Tomas Alfredson's Let The Right One arrives at a time when the vampire film finds itself in a rebirth. With hits like 30 Days Of Night, True Blood and Twilight in the mainstream and the promise of more (Remake, Sequel or otherwise) in the pipeline, this particular blood-filled sub-genre hits another stride with this moody Swedish import.
In LET, we find a familiar adolescent movie scenario. 12 year old Oskar finds himself being bullied by the kids at school. Naturally There will be several scenes of Oskar being mercilessly tortured by these jive-ass turkeys, and ultimately he has to learn to stand up for himself.
Early on, Oskar strikes up a friendship with fellow 12 year old, Eli. She's literally the girl next door and soon a romance starts brewing between the two. For Oskar it stems more of natural adolescent curiosity, and for Eli, it is to truly connect to someone more her age. Or at least the age she was before her life had changed forever. A change of course that has left her with an appetite only for blood.
The picture's primarily focus is on this relationship, and this is where it is most alive. I found myself captivated and curious to where things were going, even if I knew ultimately things would lead only to carnage and in true bergman-esque film fashion, a feeling of real despair. The usual vampire movie will rely on other films for a shorthand with vampire lore and the ever bending of the rules originally layed down in Bram Stoker's novel. This film forgoes any focus on that and is much more content on homaging more artfully made films like that of Swede master Ingmar Bergman or the devestating emotions yet honest innocence you can find in a picture like Louis Malle's Murmur Of The Heart.
Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography for the most part keeps things appropriately bleak and haunting. The swedish suburbs where it is set, and the endless snow surrounding everyone in any given scene, give it a real feeling of isolation. I think the film makes some big missteps anytime it dwells too long on the adult characters. And there are definite lulls between some of the set pieces or scenes that are emotionally compelling. I won't even go into the scene involving a laughable CGI cat attack! If the film were a bit more tight and focused, I think it would have highlighted it's admirable strengths.
Regardless, LET goes to places most american films about the horrors of adolescence don't go to very often, or at all these days. A teen Vampire romance like Twilight may have it's legions of fans, but you won't find a more a more sincere and challenging vampire tale like this one. And all you have to do when asked to let this picture in, is to just say yes.