“I’m Twelve. But I’ve Been Twelve for a Long Time.”

I’ve wanted to see Let the Right One In for a couple of years now.

I’ve also wanted to see Let Me In, its American counterpart, since I watched an excellent panel for it at Comic Con last year. But I figured I should see the original before I saw the remake, and I hesitated to see Let the Right One In because I heard that the subtitles for the American DVD release had been significantly altered. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

A couple of days ago, I finally gave up waiting and just watched the damn thing, censored subtitles and all.

SUMMARY:

Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a lonely little boy who likes studying gruesome murders in his off time when he’s not getting beat up at school. Then he meets his new neighbor, a young girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who likes solving puzzles and drinking other people’s blood. It’s a complicated friendship.

NOTES:

1. Well, first, let me deal with the subtitle stuff. (I only watched dubbed movies if I’m forced. Or if it’s a cheesy kung fu movie, in which case bad dubbing is almost a part of the experience.) After watching Let the Right One In, I found a side by side comparison of every single line they changed for the American release, and while it’s annoying that they changed them in the first place, there was really only one bit of altered dialogue that I found to be a significant deviation. Everything else was doable . . . I didn’t feel like I lost much by watching the Americanized subtitles.

2. Now, as far as the rest of the movie goes . . . I think this is one of those films that I’ll like more and more each time I watch it. But on a first viewing, yeah, I thought it was pretty awesome. Let the Right One In is a quiet, slowly paced film, and the bits of death and violence are even more sudden and vicious because of it. The red pops, you might say. The film is really beautiful, shot to be both elegant and macabre, and many of the scenes stick with you long after the movie is over.

3. Without talking spoilers, unfortunately, I can’t go into too many details about my favorite scenes, suffice it to say that some of the best and most horrific stuff isn’t actually shown to you. It’s implied, or you see bits of what’s happening, but the whole picture is never revealed, and it’s that inability to see what’s going on that serves to make everything so much creepier.

4. This isn’t to say, though, that I didn’t have some problems with the film because, well, that’s me, I guess. One of my biggest issues with Let the Right One In is a subplot that centers around this guy, Lacke, who sees Eli murder his best friend and desperately tries to figure out what the hell is going on. I get why Lacke is sort of crucial to the film, but I think his storyline seems awkwardly balanced with everything else that’s happening, that he feels forced in somehow. Every time the camera goes back to Lacke and his merry band of friends, the whole film seems to slow down . . . and in a way that doesn’t work to serve the story.

It might help, I think, if I liked Lacke a little better, if I felt a bit more sympathy for him, got a better sense of his character. . . but I just didn’t care about this guy at all. Eventually, things picked up with his storyline, but it took a little too long and mostly, I was just very bored with him.

5. Oskar’s dad is also kind of strange. There’s this scene where Oskar and his father are playing some sort of game, having a good, ole wholesome time, and then this weird guy walks in. At first, I thought that Weird Guy was Oskar’s Dad’s Jealous and Possessive Boyfriend, but then he seemed too creepsome for that. So, I was like, Oh, this is the guy that’s going to break Oskar’s Dad’s legs for some horrible gambling debt we don’t know about yet. But then . . . that doesn’t happen, either. In fact, they never talk about this scene again in the film, and I had to look it up online to discover that Oskar’s Dad is an alcoholic. And I’m like, O-kay . . . I was supposed to get that how, exactly?

6. The other huge problem with Let the Right One In? CGI cats.

Seriously. They might as well look like this one.

In this film, cats don’t like vampires very well. That’s pretty normal, actually. Most animals don’t take well to vamps—or werewolves or zombies or pretty much any kind of supernatural being, for that matter, unless they are that monster’s familiar or animal-to-call. So, when an unsuspecting vampire walks into a room full of cats . . . well, it’s not pretty.

Also not pretty? The CGI felines themselves because my god, man, they’re terrible. In some kind of silly horror movie crapfest, I could get over something like that, laugh it off and forget about it, but this movie is elegant, dammit. It’s a gorgeous horror film. To cheapen it with shit CGI, even for a just a few moments . . . it’s a pretty poor choice. The cats weren’t worth it at all, trust me.

7. Still, the rest of the film is exceptionally well done, and the acting of everyone involved—especially the two kids—is really very good. You like Eli and Oskar, feel sympathy for them, even relate to them . . . quite the feat, considering Oskar could very well be heading for a career as a school shooter and Eli, herself, is a bloodsucking murderess.

8. I do wish we got to know a little more about Eli’s companion, Hakan, though. I don’t mind some ambiguity, but it might be interesting to see a little more about where he comes from, why he’s attached to Eli, that sort of thing. Also, Hakan is not very good at killing people. (It’s not much of a spoiler, honestly. It’s almost the first thing you see him do.) You’d think he might be better at it, assuming he and Eli have been together for some time, but he chooses some very oddly public places to drain his victims of their blood. If you can see cars—and not just like one car, but like lots and lots of cars passing by in the not-that-far distance—you are not deep enough in the woods, okay? Hakan is admirably loyal, but he is just a bit on the useless side.

9. Thankfully, Eli is not useless at all. Eli is creepy as hell.

If horror movies were a salad, I think evil children would be like the tomatoes. You don’t absolutely need to have one, but they’re pretty much expected by all involved. I, myself, always enjoy a good, creepy kid in any given scary movie . . . but just because I enjoy them doesn’t mean they really freak me out, either. Like some friends of mine have complained, it can be hard to be frightened of something that’s half your height. If you can step on your vicious, four foot tall attacker, maybe you should stop running and drop kick the motherfucker already.

But Eli, all of 12, is no one that I’d want to mess with. She is one creepy godamned child. I completely buy her as a vampire. In fact, she’s easily one of my favorite vampires I think I’ve ever seen on screen. There are a shortage of really great vampire movies, in my opinion, but this is definitely one of them.

10. And while Let the Right One In doesn’t spend a lot of time debunking or crediting the usual vampire myths (you know, garlic, crosses, holy water, etc), I like that this movie takes the time to show what happens when a vampire tries to enter a home uninvited. It’s easily one of the best scenes in the film.

11. Also, that ending . . . that ending is perfection. I love the last ten minutes of this film. It’s like something out of a fairy tale, only bloodier.

12. Finally, I don’t think I’d much care to go to Sweden anytime soon. It appears to be a land of cold weather, unfriendly children, bloody murder, and ugly sweaters. Not my idea of a good vacation spot.

Tentative Grade: 

B+ (Although I expect this will go up to an A- with repeat viewings, despite the CGI cats.)

Moral:

No one likes a bully. Seriously. DO NOT BE A BULLY.

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22 Responses to “I’m Twelve. But I’ve Been Twelve for a Long Time.”

  1. Dave Nielsen says:

    I hadn’t heard about the subtitles, but based on this the version I downloaded had the unsanitized ones.

    The cats weren’t worth it at all, trust me.

    I can’t trust you on this one as they seemed pretty convincing. And we only see them in close up for a very short time.

    The book is worth a read, and will clear up a few things. It’ll give you a lot more background on Hakan too. I really didn’t like the book’s explanation for how vampires work, and why they have to be invited in. But oh well, it does give a little more detail. Oskar is a described as being physically a bit different, and is (at least at the start) even more of a pussy.

    I’d have given this one an A. Not an A+ but it deserves an A.

    • Seriously? I despised those cats. I know they’re only in it for a very short time, but I saw a pretty clear shot of their faces and . . . no. No, those cats were bad.

      I’ll have to try out the book sometime. I don’t need tons of detail, but learning a bit more about Hakan would be cool.

  2. Dave Nielsen says:

    Oh, and about the sweaters. This is set in the early 80s. Rubik’s Cubes were big. Ugly sweaters – at least in Sweden – must have been in too.

  3. Susan says:

    i was also going to say “maybe read the book” it’s unbelievable gross and sick and pervy and will make you uncomfortable, but it’s worth a read.

    i loved both versions of the movie, but the swedish is slightly better.

    and i was going to say too that it’s the 80’s and sweden isn’t as lame as we are about material shit and fashion, so that may account for some of the clothing crimes.

    • I don’t know. I feel like the 80’s might have caused the existence of a global fashion crime, but unfortunately I’m not in the position to remember the decade well enough to backup that particular hypothesis 🙂

  4. Macabre says:

    I remember seeing this website before I watched the movie, where it gives examples of the butchered subtitles in the American release and how they completely ruin much of the subtlety of the original script. (http://iconsoffright.com/news/2009/03/let_the_wrong_subtitles_in_to.html) Because of that, I chose to watch the dubbed version, just because it followed the proper script.

    It is an excellent movie, and one of the better horror movies to come out in the last decade or so. I haven’t read the book, either, but I’ve been told that, in it, Hakan is apparently a pedophile, which makes sense. It’s also interesting how many people watch Let the Right One In without realizing that Eli is actually a boy— or used to be, at least.

    Let Me In is a good movie, too, and I probably would’ve loved it if I hadn’t seen the original. Let Me In makes a few minor changes. For instance, no CGI cats. But too many times I felt like I was just watching a scene-by-scene recreation of the original, same camera angles and all. The two young kids in it were excellent, though; Hit Girl, especially.

  5. Dave Nielsen says:

    I avoided mentioning details like that to avoid giving any spoilers. Good job.

  6. Fatpie42 says:

    Am I the only person who didn’t mind the CGI cats at all?

    I mean, to be fair they are mainly puppet work.

    I thought they did the job admirably. I’m actually rather annoyed that there are no cats in Let Me In, especially since there’s a rather cool part in the book where Eli has to face one down.

  7. Fatpie42 says:

    I had to look it up online to discover that Oskar’s Dad is an alcoholic. And I’m like, O-kay . . . I was supposed to get that how, exactly?

    It doesn’t matter whether Oskar’s dad is an alcoholic or not. That doesn’t have to be true for the scene to work and to be honest that sounds like a rather puritanical reaction.

    The thing that’s supposed to upset you in that scene is that, when the friend of Oscar’s dad turns up, the dad is suddenly more interested in chatting with the friend than spending quality time with his son. Oskar needs his dad to be there for him and has a great time while his dad is focussed, but when his friend turns up that is all ruined. It’s about Oskar’s dad’s priorities, you know?

    • Fatpie42 says:

      Just to make clear, it’s the idea that Oskar’s dad is an alcoholic that sounds puritanical. As far as I can remember from both the movie and the book, Oskar’s dad is not an alcoholic. He’s just easily diverted from spending time with his son by a friend looking for a drink and an adult chat.

      • I think you and I must have very different definitions of the word puritanical.

        I read a quote by the director that stated that Oskar’s dad is supposed to be an alcoholic. (The quote itself was a response to other confused viewers asking if the father was supposed to be gay.) At the time, I had assumed that his alcoholism was drawn directly from the book, but it appears now that this wasn’t the case, not that it really matters. I understand that neglect is supposed to be the important idea in this scene. There are many reasons your parent might not make time for you, and you certainly don’t have to be an alcoholic to be a bad parent. That being said, if the director wanted the idea of alcoholism to come through clearly . . . I think that pretty much failed. And the scene still feels off-kilter to me. The friend is creepy. There appears to be hidden business between the two of them, a backstory that the audience isn’t privy to, and like Mekaela already commented, questions about the friend’s sudden presence, why the father was very abruptly focused on the friend, etc., etc., detracted from the neglect itself. I don’t mind the basic idea, but I think the scene could have been a lot clearer.

      • Fatpie42 says:

        Sorry I didn’t reply earlier, but I’ve got to answer a few points you make here.

        “I read a quote by the director that stated that Oskar’s dad is supposed to be an alcoholic.”
        That might be his interpretation, but the section of the book he was adapting doesn’t make that clear at all. Neither does his scene in the movie. In that sense, it’s a good adaptation because while he has his own view of how it should be interpreted he hasn’t forced his interpretation into the material.

        “And the scene still feels off-kilter to me. The friend is creepy. There appears to be hidden business between the two of them, a backstory that the audience isn’t privy to, and like Mekaela already commented, questions about the friend’s sudden presence, why the father was very abruptly focused on the friend, etc., etc., detracted from the neglect itself. I don’t mind the basic idea, but I think the scene could have been a lot clearer.”
        I didn’t have this problem at all. It’s natural that a meeting with older friends is going to be very different from playing games with your son. It’s along the lines of “sit in the corner Oskar, adults are talking”. And I think we can all relate to that to some extent. We’ve all been in a room as a child with “grown-ups” talking about things which feel very distant from our own experience. The difference is that it isn’t normally interrupting the limited quality time we have with our parents. Alcoholism is a good plausible explanation for why the father might be so easily distracted by his friend as to instantly start drinking with him. However, it’s not the only explanation and it isn’t essential that we interpret it that way.

        “I think you and I must have very different definitions of the word puritanical.”
        A father decides to have a drink with his friend while his child is around, so therefore we should instantly consider him an alcoholic? That strikes me as puritanical. What did I miss?

        • I don’t believe the director intentionally made his interpretation unclear. Obviously I won’t know this for sure until I talk to him myself, but the article I read didn’t make it sound like he was trying to be purposefully ambiguous, more like he was surprised that people didn’t get the drinking thing. And if he wanted us to get the drinking thing, well, then it failed. And either way, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I still find the scene distracting and awkward..

          I misunderstood what you said. I thought you were saying my problems with the director’s interpretation were puritanical, not the interpretation itself.

  8. Mekaela says:

    “It doesn’t matter whether Oskar’s dad is an alcoholic or not. That doesn’t have to be true for the scene to work and to be honest that sounds like a rather puritanical reaction….”

    I don’t understand how this is a puritanical reaction. I think the point Carlie was trying to make is that the movie failed to explain the dad’s alcoholism and therefore the scene came off as strange – at least to us.

    Yes, we understood the basic idea – Oskar needed his dad and dad wasn’t there for him – but since we didn’t know the background story (which I’m guessing is that this is a regular thing – dad gets drunk with friend but feels bad about it?) we were left scratching our heads going ‘wtf is that all about’. Why does he suddenly start ignoring Oskar? What is up with this friend? Are we missing something important? These questions basically detracted from the importance of the scene – Oskar being neglected – because we were too busy trying to figure out *why* he was being neglected.

    • Susan says:

      it was strange. i saw the movie before i read the book and i expected them to reveal his father was a perv or abusive or something. instead he was just a dull and bookish person, and i had no idea he was supposed to be alcoholic. i just thought he was quiet and loved his son but they didn’t share a deep bond.
      perhaps i’m lame for typing “deep bond” and even “bookish” but that’s how it came off to me.

    • Fatpie42 says:

      In the book the dad isn’t an alcoholic and, as far as I was concerned, he isn’t an alcoholic in the movie either. This isn’t missing background. It’s simply one possible interpretation.

      Seeing as all we are shown in the scene is the father having a drink with a friend, that doesn’t suggest alcoholism whatsoever. To INSIST that it has to be interpreted as alcoholism definitely seems puritanical to me. (Or alternatively, I’ve just discovered, it could be deferral to the interpretation of the director. But I’d say “death of the author” and all that, y’know? The director’s interpretation isn’t canon, only the film itself.)

      I don’t think everything in a movie has to be spelt out and I don’t think that not knowing the relationship between the father and the friend ruins the mood at all. We are looking at it from Oskar’s point of view. He doesn’t know what they are discussing and neither do we.

  9. Teacups says:

    Book aside, the general assumption seemed to be that Hakan had once been like Oskar, and had slipped into a caretaker role once he grew up, even though he could no longer really connect with her. I kind of like the idea that Oskar is simply the latest in a long string of kids who befriended and then covered for and fed Eli, although Hakan’s incompetence doesn’t make much sense here, if he’s been doing this and getting away with it for a few decades. In the book he was relatively new at it and just not particularly good (they’ve had to move at least once after almost being caught, I think several times) which fit better with what we saw of his attempts to get the blood.

    • SPOILERS included for Let the RIght One In:

      When I started the film, that’s what I figured, that Hakan was pretty much just a grown up Oskar . . . but now I’m not so sure. Once the film confirmed that Eli could create another vampire, I started to wonder if she might eventually turn Oskar herself. They could be little vampire children running around Sweden (and maybe they’d sucker in another caretaker for the both of them).

      • Fatpie42 says:

        “Let Me In” strongly suggests that Hakan (well, his equivalent) is just a grown up… um… whatever Oskar’s name was in that movie.

        In the book of “Let The Right One In” we are told all about Hakan’s backstory. As such, in the book we know just how different from Oskar he is. In fact the “zombie” stuff makes the distinction between their relationships with Eli very clear indeed.

        Still, I must admit, I saw the movie of “Let The Right One In” before reading the book and, on first watch, I thought that Oskar was becoming another Hakan and wondered whether Eli might not just get tired of him too…

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