Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Let The Right One In – Review

Let The Right One In – Review

Jan 19, 2010

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Tomas Alfredson, 2008

The haunting DVD cover of Let The Right One In caught my eye as I passed by the  new release section of Blockbuster Video and boy am I glad it did.  This dynamic and thought-provoking Swedish film (based on a novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist) makes a genuine connection with its viewers on a number of levels, including themes such as loneliness, revenge, love, and justice.

The story takes place in Stockholm during the early 1980’s.  Oskar is a twelve year old boy who is bullied in extreme ways by his schoolmates, a reality that is coldly overlooked by his mother despite Oskar’s beaten and bruised body.  However, the boy’s troubles are not dismissed by a new resident in Oskar’s housing community, another twelve year old girl named Eli.  Eli is accompanied by an adult male, the status of whom is not entirely clear.  This could be a father, a mentor, a friend, or a random guy who has fallen under Eli’s spell.  However, the role of this companion is quickly revealed as he sets out to find teenage boys, slits their throats, and brings back a feast of blood for young Eli.  Yes, we discover she is a vampire.

The relationship between Oskar and Eli mirrors the indwelling longing of all humanity – the desire to feel connected to another human being.  For Oskar, the difficulty of relationships is bred from his own dismal experience with both friends and family.  For Eli, the secret of her true identity keeps her from truly and fully connecting with anyone.  Yet, the two find a common bond that is both surprising and moving.  Even after Oskar learns the truth about Eli’s vampirism,  his loyalty to their relationship serves as a harsh commentary on our society’s tendency to abandon those we love in times of distress.  Oskar and Eli find themselves in an interesting role reversal when Oskar has to turn into the stalker in order to save Eli from an angry family member of a previous victim.

The relationship continues to be affirmed by the viewer when not only does Eli help get revenge for the mistreatment of Oskar, but we see Oskar himself begin to stand up for himself.  Again, the markings of a healthy relationship are noticeable; looking out for the other partner while at the same time helping them to grow and mature.  And on a more simplistic level, who doesn’t love to see justice carried out for a shy, vulnerable 12 year old?

All these things aside, the beauty and skill of the director are seen in our continued love for Eli even after watching her brutally attack and kill an innocent human for her own survival.  Although we sympathize with her victims, the on-screen carnage does not cause us to turn against Oskar’s new friend.  Whether it is Captain Spalding in House of 1000 Corpses or Neil McCauley in Heat, I am always impressed when we can watch a character brutally kill someone in cold blood and still find ourselves identifying with them.  Although we don’t wish to be them, and we know their actions are wrong, the character relates to us in certain ways that can’t be ignored.  That is the mark of a great story, great directing, and a great movie.

The relationship, of course, was destined to fail from the outset.  Such is the curse of being a vampire.  The cost of immortality is the spilling of human blood and that always tends to disrupt what might otherwise be a promising relationship.  So, Oskar must move on eventually without the continued presence of Eli, but his life will never be the same.  I think of a young John Connor watching his best friend, a Terminator, descend into a molten-lava death.  The relationship was destined to fail, and yet Connor will never be the same again.  So we have great hope for Oskar and for ourselves, that we can learn from and grow in all our situations, even when they are not designed to be permanent.  Eli, on the other hand, must continue her painful immortality by wreaking havoc on the innocent and leaving, once again, someone she loves behind.  In this way we see an interesting parallel to the doctrine of death as recorded in the Bible.  Although we understand death to be an enemy and not the original purpose of God’s plan, He nevertheless uses it as a great gift as well.  For a life of immortality housed inside a sinful, cursed body can only create an eternity of continued sorrow, frustration, and hurt.

Let The Right One In works on all levels; I am hard pressed to find much negative criticism on the film.  Rent it and enjoy.

One comment

  1. Patricia Ann O. /

    I’ve heard good things about this movie but havn’t saw it yet. But after reading your review, I think I’ll check it out! Thanks

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