[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 08 June 2009]
This movie left me in a state of shock. Seriously. Ostensibly a vampire movie, it’s really about being helpless and the horror of being at the mercy of other people.
Let the Right One In is extra freaky for me, personally, since it takes place in Sweden in the early 80s with a protagonist about my age at the time dealing with some of the same issues I was in the same kind of environment I was in. Not that I was ever that blond, that geeky, or that bullied, but the mise en scene—the clothes, the buildings, the snow, the darkness, the hopelessness—it all brings me back to that time.
But apart from the similarities with my own life, some of the things that make Let the Right One In a very watchable movie are:
The cinematography. It’s cold and clean, almost Kubrickian. And trust me, making a working-class apartment complex in Sweden in the middle of winter look like a place where wonders happen is quite a feat.
The sound work. So much subtlety. The little sounds the vampire makes when she gets hungry are worth the price of admission all by themselves. This is a movie to watch loud.
The understatedness. Kind of a Swedish thing. There are so many horrific things happening in this movie, and they are so wonderfully underplayed, letting your imagination do the heavy lifting. Little things become big terrors.
The casting. Everybody in the movie is well cast, especially the protagonist and the little vampire girl. She is perfect and eerily believable, taking the movie to a whole different level.
So yes, I’m a fan. This movie is one to put on your list.
A word of advice though, from your friendly uncle in cyber space: If you ge the DVD or Blu-ray you’ll get the dubbed version by default. That is an abomination. Change your settings and get the original language with English subtitles. Why? Because dubbing is a rape of acting, that’s why. Don’t be that guy who watches dubbed movies. Nobody likes that guy.
The novel the movie is based on was written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. He also wrote the screenplay, which is probably the reason the movie is very faithful to the intent of the novel.
Being a novel, there’s more detail, more internal action, and several storylines didn’t make it into the movie. Which is natural for the media involved. Where the movie hints at things, the novel is explicit, where the movie sketches, the novel paints a portrait.
And what a portrait. The novel deals with the horrors of powerlessness in general, with characters that are among the broken and outcast in a society—the alcoholics, the minimum-wage workers, the perverts. All people with few choices in life, people who stare hopelessness in the face every day. Together of course with the bullied protagonist who spends his days futilely trying to avoid humiliation and pan.
The novel is in parts actively unpleasant to read as it delves into the minds of horrific people and presents them as characters rather than caricatures. It’s like Lindqvist took a scalpel to the boils on society’s underside and scraped the pus on the page.
So, yes, it’s not everybody’s cup of chamomile. But it’s undeniably powerful.
Let the Right One In is certainly not your average vampire saga. As a matter of fact, the vampire is almost incidental.
In the afterword Lindqvist says, “Everything in this book is true. It just didn’t happen this way.” That really creeps me out.
Note: I read the Swedish original, and so can’t make any judgment about the quality of the English translation.