This Romanian vampire thriller is full of suspense, a fantastic story, and a couple of outstanding performances from its pair of child actors.
Oskar is a picked on twelve year old boy who spends his days after school fantasizing about his chance to finally stand up to these boys and hopefully even hurt them in the process. In the night while practicing some moves with his knife a new neighbor moves in, an older man named Håkan and a young girl by the name of Eli. We next fine Håkan killing a young man in the middle of a secluded park in which he attempts to drain his blood. Foiled by a lost dog and its owner, Håkan escapes undetected but raises alarm to the town of a murderous presence, which we soon find out is Eli who Håkan was draining the blood for. Håkan is human and acts as an assistant of sorts for Eli, who spends here nights fighting hunger and befriending a relationship with Oskar at night in the apartment complex’s playground. The two quickly become friends of sorts with Oskar not picking up on her secret as she gives him confidence and strength to maybe stand up for himself at school.
I will go into no more, as the secret of Eli being a vampire is hardly one of the better twists and turns that this film takes. The film is a love story of sorts, gliding somewhere in between romance and friendship, and like Twilight and True Blood, Let the Right One In deals with a vampire becoming a bit protective over someone they should be dining on. Tomas Alfredson has crafted a brilliant genre picture that earns every bit of tension it builds, and it can build it with ease without leaning on cheap scares and modern horror mechanics to get under your skin. I am usually not a fan of horror films, but this is the kind of stuff that proves how great the genre can be when done right. And the ending, oh the ending, perfect. Alfredson has made himself one to watch with this picture.
The work by the actors in the film is also what makes this film stand out in the way it does. Some of the best work by child actors in any film I have ever seen, Oskar is played marvelously by Kåre Hedebrant. Hedebrant captures the angst, awkwardness, and hell many middle school kids go through as they come of age. Dealing with bullies, the awkwardness of a first love, fantasizing himself as he wishes he could be, Hedebrant nails all of this and is about as authentic as a one could ask for of someone in his role. Complimenting Hedebrant is the just as fantastic Lina Leandersson who as Eli is Oskar’s opposite. Her years of life as a vampire have made her stronger, braver, and more experienced with life in general. She uses this to inspire Oskar, and Leandersson carries herself so well and makes us feel her age through the eyes of a young girl. She also gives us the creeps, in a cool kind of way, while also being an effective anti-hero even while she preys on some innocents. Also worth mentioning is Per Ragnar as Eli’s helper Håkan who nails two scenes in particular that have shades of comedy and sadness that are executed just right.
In the end, Let the Right One In is the best horror film of the year. It also happens to also be one of the best films of the year on top of that. Full of suspense, fantastic acting, and a thrilling story that never lets go, the film is so much more than just another horror movie. Matt Reeves of Cloverfield is apparently making a remake of this film, which I can’t imagine coming close to this horror masterpiece, as this film will only grow on subsequent viewings and be remembered as the premiere piece of vampire entertainment in a year full of them.