LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a movie that sits on the boundary between art-house and mainstream, much in the manner of THE SHINING. The movie is based on the successful novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, lazily referred to as the Swedish Stephen King, but director Tomas Alfredson has shot it with a lingering, stylised beauty that belies its violent subject matter. In a wintry Swedish sink-estate, a shy, thoughtful boy called Oskar meets a strange, self-confident girl called Eli. She gives him the confidence to stand up to the school bullies: he is her first real friend in years. Many years. Eli is, in fact, a vampire. As the movie unfolds we see Eli come out of hiding to protect Oskar, and Oskar accept Eli's vicious nature. It's a story of first love and willing suspension of disbelief that is beautiful to contemplate despite its gory denouement.
As I was watching the movie I felt like I was in the same position as Oskar - so mesmerised by the strange, fairy-tale tone of the film that I was willingly ignoring the many questions the movie raised - and the many plot points it was skating over. Who was the father figure Eli was commanding to kill on her behalf? What was with the strange scene showing an apparent castration? What did the final scene really mean?
Since then, I have read the novel, which is indeed more graphic and more disturbing. Oskar has far more vicious tendencies - Eli's past is fully explained - and the issue of "grooming" is explored. It adds up to a more complicated, more thought-provoking product. I couldn't help but regret that the movie had sacrificed this darker material to achieve it's dark fairy-tale tone.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was released in Norway, Sweden, the USA, Poland, South Korea, Finland, Germany, Denmark and Australia in 2008. It opened earlier this year in New Zealand, Italy, Russia, France, Singapore, Lithuania, Mexico, Greece and Estonia. It is currently on release in the UK and Iceland and opens next week in the Netherlands. It opens in Portugal in May 7th and in Argentina on July 23rd.