Twilight has helped make vampires look vogueish again lately. Here’s relief: a vampire movie that doesn’t look at all forcibly vogue-ish. The style is Swedish-arthouse sparse, the bone-deep anguishes convincing.
Directing from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s adaptation of his own novel, Tomas Alfredson’s terrifically tender, terrifying tale centres on two alienated 12-year-olds – well, more or less – finding creepy companionship to empathetic and persuasively deep-freeze-chilling effect. Oskar (Käre Hedebrant) is alone. His parents have split, he’s bullied in school and he’s obsessed with local murders.
Then he meets his new neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson), who lives with Häkan (Per Ragna), an older man. Häkan goes out at night, kills and bleeds his victims. What for? Well, Eli’s actually been 12 for quite a while. Oskar hasn’t, but he can relate to how she feels…
There’s heart and darkness in this union of pale, outsider youth. ET with fangs, then? It’s a fitting pitch. The naturalistic chill of the spare Blackeberg setting anchors the feelings here keenly: it’s cold and lonely out there. The two leads are great, too – the pasty-faced Hedebrant quivering with vulnerability and the feral-goth Leandersson looking like a pint-size PJ Harvey, eyes hinting at wisdom beyond her apparent years.
From here, the story thickens in bloody shades of ambiguity. Eli gives Oskar the strength to fight back against his bullies. But victimisation can be a vicious circle, forever dooming victim and victimiser alike, so what is Oskar heading for?
As for Oskar and Eli’s relationship, it’s affecting because Oskar needs it and terrifying because Eli does too: what is this ages-old vampire really after? On these levels, Let The Right One In finds raw resonance in an ancient genre and brings fresh blood to the table.