You could probably tell from my spirited endorsement of The Marx Brothers’ movies a month ago that I’m hoping to point you all toward areas of the film landscape that you’re missing if you just stick to the past 40 years of Hollywood blockbusters (not that I’m opposed to those either, of course).
Today’s film is in another such area, because it is a Swedish film. If you’re a person who has never watched a movie that was made in a language besides English, then let me take this opportunity to tell you that you are missing out on huge quantities of truly incredible cinema. A case-in-point of what you’re missing out on (and a great place to start, if that unfortunately describes you) is the Swedish horror-drama Let the Right One In. And for a spoiler-free account of why you should make it a priority to check this film out, read on.
I say that this is a case-in-point for what can be lost by not watching foreign films because there is some possibility that you are already familiar with the 2010 American remake of this film, titled Let Me In, which may be regarded as a knock-off of the Swedish film (meaning that its content is not far off from the original, but its quality is definitely and noticeably worse).
I am not biased against remakes; in fact, I wrote an entire article 2 months ago about how to do a remake right. I only object to a bad or unnecessary remake. Although I would strongly urge you to wait until after watching Let the Right One In before viewing it—due to many spoilers—this video provides an in-depth account of the obvious superiority of the original. Let the Right One In is tense and weird and wonderful. It is rightly acclaimed and it bends the horror genre more successfully than scores of other recent horror films.
The most potentially surprising thing about the elegant visuals, profound pathos, and visceral bloodshed of Let the Right One In is that it would be accurate to call it a ‘vampire romance movie.’ If you’re anything like me, those words are tinged with heaping helpings of negative connotations that force flat, grey cinematography, schoolyard-level writing, and emotionless acting to the forefront of your mind. Well, lay your worries to rest. This is no young adult fanfiction gone rogue; this is a serious R-rated treatment of a strange connection between two sad people: an old unwilling killer and a young vengeful loner.
I would issue a warning by way of saying that this movie is not for the faint of heart. In addition to its violence, there are some shocking and gruesome visual effects thrust before the viewer. The visual effects, by the way, are another area where Let the Right One In unambiguously outdoes Let Me In. Where Let Me In has bad CGI full of awkward positions, overly quick movements, and unbelievable flailing, Let the Right One In has good CGI that never replaces important action sequences, is minimally implemented, and shares the screen with many excellent practical effects.
Let the Right One In does not skimp on the tension, action, and violence to accompany its drama, but unlike so many hugely popular movies that contain those same elements, the characters are nuanced, subtle, and realistic. They are not reduced to action archetypes and they have clear and interesting motivations.
It impresses me whenever the lead actors of a movie give emotionally interesting performances, but for actors as young as the lead pair in Let the Right One In to provide such phenomenal acting is endlessly commendable. Lina Leandersson and Kåre Hedebrant do better than many actors that have quadruple their experience. Equally commendable is a director who trusts their actors and their audience enough to make the film visually interesting rather than blatantly and repeatedly forcing the viewer’s focus from one object or face to the next.
It might be billed as a horror film, and there might be details in it that are horrific, but Let the Right One In is at base a brooding drama that takes place in a horrific world. The coldness and hostility of the movie’s universe is captured brilliantly in the look of the movie, as well as in the structure of its character developments. I have previously written about how The Sixth Sense uses its supernatural elements to further an essentially human story. Similarly, Let the Right One In pushes the boundaries of what is possible with a horror movie. It also pushes the boundaries of what is possible with a dramatic movie. In fact, it pushes the boundaries of what is possible with a movie.
If you’ve ever thought, ‘A new, serious, realistic take on life in a world where vampires exist would be awesome . . . too bad all we have is that bloated series for kids and others following in its footsteps,’ then I would strongly urge you to watch Let the Right One In. But if you watch a lot of movies and like it when you see one that’s unpredictable and high-quality, then forget about the vampires; Let the Right One In is an extremely taut, well-acted, well-made film. Watch it.