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.
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.
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.
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.
B+ (Although I expect this will go up to an A- with repeat viewings, despite the CGI cats.)
No one likes a bully. Seriously. DO NOT BE A BULLY.