This is a challenging review. Challenging because everyone in the world seems to be in love with this film, in and outside of the horror genre. Challenging because I must say, I really didn’t enjoy this film.
Imagine my surprise when a film student tells me how “beautifully done” this movie is, after he just said that he hated the horror genre and just about every movie within it. It was one of those pretentious conversations where I challenged his generalization and then he responded: “Well, I have only seen a handful of good horror films, and most of them are foreign, like Let the Right One In, but even that isn’t really a horror movie.” Sigh…
Well, I will begin this by saying that yes, this film is beautiful…beautiful looking that is. The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (huh?) is superb, with carefully composed wides and stark color contrasts. This is juxtaposed with extreme close-ups that utilize shallow depth of field and really just pull you into the screen. Tomas Alfredson’s direction matches the cinematography in skill. Subtle performances, emotive shot design, and some truly captivating sequences set this apart from the usual vampire film. Eli’s attacks are brutal and effective, while Oskar’s offsetting strangeness is framed with complexity. Even though we do not see a lot of Eli’s vampire powers onscreen, the implication of them occurring is done very well through sound and editing. However, a poetic camera and a well-acted and directed film are only pieces of the puzzle here.
Ok, this guy really sucks at this job. Usually performing a long task, such as draining blood from a body, should be done somewhere that does not have access to the public. How long has he been murdering people to get blood for Eli?
It’s just boring. Yes, there are moments where I am intrigued, but they are few and far between. The characters, though crafted with care, did not have me invested in their lives. I’m not saying that leads need to be sympathetic in every film, but in a quazi love story between 12-year-olds, I think it’s pretty important that we are rooting for them.
Maybe he should have been the vampire...
Oskar is interesting, but I still don’t feel like we ever got to know him outside of his relationship to Eli. He’s not likeable and he’s not incredibly unique—he might as well be a character from a Stephen King book because I think there’s always a kid that gets picked on and wishes he could exact revenge on the bullies in almost all of his stories. Eli is difficult to like because…well she just kills people. Yeah I get that she can’t help it and that she needs blood to survive, blah blah blah, but this is not a new topic in the vampire genre. There are all sort of things she can do: blood from hospitals, prey on bad people, not waste so much of the freakin blood from the people she does kill! Stock up on that shit, geez. It’s really hard to feel bad for Eli because she doesn’t seem truly affected by her vampirism. Her inner conflict is surface level at best. It’s only brought up once when Oskar is a little perturbed by her nightly habits and then it’s sort of forgotten about.
The other problem is story. Where is the story? This movie has a great premise, but it stops at that…it’s a premise not a plot. So it’s about a 12-year-old boy, who is a loner, and befriends a young vampire girl next door….and? Well that’s about it. Even simple stories can be told in a manner that leaves the audience waiting to see what happens next, pushing us towards some conclusion, giving us something to hope and fear for. That something is completely missing from this film. The entire time I was watching it, I felt like I was waiting for the story to begin. And then when the credits rolled, I was shocked. Aside from the fact that it was painfully long to watch, I felt cheated out of the whole rising action, falling action, and climax thing we’ve become accustomed to. I’m not asking for a dues ex machina or anything; I just want a damn story! Or some form of catharsis! I think I deserve it after sitting through this thing for two hours.
It's not just an Incubus song! This should have happend to Eli in the end.
Well, this review is becoming long and boring. It’s not a rant, is it? Let the Right One In is a very well-crafted film, but it’s not something that I could ever recommend without crossing my fingers behind my back. But, everyone else seems to have found horror Nirvana in this movie, so I could be the only person who put the wrong one in the DVD player.