Forget Twilight. Forget True Blood, and forget Anne Rice (I can now see hordes of rabid Anne Rice fans wanting my head on a platter for putting her work in the same category as those other pieces). If you want a thought-provoking, artistic, and downright beautiful film about a vampire, you need look no further than what is easily and single-handedly the greatest vampire film ever made. I am, of course, referring to 2008’s Let the Right One In, an import from Sweden and a film that makes you thankful we live in an age where it’s simple to have access to great foreign cinema.
Let the Right One In follows the tale of 12 year old Oskar, a boy who lives with his mother in a small apartment in Sweden. Oskar is viciously bullied at school and is not, generally, of the healthiest mental state, as he has an unnatural pre-occupation with grisly murders and acts out revenge fantasies against his tormenters at home with a knife. Eli (played in one of the best children performances that I can think of by Lina Leandersson) is a girl that has moved in next door to Oskar who is hiding a large secret. She’s a vampire. What follows is one of the most heart-breaking and sincere tales of childhood, loss, one’s first love, and growing up that I can possibly think of. While this is a horror film about a vampire, more than anything else this is a film about what it means to be a child and to love, and those themes mixed with the dark and horrific nature of the vampire tale leads to easily one of the best horror films of all time.
I can’t begin to say enough good things about Lina Leandersson’s performance as Eli. Her stage presence and natural delivery skills (as far as I can posit from a performance in a language I don’t speak) are absolutely astounding. I really hope that she is a future huge star in her homeland. Her performance ranks among the all-time great performances by a non-adult like Anna Paquin in The Piano, Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine, or Haley Joel Osment in A.I. or The Sixth Sense. The same can’t be said for Oskar’s actor but anyone would look less than stellar compared to the performance of Eli.
The only thing keeping this film from perfection for me are the scenes that don’t focus on Eli and Oskar’s relationship. They distract from that beautiful tale and are unnecessary at enforcing the major themes of the film. That’s probably one area in which the recent American remake Let Me In actually succeeds more than this one. Really, I can’t think of a single type of person that I can’t recommend this movie to. It’s dark and atmospheric for the people who prefer that, but it also tells a hauntingly beautiful take of love and loss as well.
Final Score: A