Release Date(s)2008 (March 10, 2009)
Studio(s)EFTI/SVT/Filmpool Nord/Magnet (Magnolia)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
Let the Right One In is a surprising Swedish horror film, centered around a 12-year old boy named Oskar. Oskar lives alone in an apartment building with his single mother. He’s shy, with few friends, and is a regular target of bullies in his class. One day, a 12-year old girl named Eli and her guardian move into the apartment next door. She’s shy too, also with no friends, and she’s a bit odd.
Both are obviously lonely, and so they forge a gradual friendship. But soon... as a series of murders happens in the community around them... Oskar begins to realize that Eli is a vampire.
This is all handled with a real maturity of storytelling and sensibility. The film isn’t particularly gratuitous, nor is it ever really scary – not in the traditional sense at least. Few of the usual Hollywood genre clichés are in evidence. In fact, you never once see fangs. Rather, this film focuses on the two kids and how they relate to one another. What’s particularly interesting is how the girl is portrayed. Imagine becoming vampire at age 12, and you’re stuck at that age forever. In a Hollywood film, you’d see a wise, ancient intellect in a child’s body. But here, Eli is emotionally and intellectually frozen at that age, so even though she’s probably hundreds of years old, she sees and deals with things as a child. She kills (and her guardian kills for her) because she must, but she’s not portrayed as evil. She’s just a little girl who happens to be a vampire, trying to understand the world and her place in it. Oskar accepts her for what she is, and their story is absolutely fascinating to watch play out on screen. There are a couple of scenes that are less effective than the whole, and so actually pull you out of the story, specifically a subplot about a woman Eli infects during an attack who starts becoming a vampire herself. It’s just a bit too obvious and occasionally even silly. But there are other moments so unexpectedly creepy and genuine, they’ll leave you smiling.
The high-definition transfer on Blu-ray seems underwhelming at first, but once you start watching you begin to realize that it’s a very satisfying and film-like presentation. Color is muted by design, with excellent contrast and good fine detail. There’s also very light film grain visible. I saw this film first during its theatrical run, and I can attest to the fact that this is an excellent representation of that experience. Audio-wise, again the mix seems somewhat underwhelming upon first listen, as this is a very dialogue-heavy film. However, the front soundstage is big and wide, with the surround channels filling in atmosphere and delivering the film’s sparse score. Dialogue is clear and clean, and bass is excellent throughout. DTS-HD MA audio is present in both the original Swedish and an English dub (the Swedish is definitely preferred), with subtitles available in English, English narrative, English SDH and Spanish.
The extras on the disc, unfortunately, are limited. Included are 4 deleted scenes, presented in 16x9 SD and totaling about 5 minutes in all. None are particularly revealing, however the final scene is rather sweet. I’m not quite sure why it was cut. There’s also an 8-minute EPK-style featurette, presented in 4x3 letterbox SD, which offers some director’s comments and a look behind-the-scenes at the filming. Notable here is a closer look at how the pool scene was shot. Finally, you get galleries of about 20 behind-the-scenes photographs, some quite good, and 5 poster artwork images. It’s not much, but then this is a decidedly sparse film, so perhaps that’s not surprising.
Let the Right One In is refreshing and well worth your time, especially if you’re interested in a unique take on the genre. It’s equal parts charming and chilly, a deft and delicate brand of horror the likes of which Hollywood is utterly incapable of nurturing. I should note that it’s based on a book, which I haven’t read. (If any of you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.) It’s a great little film, worth checking out on Blu-ray even if only as a rental.
- Bill Hunt