"Let the Right One In" is another film I missed during its theatrical run. The Swedish horror film was released in the frenzy around "Twilight", trying to capitalize on the similar themes, but I suspect it got lost. That's a shame because "Right One" is a better film than "Twilight" and one of the better horror films I have seen in many years.
I don't go to a lot of 'horror' films anymore because too many (most) are simply excuses to try and gross the audience out. Very few try to create any real horror, any real suspense. The days of "Psycho", "The Haunting" and "Halloween" (the original directed by John Carpenter) are long gone. The best horror films create a mood and place and leave a lot of the horror to your imagination, letting us fill in the gory details. This is much better because our minds know what makes us shiver better than watching images trying to frighten us with blood and guts. Grossed out is not the same as scared.
"Let The Right One In" tells the story of a 12-year-old girl, Eli (Lina Leandersonn) and her grandfather who move into a new apartment in a bleak complex in the dead of winter. They don't come out often and the gossips start to cackle. Oskar (Karl Hederbrandt), a little boy with few friends who has to deal with constant bullying at school, lives in the next building over. One night, he sits in the middle of their snow-covered courtyard and they meet. Oskar and Eli, both outcasts, become friends. As their friendship grows, Oskar begins to suspect his new friend may be a vampire, but seems to be more intrigued by that, rather than frightened. Eli's guardian, caretaker, lover? goes out and tries to find fresh blood for her. But he is getting older and starts to make mistakes. After he is no longer able to supply for her, she ventures out on her own, afraid of what she has to do, out of practice. But Oskar has problems of his own and seems to become more and more empowered by his friendship with the strange girl.
"Let the Right One In" has moments of blood, moments of violence, but these seem designed to punctuate the story, focus our attention, to remind us of the gravity of the situation. A lot of the more horrific moments in the story are hinted at, or occur off-screen, allowing our imagination to fill in the blanks. This is exactly how a horror film should be and what made this little film so memorable.
Director Tomas Alfredson weaves the story back and forth between the two children, showing us how their lives are different and, in many ways, similar. Then, when they meet, he adds a third element and gives us moments of their lives together, showing us how each is changing the other. It is a very nice portrait of these two very different kids and how they cope with their individual problems.
Apparently, others feel the same way, Hollywood has already purchased the rights to make an American version. I hope they won't, but know they will, make this new version as gory and bloody as most other Hollywood offerings.
Catch "Let The Right One In". It is surprisingly good, surprisingly subtle and surprisingly wonderful.
It also has one of the most memorable climaxes I have seen in a film in some time. It made me think of what Hitchcock might have done if he were directing the same film.