MOVIE: Let the Right One In (2008)

I actually rented this movie a couple of months ago, right after it first came out on DVD.  But before I had a chance to watch it, I came across an review online about how the subtitles for the DVD release had been shoddily redone, overly simplified and totally lacking in most of the substance the reviewer said had made this film so brilliant.

I figured, meh, how bad could it really be?  So, I plopped it into the machine and sat down.  I first tried the subtitles, and could immediately see what the problem was.  Not only would the characters talk in several sentences only to have the subtitles read something like, “Next door,” but sometimes the conversations didn’t even make sense.  Clearly not okay.  So, I started over, this time with the dubbing turned on, as I had also read that the dubbing was accurate even where the subtitles were not.  I only lasted about three minutes with the dubbing, though.  Good LORD, it’s unbearable.  So, frak.  I returned the DVD the next day and resigned myself to waiting for a rerelease.

About a week ago, I noticed this movie had been added to Watch Instant at Netflix.  Since that doesn’t cost me anything, I decided to give it a try and see if they’d fixed the subtitles yet.  And guess what!  THEY HAD!

Hallelujah.

This film — nay, this BRILLIANT film — is about two 12 year-old neighbors in Stockholm.  The first is a boy named Oskar, a pale, lonely boy who spends most of his days dodging bullies at school and his nights sitting alone in his room or outside in the snow, looking solemn.  One night, while outside, he meets a girl named Eli.  She’s just moved into his building, and though she’s a bit on the odd side, Oskar takes a shine to her almost immediately.  The two begin to forge a strong friendship that gradually moves into something much deeper (in a chaste 12 year-old way, no worries).  All the while, a serial killer is roaming the streets of Stockholm, attacking and then exsanguinating victim after victim.

The more time Oskar spends with Eli, the more he begins to notice several things about her that are inexplicable.  For example, she goes out into the snow barefoot and coatless and yet never shivers or appears to be chilled.  She doesn’t eat, either — in fact, the one time Oskar gets her to take a bite of something, she retches it back up violently.  Her skin is cold.  She smells funny.  And what I loved about Oskar was that not only did this not really bother him, but he very quickly deduces it’s because she’s a vampire.  As though that’s the most natural explanation in the world.

But Eli is not the blood-thirsty monster most of us associate with the word “vampire.”  Eli is devastated every time she kills — more than once, we see her sobbing over the body of one of her victims.   In her eyes is a sadness that penetrated me with a viciousness that took my breath away more than once.  And Oskar — so sweet, so thoughtful, such a fascinating and wonderful boy.  About halfway into this movie, I had a sudden yearning to be a mother, which is not something I experience that often anymore, and it was because I caught myself thinking about what it would be like to be able to talk to a boy like Oskar every single day. To claim him as your own and protect and care for him.   Because Oskar too is painfully, urgently sad.  Neglected, lonely, lost, forgotten, tormented.

This movie is really much more a coming-of-age tale than a vampire yarn, though it is not without the violence you’d expect from a film of the latter genre.  And these two kids, man, they just were so spot-on with everything — the things they say to each other, the way they say them, the things they fear or are frustrated by, the way they touch each other: absolutely, mesmerizingly brilliant.  There’s this one scene where Eli comes to Oskar’s apartment and stands outside the door waiting to be asked inside.  Oskar seems puzzled, so Eli tells him she can’t come in unless she’s specifically invited.  But, as is so authentic for a child, Oskar pretty much dares her to come in anyway.   “What happens if I don’t?  What happens if you walk in anyway?”  he says.

And, also so authentically for a child, Eli answers his questions by blinking at him for a moment and then striding right through the door.   It’s almost a dare in return, really:  hurt me.  Hurt me, I dare you, hurt me.  What happens to Eli next is so absolutely horrifying that Oskar immediately launches himself at her, embraces her completely, and begins to yell hysterically, “You’re invited!  You’re invited!”  And me?  I burst into traumatized tears, and I think — and, to be honest, fully hope — that I will never completely let go of that scene as long as I live.  It was, quite simply, the most stunningly painful things I have ever seen.

This movie is agonizing to watch — the intensity of the sadness and pain in these two children is completely overwhelming at times.  But get over that and watch it anyway.  The cinematography is incredible, the acting is mind-blowing, and the storyline will absolutely destroy you in all the very best kinds of ways.

This movie, like Oskar and Eli themselves, deserves to be seen.

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Genre:  Horror, Drama
Cast:  Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson

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9 Responses to “MOVIE: Let the Right One In (2008)”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    I have to love a review that uses the word “exsanguinating”. I only got through about 20 minutes of this movie and I was turned off by the blood. I saw this in a special viewing so I wonder if I saw the version with the simplistic subtitles. I remember thinking that there wasn’t much to the story. But I totally would not be able to watch a dubbed version – it makes my head hurt.

  2. Wendy Phillips Says:

    I’m a sucker for a coming of age story–those (sometimes painful) rites of passage kids go through. Bully revenge stories also rock! I saw it months ago and I still think about it.

    I saw the movie with good subtitles and was so irritated when the US release contained the simplistic ones. I had pimped this movie to everyone and died of embarrassment when the movie contained the dumbed down subtitles.

  3. alisaj29 Says:

    Just put it on my netflix list. Maybe I can get my hubby to watch it, dispite the subtitles. Although I could never get him to watch Pan’s Lab, even though that movie is FABULOUS.!

  4. Trip Says:

    One of the best lines in any vampire movie – “I’ve been 12 for a very long time”.

    Heads up for that pool justice scene!! (Rimshot)

    One part of this movie I didn’t get though – I’ll probably have to watch it again – what was up with Eli’s minder guy? He was obviously not a vampire, and you can deduce that through some sense of captive fear or favor or responsibility he had to go out and harvest for Eli, but…WTF? The guy is epic fail incarnate, so shouldn’t they have been found out long ago? I don’t remember that part being explained very well.

  5. Trip Says:

    I have an update on the long-running Christian Bale thread running on this blog…

    Just watched Terminator Salvation today, and I have to say…this is the second movie in a row where Bale is upstaged by a co-star – in this case, the Australian Sam Worthington. Throughout the movie, Bale’s now infamous incident with the cameraman kept coming back to me.

    There’s several scenes involving Bale’s portrayal of John Connor where I was left thinking “Jesus, dude… Dial. It. Back.” He’s by far the least interesting character in the movie, and there’s a few scenes where I was cringing at his overly-intense portrayal of what amounts to be a secondary character in a story where he’s supposed to be the main axis for the story.

    Maybe it’s the sci-fi fan in me, but I don’t think it was nearly as bad (or mediocre) as the critics made it out to be. It’s an entertaining summer flick, better than T3 and certainly worthy of full price, as long as you see it on an all-digital screen.

    Sam Worthington surprises as Marcus Wright, the wild card character, whose allegiances are questionable but action credentials are unassailable. See it for him and the action.

  6. megwood Says:

    Huh, glad to have the review of T4, thanks, Trip. I’m not surprised to hear about Bale. I wasn’t even planning on seeing it because of the ads I’ve seen, where everything he said and did made me CRINGE. But Sam Worthington — I can’t resist a man with a name like that. So, I’ll put it back on the to-do list.

    I just saw Star Trek twice in three days, by the way. AWESOME.

  7. zini Says:

    AMAZING movie, and how creepy, really, the train scene in the end where Oskar has assumed the new “role” recently vacated by Eli’s caretaker! Read the most amazing review that compared the book to the movie and the book is supposedly much much darker. Oskar is NOT terribly lovable in the book, Eli’s “Renfield” is a pretty sick pedophile and Eli is a lot more sinister (doesn’t show or feel the remorse implied in the movie). All in all the reviewer said the movie really softened everything, but ya know what? I loved the movie and have zero desire to read the book now! This movie stays with you. worth seeing. I call it my Swedish Vampire Buddy Film

  8. Laura Says:

    Meg, I was scrolling through to make sure you hadn’t reviewed this wonderful film before I emailed you about it and . . . of course, you have already!

    This is one of those films that stayed with me for days afterward. I’ve watched it twice now and it only got better the second time. There are so many things I like about it, but what I find most refreshing is how “real” it feels. No gothic sexy vampire stuff. It’s what it might actually be like if there really was a vampire in the world. There’s one scene when she sobs after attacking one of her victims. Wonderful!

  9. TC Says:

    Great movie, but I am amazed how dark this one really was.

    The knowledge that Oskar was essentially played by Eli and will suffer the same fate as her other caretaker stays with you long after the movie is over.

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