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The Right Stuff: Bleak Swedish vampire tale hits all the right veins 

click to enlarge Oh, the sad plight of the young vampire.
  • Oh, the sad plight of the young vampire.
Oh, the sad plight of the young vampire.
While it stands on its own as an atmospheric art movie, Let the Right One In could be interpreted as the ragingly popular Twilight's polar opposite - human boy meets vamp girl instead of the reverse. Adolescent love grows between pre-pubescent 12 year olds instead of hormone-frenzied 17 year olds, the plot and direction being realistic and bleak, rather than fantastical and uplifting.

This movie sucks you in from the eerie opening scene: through a window an anemic-looking blonde boy Oskar (Kare Hederbrant) brandishes a knife in front of a mirror, pretending he is telling someone to "squeal like a pig." Oskar's morbid side stems from the bullying he confronts in school on a daily basis. He's a weird kid for sure, but not as weird as his neighbors. Eli (Lina Leandersson) and her "dad" (Per Ragnar), move in next door, revealing a relationship that is bizarre beyond belief. Set in a remote Swedish town, most of the action takes place in a park between an apartment complex and an elementary school.

The customary getting-to-know-you fare between Oskar and Eli is handled in a way that's anything but standard. She's sickly, he's odd, and they start to get along against their better intuitions. Soon people begin disappearing, but it seems the exhausted townsfolk of dysfunctional misfits (looking haggard and unhealthy) are too engrossed in their own personal dramas to be bothered. It seems alcoholism and isolation have gotten the best of the entire town.

Even when the two are being cute it remains somewhat repulsive. Using close-ups of both Oskar and Eli, director Tomas Alfredson allows for intimate revelations - the frozen snot above his lips, her blood-caked fingernails. The film is shot in fuzzy tones and the dark, snow-covered landscape recalls the recent Alaskan vampire flick 30 Days of Night. Every shot has a distinct artistic composition and is often accompanied by '60s Euro-rock. The soundtrack comes in hypnotic waves- a scene opens with a quick snap, morphing into ambient drones that lead to slow fades.

Don't worry, there is plenty of gross-out gore action too, including bloodlettings, bloodsucking, blood draining, acid burning, neck munching, throat slashing, cat attacks and some good death gurgling. If there's a soft spot in the delivery it's Alfredson's use of special effects, which although rare, detract from the integrity of the film.

Let the Right One In is anchored by the performances of the youngsters, as they seem to grasp their characters' desperate feelings. There are a few standouts in the townsfolk as well. Lacke (Peter Carlberg) looks like a boozed-up Dave Edmunds and has by far the best quote stating to his pal Jocke (before his inevitable demise), "Thank you again for another evening steeped in merriment and friendship."

Most vampire movies, from Nosferatu to Underworld, involve an impossible love and the inner turmoil that goes along with it. They all share the undead's thirst for blood, the secret shame of succumbing to their need, and their desire to protect and yet be with the one they love without lapsing into a feeding frenzy. But, this captivating flick has so many original concepts floating around that it almost invents a new genre. Its intention is not to make you swoon but to make you think. Built on self-destruction, it captures the ultimate metaphor for undying young love.

Let the Right One In ★★★✩

Starring Kare Hederbrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord. Director: Tomas Alfredson


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