5.04.2009

Let the Right One In (2008): I Think I’m Alone on this One


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.

Ahh, she's so cute...just don't go walking under the wrong overpass at night

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.

12 comments:

  1. Yeah I only made it through fifteen min of the movie then parted with it. lame.

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  2. This sounds like the sort of movie I'd hate. Boring, drawn out and low on gore. I think is for the horror fans who wear monocles...you know the ones.

    - Zac

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  3. Hey at least you're being honest and not jumping on a bandwagon. I did like the movie a lot but I wasn't in love with it. And I'm not sure if you know about this, but there were some problems with the subtitling that made the dialogue on the DVD release seem horrible and apparently the dubbing is bad too, which makes for a lose-lose situation. I was lucky enough to see the theatrical version (I downloaded it but I still bought the DVD when it came out) but haven't watched the DVD release to compare them both. And as far as the plot, you're right. There isn't much of one and the movie is very sluggish. The movie is more about loneliness and plays off of the characters than it does tell a conventional story.

    Anyway... when all else fails at least there's an awesome scene involving domestic cat-mauling.

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  4. Im all in on the film, with the subtlety of the FX being one of its selling points for me. I hate vampire films, but this one really appealed to me because it is so simple and achieves so much with so little. My favorite scene is when she takes off out the window, then Oskar runs to look for her, and shes gone. They didnt need to jump on the computer to add in digital FX or use wirework to have her flying around, they just used effective implied actions to get the point across.

    Im very happy to see that it isnt universally liked though, this is the first not-entirely-positive review I have read on the film!

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  5. Outside of The Lost Boys and Fright Night, I cannot think of a vampire movie that isn't boring.

    I loved the line about Stephen King stories. I was cracking up. You are right on the nose.

    JM

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  6. Mr. Nova's comment goddamn amazing

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  7. Aaron, I did read all about the subtitle issues. I tried watching both dubbing and subtitles, and it seems like the dubbing (as much as I HATE dubbing) is better. The subtitles are pretty awkward at times.

    Carl- Yeah the FX were outstanding (that was one of my favorite scenes too!. there are some kickass moments for sure

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  8. I think the thing about your premise/plot argument is that just as in life, things just happen and we find ourselves in situations that might have little plot, but are real none the less.

    For me this movie is not about motivation and purpose of character, but of two lost souls finding one another, no matter how awkward the finding may be, and each breathing a sigh of relief that they aren't alone any more.

    Oskar, the loner/picked on/loser of a kid just wants a friend.

    Eli, the hermaphrodite (did ya catch that part? She's a boy. I had to read the book to know for sure, but there's a quick glimpse in the movie...), eternally young vampire just wants to feel something again, aside from the vacuous existence that she's know for so long.

    I think there was a catharsis at the end, because they weren't alone anymore, despite their flaws and obvious differences. In a way, they were both cleansed, and could move forward.

    Maybe it worked perfectly because I read the book, but I read it after seeing the movie, and I liked it on first viewing.

    I could go on, but then I'd be rambling too, so I'm going to shut up now. :)

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  9. Thanks for everyone's respectful disagreements. :D

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  10. Oh and I kind of caught the hermaphrodite thing, but was a little confused and not certain of it. Makes more sense now.

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  11. I didnt get the hermaphradite thing at all, I just wrote it off and waited to figure it out on the second watch through lol..

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  12. Just wrote a review about this one today. Yeah, there was WAY too much hype on this one...but I did like it. I gave it points for the cats and hospital death scenes, which were (unintentionally) funny as hell to me.

    I totally missed the hermie part. Wow. Now, I am surprised that the movie didn't end with a naked and exposed Eli holding Oskar's head one hand, a knife in the other and a closeup of her face with her mouth all bucked-jawed open hissing like a creature. Oh wait. Nevermind, that's been done already. =)

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