If you've never heard of this film, it's the original, Swedish version of "Let Me In". It's a vampire love story (or "romantic horror") with a twist, notably that the vampire and the love interest happen to be twelve years old.
Technically, I can find almost nothing to fault in the movie, and the then-eleven-years-old leading actors were fantastic. Not a single performance bugged me in the slightest, and it was all perfectly paced. I'm impressed that the cast and crew were able to make me feel sympathy for mass-murderers, but that's ultimately the biggest flaw with the movie. The morality is grayer than an English winter's sky.
Let The Right One In is probably bolder than the 2010 American version, but it does nonetheless shirk away from some of the more inflammatory elements in the original book, from what I hear. I suppose I'll try to track down an English version of the book, if one exists (I can certainly understand if there is none) - or work on my Swedish, whatever.
This film is the story of Oskar, a shy and even slightly creepy young boy, who wishes he could fight back against the bullies that torment him almost every day, particularly their sociopathic ringleader, and he plays out such fantasies with a pocket knife and an unoffensive tree. The morbid boy eventually meets Eli, a "girl" about his own age, after "she" moves into the apartment next to his.
If you have any intelligence whatsoever, you've probably guessed that Eli is the vampire. Before I continue, let me explain the quotations in the previous paragraph: it is tastefully hinted at in the movie and outright explained in the book that Eli is not a girl, but was in fact mutilated as a child before being turned into a vampire. This is worth expounding on, because it's a neat little joke in the movie. When Eli keeps saying she's not a girl, she actually isn't referring to the fact she's a vampire, but that she literally is not a girl. However, she chose to assume a female identity and that's why I'm going to go with female pronouns from here on.
She lives with a man who acquires blood for her through murder - first question: are there no blood banks in 1980s Sweden? Was murder necessary? - and who is explained to be a pedophile in the book. His interest in intimacy with Eli is never mentioned in the movie, and the subplot with him being reanimated as a ghoulish zombie-like creature is entirely excised. I don't know if that's meant to be symbolic or whatnot, but it's not in the movie so let's forget about it. In the movie, Hakan's motives are never clear, but his loyalty to Eli is.
Meanwhile, their neighborhood is gripped by panic as Eli and her helper murder their way to each mealtime. Throughout this, we see snippets of Oskar's life, which truthfully served no real purpose but to pace the story better. It's a nitpick, I know, but I would've liked to see more and get a better understanding of the boy's family life, rather than the few token scenes. Eli encourages her new friend to fight back against the bullies, with some rather cool lines, I admit.
Oskar [After being admonished to hit back]: But there are three of them... Eli: Then hit harder.
And here we come to my first problem with the movie - which is apparently worse than the novel in this regard. First and foremost, it's made plainly clear that the bullies' ringleader is the only one really into this, and yet he lives with a clearly criminal older brother who takes things far beyond where they needed to go. Beyond that, the other bullies also seem to be cowed either by the ringleader or his delinquent, switch-blade wielding older brother - and, though we don't see them, his gang of equally criminal friends, most likely.
There's a moment of vulnerability where Oskar strikes the ringleader with a pole right in the ear, and the twelve-year-old tough-guy bursts in tears. It shows that he's still, would you know it, a child. In a joyous break from reality, Oskar is not arrested or in any way punished for what would seem to be an unprovoked attack with a deadly weapon on another child. With a jerk back into reality, nothing is done to rectify the situation at all - despite Oskar not being punished, which would imply he explained his actions, nothing is done about the matter.
However, at the end of the movie, the teenage/adult criminal is holding Oskar underwater, either drowning or attempting to scare him, and Eli promptly dismembers him... and the twelve-year-old boys too, leaving just one of them alive. American version? "Abby" kills all of them. The book? Just two. The ringleaders. Jesus, Americans!
Nothing can really explain this. It was murder of preteen children, when only one of them deserved such extreme punishment. The teenager/adult who draws a knife on a child and threatens to maim him is one thing; the pathetic fuckwittery of his fellow preteens didn't warrant that. The adults who caused the situation and allowed it to persist got nothing (aside from the dipshit with the switchblade) but Eli murdered children over what, until the asshole got involved, amounted to no more than whacking Oskar with a twig and putting his pants in the urinal. Beat the shit out of them, yes, but literally decapitating a twelve-year-old over the matter left the movie with an even sourer note than I expected.
You'd think a 200-year-old vampiric castrati would've known better. ... Or maybe not.
As I said, it's commendable that they managed to make the audience care so much about the emotional anguish and isolation of a creepy boy and a castrated vampire who basically kills for no good reason (again, blood banks, or simply not killing every person you harvest for blood - though I will acknowledge that Eli seems remorseful after most killings). I also found Oskar's response to the murdering, blood and revelation that his new friend is a folklore creature to be a little underwhelming.
Although the character is supposed to be despondent and unassertive, I have to stress that twelve-year-olds, or even younger children, will not be so accepting or vague when they see someone's neck ripped out as if they were dumbstruck toddlers. Regardless of how much they're into visiting websites like this one. It's not the kind of thing you shrug off. Despite that, Kåre Hedebrant's performance was superlative, as was Lina Leandersson's.
I was bewildered at first when I saw the movie was rated MA15+ (hilariously, the actors were eleven - anyone still clinging on to the belief that ratings matter a damn need some serious help) and that "nudity" was one of the reasons for it. I was wondering where and how they'd ever fit any nude scenes into a movie about two preteens. At first I was disgusted because I thought the scene with Eli and Oskar sharing a bed, where we saw nothing and only Eli was nude, was the reason for this. Or maybe it was Oskar lounging around in his underwear at bed time - for some reason, English speaking nations can be quite ridiculous about this.
Then I saw the actual scene - or rather, single shot - and it bewildered me until I remembered that Eli was not a girl. She's changing and Oskar sneaks a peak... and sees a horrible, scarred area instead of a vagina. Apparently seeing a prosthetic scar counts as nudity, I don't know. Regardless, that was unexplained, as was Eli's background, which interestingly enough was explored a little in the American version. So just another nitpick: if you're going to show us what looks like a twelve-year-old's mutilated vagina, filmmakers, don't just leave it at that, because for the next hour or so we're going to be wondering why the fuck you showed us a twelve-year-old's mutilated vagina. What purpose hath the plastic pussy, director!? What purpose?! *tears out his hair*
Now onto something I just realized I can actually speak on from a position of relative authority. The romantic elements.
With all the talk of blood, murder and vampires, it's easy to forget that this is a love story between two twelve-year-old boys. Or rather, a boy and a transgender boy. Isn't that an interesting thing? Subtly hint at, but don't outright state, the fact that Eli's a boy that dresses in girls' clothes and suddenly it slips right on by the radar.
Honestly, there's not much to say. I was surprised at how intimate and convincing the romance was. The characters had a great dynamic. Eli's greater maturity, strength and experience shines through her wary reluctance, and Oskar's awkward need for closeness shows. In fact, it shows for both of them. The scene with the two of them in bed was very tender and sweet, the role-reversal of Eli coming to Oskar for comfort after losing her "father", and I pity any fool that feels the need to pretend that it "creeped him out."
What should creep you out is the fantastic visuals, makeup and symbolism.
I strongly recommend this movie, and I'll be comparing it to the American version soon. Incidentally, I understand why people interpret the story to be about Eli "grooming" Oskar to be her new caretaker, however this is apparently not so. Regardless, I personally felt the story ended on a bittersweet note, because whether it was Eli's intention or not, Oskar is now her new caretaker- and murderer? Given his interests, I'd say that's strongly implied. He has forever lost his loving mother, his caring-though-alcoholic father, and all that he ever knew.
Perhaps the book moreso, but the movie, though it doesn't overstep any boundaries of civility, subtly acknowledges the characters' sexuality too, which I thought was a very nice touch if you can pick it up, and yet ultimately averts it if you understand the truth behind Eli's gender and mutilation. Or does it? Perhaps not. That's a level of honesty, boldness and sophistication I didn't expect, and for all these nuances I officially nominate Let The Right One In as the best movie I've seen in the last year, and the best vampire film, and the best horror film featuring youths I've ever seen.
Great movie, affords a lot of respect to children, their lives and trials, and if nothing else, it's the kind of film you can write a 10,000 character long journal about and still have loads more to say. I think, however, I'll stop now. Just go see this movie for something different, folks. 9/10 Kichibeans!
PS - Yes, yes, I know that merely being castrated doesn't make you a "castrati" and that castration isn't the same as nullification. You know, just in case any pedants are reading. :P