Oskar, a bullied 12-year-old boy, has a hard time fitting in. He spends his evenings plotting revenge on his bullies. When he meets Eli, the mysterious 12-year-old girl who just moved in next door, he finally feels that he’s found a friend. In a town being plagued by brutal murders, it’s a good idea to have the right sort of friends.
I’ll be completely honest here. When it comes to this movie, I saw the American version first. At the time, I didn’t even know there was a Swedish original, but it’s been one of my goals to see it ever since I found out. I was even more intrigued by it when one of my film professors called Let the Right One In “one of the best things to come out of Swedish film in recent years”
When it comes to a lot of European films, specifically in the case of the Swedish films I’ve seen, it’s important to remember that the pacing is much slower than what mainstream American films have viewers accustomed to. I needed to remind myself of this as well when watching this film. It’s not a movie that you can multi-task while watching. If you do that, you’ll miss out on what the film is trying to say. Once I got myself in the right mood to watch Let the Right One In, I started to really enjoy it.
One of the most notable things about Let the Right One In is that the cinematography is very artistic. I really enjoyed the framing of some of the more violent or disturbing scenes because they were framed in such a way that you could see the entire action, but you still had to imagine some of the more gory details. The attacks were filmed in a long shot format. It felt really eerie, and I think it escalated the creep factor of this little girl, moving like an animal as she pounced on her prey. I’m sure this was utilized in the American version as well, but I thought it was beautifully well done in this film.
It was hard to separate the American version from the Swedish version while I was watching the film because I already knew what the general story was. While the two films do share their ultimate end-game, they reach that point in slightly different ways. Within the Swedish version, the cast of characters seems far more close-knit which makes the attacks and murders far more sinister, and it makes the situation for Eli far more precarious. Everyone knows each other, so the residents are on high alert from the very beginning. This difference also makes some of the deaths far more tragic because the film actually lets you know some of the characters.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Eli and Oskar more in this original version of the story. The slower pacing made their progression seem a lot more natural. It seemed like it took place over a longer span of time. I didn’t notice too many changes with Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) in relation to other versions, but I felt that the actor portrayed the loneliness very well. It was very tragic.
As for Eli (Lina Leandersson), I was completely mesmerized. The actress definitely portrayed a character that has experienced many more years than it would seem. I was completely captivated by her eyes. One of the most shocking things about the character was the voice. The voice was much deeper than what you would expect. After doing some research, I found that the actress’ voice was re-dubbed in post production to make her sound older and more menacing. That does explain a lot.
I would say that Let the Right One In is a pretty decent vampire movie, especially considering when it came out, just before the big vampire craze. I’d have to agree with my professor about it being a great film, probably one of the best dramatic horror films of the decade between 2000-2010. It has drama. It has horror. It has romance. There are even some nuances to the even deeper story included in the book (which were undoubtedly left out of the film so the movie wouldn’t be any more heavy with the added themes).
Let the Right One In is currently available on Netflix streaming, and if you’re a fan of foreign horror, I’d definitely suggest giving it a shot while it’s there.