Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Let the Right One In

Probably the best vampire flick this year - Let the Right One In
Probably the best vampire flick this year - Let the Right One In

A young, bullied boy befriends his new neighbour, but she isn't the little girl of 12 she first appears. Sleeping all through the day, smelling 'funny' and looking just a little anaemic, you just know she's a wee bit different. And then there's her stand-offish 'father' who goes out at night with a funnel, an empty bottle and a very big knife. Something's rotten in Denmark, well, Sweden actually, but it makes 'Let the Right One In' a welcome addition to the vampire genre.
You can't watch this movie without thinking that this is what 'Twilight' aspired to be. I have no real right to say that as I haven't seen the Hollywood movie (and have no wish to), but I know damn well Hollywood could never make anything so dark, or poignant, as this Scandinavian horror. While centring its story on two children, it never holds back on any of the unpleasant implications of its tale. (The only comparable Hollywood offering I can think of is Bob Balaban's cannibal comedy, "Parents", and that was a small indie movie unfairly passed over by most.) Many have commented on the film's scariness, but after the initial queasiness induced by the first killing, I found it less of a 'she's behind you'-type shocker and more of a rich, haunting drama. Dark and poignant it certainly is, but it's also funny, scary, disturbing, nostalgic, touching and a whole lot of other things a vampire movie has no real right being. Guillermo Del Toro, of "Pan's Labyrinth" fame, and no stranger to vampire flicks himself (think "Cronos" and "Blade II") has called it a dark fairytale and that probably comes closest to the whole enterprise. Using vampires in a way 'Spirit of the Beehive' used Frankenstein's Monster, it conveys an authentic childhood experience through the most fantastical of ingredients.
Blonde Oskar and dark Eli make a winning couple. Eli may be the vampire, but for all his sunny brightness, you are always conscious of a troubled darkness at Oskar's heart too. Their loneliness and awkwardness is heartbreakingly familiar and wonderfully conveyed. You will not forget little Eli's haunted (and occasionally computer-enhanced) eyes in a hurry, nor Oskar's sweet innocence, and this has as much to do with the wonderful performances of the two young leads (Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson) as the story itself. Peripheral characters are no less affecting, with a peculiarly sad end for one hospitalised victim. Even Eli's homicidal guardian earns some sympathy.
The setting also helps, with a dark and snowy Stockholm showing beautiful or grim by turns. Resisting the urge to splash all that whiteness with vivid crimson (a technique "30 Days of Night" gloried in), the frozen urban environment is disturbingly tranquil, while still believably lived-in. A perfect place for the supernatural to erupt in and still feel natural.
For me, there is a little dip in intensity with the final pool scene (just a little too vulgar and 'crowd-pleasing' after what's gone before), but overall this is a powerful cinematic experience. When it ended I left the cinema and entered streets of bright sunshine. It was warm in the busy city, but there were cool chills still running through me. And it wasn't the memory of all that snow. Let this one in.

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