillermo del Toro and you start to get an idea of the elegant nightmare that is Let the Right One In

Oskar and Eli become unlikely companions, communicating (when she can’t go outside) by tapping out Morse code on their shared apartment wall. Other walls come down, but just as they’re getting comfortable, Eli’s guardian — a quiet, uncomplicated man who could be her father, but whom you sense was once her companion, long ago — makes a mistake, potentially exposing her. Reluctant to kill the innocent for blood, Eli must choose between starvation and her ancient, demonic biology. While Oskar is gaining confidence, Eli, without her protector, is growing desperate. Listen to the purr of her weakening metabolism, the vampire’s equivalent of a stomach growl. Watch how Oskar examines Eli upon their second meeting, him taking in her clearly revitalized appearance (because, well, she’s been feeding). Perhaps out of love, perhaps to snare him, Eli starts breaking the rules of vampirism, like eating candy or entering a house uninvited, so that Oskar might see her as she once was: a human girl. She’s a monster, he’s a sissy: It’s by far the most convincing love story of the year.

Let the Right One In is the best sounding, best looking film of 2008. So crisp in every detail, so intelligent in its construction, it is an achingly beautiful film to look at. Evoking a world of snow, of lives lived by lamplight, Let the Right One In captures the melancholy and sadness of youth, and youthful love, far more memorably than Twilight ever could. Even that great psychological funhouse The Shining, with its massive snowdrifts and long, deranged indoor scenes, is a touchstone for Let the Right One In, which will surely become a classic. In a genre chock-a-block with mediocre visions, and now resurgent with the lightweight Twilight, Let the Right One In manages to escape its genre while simultaneously reinventing it.

Let the Right One In opens Friday, Feb. 13, at the Bijou.