With the US remake Let Me In looming I thought it appropriate to revisit the exceptional original so that I can make the inevitable comparison more accurately.
Without even seeing Let Me In I know that the original Swedish version already has three major things going for it:
1 / The backdrop. I understand the US version is set in the desert but you can’t go past snow for that feeling of isolation and the thought of bitter cold. I’ll take the heat over the cold any day.
2 / The two leads are total unknowns. Whether you think their acting chops are any good or not, at least you won’t spend the first 15 minutes elbowing your mates and saying “That’s Hit-Girl”.
3 / Let the Right One In was first dammit. Credit must go to the guy who came up with the concept in the first place.
Not that I am writing off Let Me In without first seeing it at least, the reviews from the US are extremely positive indeed.
When you’re a young skinny runt of a lad you cop some shit – take it from me – so it is no surprise that young Oskar feels quite alone, especially given that his parents have split (he lives alone with his Mother) and must rely on himself far more than most kids 12ish. Oskar in fact cops even more than his standard share from a trio of boys lead by a cocky and brash ringleader, at night he plots an intricate and powerful revenge that he will never have the courage to carry out.
When a young girl moves into the apartment (I don’t know if that’s the right term in Sweden, let’s just say in the same group of buildings) and actually talks to Oskar he is excited but still nervous. The young girl is similarly waifish, and according to Oskar is a little on the nose. She lives with a man who is seldom seen and seems to keep to himself.
At the very first meeting the new girl Eli tells Oskar “ I can’t be your friend… that’s just the way it is”. From here aside from the bullies and a couple peripheral characters this is a movie about 3, and even that number reduces.
When locals start dropping and witnesses claim a “kid” is behind things the local community more than a little antsy and nervous, especially given the state of some of the bodies found. Oskar gradually pieces together bits of information and his own hunches and wonders if perhaps Eli is somehow behind some of these events. But as a 12 year old boy with your first crush you’ll overlook a little vampirism sometimes when there’s hands to be held!
Meanwhile the local kids continue to team up to make Oskar’s waking hours a nightmare.
Eli and Oskar form a strong bond over these nighttime meetings, as they are in adjoining rooms they develop various ways of communicating. Eli urges Oskar to fight back regardless of how hopeless his situation might seem. Fight back hard.
Let the Right One in is deliberately paced and gradually builds its way up to the few points of physical violence, which it must be said are violent, bloody and impactful.
The last third of the film in particular just maintains the status quo for as long as possible, knowing that the audience already knows what needs to eventuate, but making them wait for it for what seems like an eternity to drag the tension levels up.
The film doesn’t glorify or glamorize the vampire existence, nor does it make it “poster on a teen’s wall” sexy or appealing. If anything the film tells the story of a childhood relationship that seemed doomed from the very beginning as Eli herself initially pointed out.
And this is the very reason Let the Right One In, and indeed Let Me In will likely remain critical successes only and be sidestepped by the teeming masses who want the gloss not the pitfalls.
This film is perhaps less a horror film than a (blehhhh) human drama, though inevitably if ya put in vampires and let them drink blood horror is where it will be pigeonholed. I was never scared during the film, I only wanted nothing bad to happen to either human or “other”.
One last point, there is little in the way of big budget FX or flashy computer generated stuff, it relies mostly on real action and simple camera tricks which in the main work effectively, the unfortunate thing is that in the one scene where they do try CGI the film is let down. Badly. (Miaow!)
I love Let the Right One In, I’m not sure how rewatchable it is or how much an audience it will demand now that Let Me In has arrived, but I have now watched it 3 times in its two years of release and I am not in danger of growing tired of it yet.’
Final Rating 8.5 / 10. – If the US version is half as good as this… it will suck (that’s a 4ish / 10!). I think I will enjoy the remake but Let the Right One In is a masterful piece of original cinema.