How does a movie manage to be dark and deeply disturbing, yet tender and touching in the same breath? Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) is a beautifully-told macabre fantasy story that accomplishes exactly that.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a quiet but troubled twelve year old who is bullied by his classmates and doesn’t know how to stand up for himself. His life begins to change when he befriends Eli (Lina Leandersson), the mysterious girl who moves into the apartment next door. But when Oskar’s small snowy hometown is devastated by a series of grisly murders, he starts to realize his new best friend and love interest is not the girl she pretends to be.
Let the Right One In is part coming of age story, part atmospheric horror. Never too obvious or overly deliberate, it’s a subtle and slowly-building story punctuated by gory visuals that are jarringly terrifying against the film’s otherwise serene and isolated snowbound setting. Director Tomas Alfredson’s use of special effects is welcomingly understated in favor of a few blink-and-you-might-miss them moments of pure shock, underscored by gruesome visuals and an uncomfortable feeling of foreboding.
Most disturbing, however, is Oskar’s dangerous infatuation with Eli despite the horrifying things she is capable of. It’s the focus on the delicate relationship between these two alienated youths that really sets this film apart and establishes new standards for what good vampire movies should be.