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Let the Right One In (2008)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/10/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/11/2009

Dennis Miller once told a joke (back when he was funny) about how being a bank security guard in Alaska would be the most difficult job in the world because everyone would be wearing ski masks. I can think of an even harder job; vampire hunter in Northern Europe. Just imagine --

Vampire Hunter: What did he look like?

Witness: He was very pale.

Vampire Hunter: You'll need to be more specific.

This flight of fancy raises the question, "Are there vampires in Northern Europe?" The film Let the Right One In certainly wants us to think so.

Set against the backdrop of a sleepy Swedish suburb (?), Let the Right One In focuses on Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a lonely 12-year old boy who is bullied at school and doesn't appear to have much of a relationship with his mother with whom he lives. While sitting outside one night, Oskar meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl who has just moved in next door. Eli is aloof and isn't dressed for the cold weather. When Oskar sees her again a few nights later, she is more forthcoming and they begin to become friends. What Oskar doesn't know is that Eli is a vampire, and the man with whom she lives, Hakan (Per Ragnar), must kill people and bring the blood to Eli. As Oskar and Eli grow closer, she inspires him to stand up to the bullies at school. But, her situation is growing desperate and it won't be long until her need for blood draws her out into the open.

Let the Right One In is a peculiar movie, as it's about 90% angst-filled, melancholy drama, and about 10% vampire movie. The bulk of the film focuses on Oskar and his miserable life. We never see him interact with his mother (although, they do brush their teeth in unison), and when he goes to visit his father, things aren't much better. Oskar keeps a scrapbook with information on local crimes, and, again, he's tormented at school by boys who want him to "squeal like a pig". He clearly has revenge on his mind, as he has a hunting knife and fantasizes about using it on the bullies. Although Oskar doesn't know what Eli is at first, he must sense that she is a lost soul (literally) as well, as he is drawn to her. Their relationship is very awkward, but they come to rely on one another.

Again, the main drive of the movie is Oskar's life and subsequently, his relationship with Eli. The movie is very slow-paced and we are treated to many shots of the snow-covered landscape. Other characters who live in the area, such as Lacke (Peter Carlberg), Jocke (Mikael Rahm), and Virginia (Ika Nord), are introduced, as they will come into play in the second half of the film. It could be argued that Director Tomas Alfredson takes his time setting up the characters and the locales so that once supernatural events begin to occur, they will be more shocking. And lest one think that I'm trying to lead you to believe that the movie isn't about vampirism, there are some supernatural moments here. Eli kills several people and the movie features several of the classic vampire behaviors.

But, when all is said and done, Let the Right One In is a disappointing film. To be fair, the movie features some very cool shots, but aside from those Alfredson shows very little flair in the direction of the film -- especially in the pacing department. The movie moves at a snail's pace and not much truly happens in the first hour. None of the characters are likeable, and while one understands why Oskar and Eli are drawn together, there's nothing particularly engaging about either one of them. There's no connection to the audience here. As for the story, it's far too shallow and vague. I understand that the film is based on a multi-layered novel, but we don't get any of that here. Unlike a lot of other European films, Let the Right One In isn't pretentious. In fact, it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. The end result is a film which will leave you as cold as the landscape in which it's set.

Let the Right One In is alarming to cats on DVD courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. At first, the image appears to be nicely sharp and clear, as the bright, snow-covered scenes show no grain or defects from the source material. However, look closely at the static shots (of which there are many) and you'll note the present of noise on the image, which appears to be moving. The colors are good, and some really stand out against the white backdrops. The image is never too dark or bright. The DVD contains both an English (Dubbed) and a Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show nice separation. The in-film music sounds fine. To be honest, I didn't note much in the way of surround sound or subwoofer action here, and most of the audio came from the center channel. The English subtitles are white and easy to read.

The Let the Right One In DVD offers a few extras. The DVD contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. These offer an additional scene of Oskar being bullied, Oskar and Eli playing a game, the suffering of one of Eli's victims, and an oddly intimate scene with Oskar and Eli. "Behind the Scenes" (8 minutes) reveals that the film is set in 1982. Did they ever say that in the film? Director Tomas Alfredson talks about the look of the film. "It's very Swedish." is my favorite comment. He discusses the casting, the story, and the film's themes. This is accompanied by a good deal of on-set footage. The extras are rounded out by a PHOTO GALLERY and a THEATRICAL POSTER GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long