Let the Right One In (2008) dir. Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Lenadersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl
One of the major buzz horror films this season is a peculiar Swedish vampire flick – “Let the Right One In”. Sweden’s not known for it’s horror films, but this one manages to take a familiar genre of teenage angst and vampirism and inject a thoroughly-skewed Scandanavian spin on the genre.
We’re in a small, depressed wintry Swedish town. Oskar is a lonely and shy pre-teen kid. The bullying he suffers at school has become so annoying he dreams of the day he gets to stab to death his abusers like a stuck pig. One day while Oskar is expressing his rage by stabbing a tree he meets an equally lonely girl, Eli. This is no ordinary girl though. She’s a vampire who loathes her existence and clings to Oskar to rekindle her once ordinary life. She’s attracted to both his timidity and his rage. Through Eli Oskar develops the courage to stand up to his enemies and claim his dignity.
Cudos to Alfredson who manages to breathe new life into the bloated vampire genre. He’s very sure not to make this a typical genre film by using a distinct visual style and pace. His frames are immaculately composed tableaus. No shot seems out of place, or wasted. Every camera movement is carefully executed.
Unfortunately his stylistic efforts also act as a crutch on the film. Pacing so unnaturally slow should be used sparingly to emphasize a scene or build up tension. As the audience we’re continually waiting for the shoe to drop, to pay off, but it never comes. It’s like persistent slow motion. Every shot has a laboured beginning middle and end. Dramatic pauses seem to last eons.
Perhaps the pacing is designed to mask the razor-thin plot, which if performed in regular speed is really about 30mins of screen material. Not much happens at all. There’s one so-called ‘plotpoint’ midway through the film when Oskar triumphantly fights back against the bullies. It’s a great moment, but in between this and the next moment of conflict for Oskar his character seems to be on pause for 45mins.
The trump card in Alfredson’s pocket is the climatic scene, which admittedly is, hands-down, bar-none, the stand-alone ‘scene of the year’. Alfredson crafts a tense confrontation between Oskar and the bullies in a vacant swimming pool late at night. In one of the most stunningly creative, disturbing and yet beautiful shots ever conceived in the horror genre Alfredson caps off his film with a bang.
Unfortunately the final scene is not enough to forgive the lengthy tedium of waiting we have to suffer to get to this point.
“Let the Right One In” has been winning awards and increasing it’s buzz over the past few months. It’s original and daring and stylistic and a refreshing change to the traditional vampire genre-film, and rightly deserves its attention. But beware of over-hype. “Let the Right One In” is art-horror film, with more art than horror.