A twelve year old boy, victimized by his classmates, and, perhaps, his own sense of self-esteem, meets a young girl who smells of death, lives on blood, and has been twelve years old for at least two hundred years. While that may not sound like the synopsis of your typical love story, there is absolutely nothing "typical" about the brilliant Swedish film "Let the Right One In"(Låt den rätte komma in).
Based on the novel Let Me In and adapted for the screen by author, John Ajivde Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a rare example of the horror film that manages to turn the genre on its ear, tinkering with the well-established mythos of one of its most endearing protagonists (the vampire), and crafting a story that is not only hauntingly original, but downright beautiful in every sense of the word.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is an introverted young boy who lives with his mother in a housing complex in Cold War era Sweden. The quiet, morbid, and somewhat androgynous looking boy is the target of school bullies, who've pushed Oskar to the point where he's actually fantasizing about killing them (when we're introduced to him, he's standing in his bedroom, poking a knife at an invisible assailant, and telling them to "squeal like a pig"). One night, Oskar meets a strange young girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who despite the freezing temperature outside, is sitting barefoot in her pajamas on the complex's jungle gym. It soon becomes clear that Eli is no ordinary girl (in fact, she's not a girl at all), but, much like Oskar, Eli is a lost soul looking for a mate, and the two become friends. As Oskar learns the truth about Eli, he's at first horrified, but, even then, his affection for his new friend - the sort of unconditional love of which only children seem capable - leads him to help her, despite his abhorrence for what it is she does to survive. And, when it's time for Eli to repay the favor, she does so in a gore-drenched denouement that is at once terrifying and incredibly poignant.
Let the Right One In is, in a word, brilliant. It's the sort of film you see and just shake your head in absolute wonderment, knowing you've just witnessed something truly special; a movie that manages to be frightening, heartbreaking, romantic, and surprisingly life-affirming (given that one of the main characters is, for all intents and purposes, dead). Director Tomas Alfredson lends the film an almost hallucinatory charm that belies its dark and disturbing subtext (subjects like pedophilia and genital mutilation are broached but never lingered on), resulting in a sort of violent and twisted adult fairy tale akin to Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" sans the visual spectacle. Of course, Let the Right One In would only be a series of haunting visuals and pretty pictures were the actors not up to the challenge of playing these complex characters, and Hedebrant and Leandersson are simply amazing, imbuing their roles with the sort of charisma and gravitas rarely seen in actors twice their age.
Let the Right One In isn't just the best horror movie of 2008; it was the best film, period. I cannot recommend this one highly enough.
Much like the film, Magnolia Home Entertainment's presentation of Let the Right One In on Blu-ray is nothing short of fantastic. The 2.35:1 transfer is sharp and crisp, offering exceptional detail and bright, vivid colors. Much of the film alternates between the stark white and grays of a Swedish winter and the dark and dreary fluorescent interiors, but, when the screen is awash with the blood of Eli's kills or the blue of the school swimming pool, these scenes are exceptionally vibrant and three dimensional.
The DTS Master HD 5.1 soundtrack is presented in both English dubbed and original Swedish (with English subtitles). I opted for the Swedish language track, as I try to avoid dubbed films whenever possible. Let the Right One In is a very quiet film, with a minimalistic score (the film opens with credits sequence whose only audio accompaniment is the sound of wind and blowing snow), but the spatial effects, orchestral stabs, and sound effects sound amazing, as does the crystal clear dialogue (even though I, of course, didn't understand a word of it). It's a very subdued track, but it's highly atmospheric and completely immersive stuff.
Extras a bit slim in this set, offering just a few deleted scenes, a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, and a photo and poster gallery. I would have loved to have seen a more in-depth making-of, or a commentary track (I would have especially loved to hear author Lindqvist's comparisons to his book), but, alas, that is not the case.
Let the Right One in is an instant genre classic, but, like the aforementioned Pan's Labyrinth, transcends genre and becomes something so much more. The Blu-ray presentation from Magnolia offers reference quality sights and sounds, but, sadly, skimps in terms of supplemental material. Still, this shouldn't deter anyone from running out right now and adding this fantastic piece of cinema to their collection.