The film “Let the Right One In” is set in 1982, in Sweden, in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a twelve year old child who is often lonely. His parents. Yvonne (Karin Bergquist) and Erik (Henrik Dahl) have divorced. Furthermore, he is frequently the target of Conny (Patrik Rydmark), Jimmy (Rasmus Luthander), and Martin (Mikael Erhardsson), who are a trio of bullies at his school. In order to escape his isolation, he ventures outside of the apartment building where he lives, when Yvonne leaves for work at night. It is there, as well as other places, where he dreams of revenge against those who torment him. One evening, he meets the mysterious Eli (Lina Leandersson). She is one of two new tenants, who have moved into the building where he lives. Eli is new in town, and she and Oskar appear to be the same age. She doesn’t act like a child of twelve, and for good reason, she’s not. Eli is, in fact, a two centuries old vampire, stuck for eternity inside of a child’s body. The other new tenant is Hakan (Per Ragnar). For an undisclosed amount of time, he has been helping to provide Eli with what she needs, but as of late, he hasn’t been taking care of her at the level he used to. This, in turn, forces Eli, to venture out on her own in order to ensure her survival.
A friendship between Oskar and Eli grows stronger as the film progresses; even though Eli stated, when they first met, that the two couldn’t be friends. Their friendship is a struggle at times, but what seemingly becomes Oskar’s love for Eli, wins out, whenever he’s in a moral quandary regarding her actions. As she explains to him, in a matter of fact manner, she does what she has to in order to survive, not because she likes it. Oskar’s acceptance of, and concern for Eli, is something which she greatly appreciates. Eli attempts to reciprocate the friendship Oskar has shown her by getting him to drop his passive approach to dealing with the bullies, and take his revenge on them out of his fantasy life and into the real world. In essence, she is trying to instill in Oskar the courage to stand up for himself and fight back.
The film does not showcase an overabundance of special effects, or shock value, but is instead character driven. The horror aspects of the movie, are for the most part implied, and not shown to the viewer. The blood and gore that is shown in the film, mostly represents the aftermath of what has taken place. In addition, in many respects “Let the Right One In” is not a traditional vampire film. Eli need not fear seeing crosses, eating garlic, or people trying to kill her with wooden stakes, but she is still governed by a good deal of the well known vampire mythology. For example, going out in the sunlight is off limits to her, as is entering someone’s residence without an invitation; these are things that can result in dire consequences for her.
“Let the Right One In” was directed by BAFTA winner Tomas Alfredson. John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote the screenplay, which was adapted from his bestselling, 2004 novel “Låt den rätte komma in.” On October 28, 2008, St. Martin’s Griffin published an English version of the novel, which was translated by Ebba Segerberg. The film premiered on January 26, 2008 in Sweden at the Göteborg International Film Festival. On September 13, 2010, an American-British remake of the 2008 film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film which was re-titled “Let Me In,” was written and directed by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes). The English language version stared Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Oskar, the character’s name was changed to Owen for the remake. Additionally, Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), was cast in the role of Eli, whose name was changed to Abby. While overall, not a bad film, it failed to generate a profit at the box office. The film was budgeted for approximately $20,000,000 and it grossed a bit over $12,000,000. Conversely, “Let the Right One In” was budgeted for an estimated $4,000,000 and wound up making close to $11,300,000.
Trivia buffs take note: Actress Lina Leandersson’s voice was considered too delicate to be that of a centuries old vampire, so actress Elif Ceylan, was cast to do voice over work for all of Leandersson’s dialogue. In 2005, the short story collection “Låt de gamla drömmarna dö,” which translates into “Let the Old Dreams Die,” was written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. He writes what life is like for Oskar and Eli, years after the events of “Let the Right One In.” In 2017, TNT was set to produce a series based on the film, but for unknown reasons, the show never came to fruition, even though a pilot episode had been ordered by the network.
What makes the atmospheric film a fantastic entry into the horror genre, is the relationship between Oskar and Eli. The child actors do an excellent job in their respective roles; there is not a false note to be found between them. The cinematography of Oscar nominee Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk) helps to excellently capture the right amount of tension. In addition, the score composed by Johan Söderqvist (Spring Tide), helps to set the right tone for what is transpiring on screen. For those looking for something that strays from conventional vampire movies to deliver an absorbing and well-executed film, this is a can’t miss, especially for horror fans, who haven’t yet gotten around to watching this gem from Sweden.