Let The Right One In (2008) Movie Review - Brilliant Scandinavian Coming of Age Horror

Horror, Drama, Thriller, Romance | 114 Min
Let The Right One In (2008) Review
  • Director: Tomas Alfredson
  • Actors: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, Peter Carlberg
  • Writers: John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • Producers: John Nordling, Carl Molinder
  • Country: Sweden
  • Language: Swedish
  • Parental: Some Violence, Gore, Language, One Simulated Scene Of Nudity Featuring A Young Female Character (a Mannequin Was Used).
  • Release Date: 10 Apr, 2009
  • Original Title: Låt den rätte komma in
  • Horror, Drama, Thriller, Romance | 114 Min

Oskar an overlooked and bullied boy finds love and revenge through Eli a beautiful but peculiar girl.

We are down to the last few days of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature. It’s been a fun ride with some amazing movies but we do still have four days left. With that in mind, for day 28 we are taking a look at Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish horror movie Let The Right One In from 2008.

Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) is classed as a romantic horror which is possibly a little strange given the young age of its lead characters. Never exploiting the topic, however, Let The Right One In is an incredibly original approach to the horror romance genre.

Above all else, it is a fantastic vampire themed horror movie featuring stand out acting and an intriguing plot. Without further ado, let’s take a look. As always I will give a quick breakdown of the movie which you can skip if you like.

Let The Right One In – Synopsis

Let The Right One In starts off with 12 year old Oskar, played by Kåre Hedebrant, looking out of the window of his tower block apartment. A taxi pulls up and an older man gets out with a young girl. Walking away from the window, Oskar mimics himself stabbing someone while demanding they “Squeal like a pig!”. Oskar places the knife under the mattress and gets in bed.

The next day we see Oskar in school as a lesson about a murder investigation is taking place. Oskar engages with the teacher which draws the ire of his classmates. It becomes apparent, as Oskar is shoved up against a locker, that he is the victim of bullying. Suffering at school and unhappy at home. Oskar’s interested is piqued when he notices the young girl who has moved in next door. Little does he realise that this girl, Eli (Lina Leandersson), is not quite what she seems.

Dark Romantic Horror

Let The Right One In is classed as a romantic horror. Featuring a blossoming relationship between two people who simply don’t fit in. Later story revelations lend an element of progressiveness to the story. There is something of a feeling of hopelessness to Let The Right One In. Its dark tone is perpetuated by an oppressive environment full of poverty. The snowy landscape and feeling of permanent winter lends a sense of desolation to the film. Cramped tower blocks and a cast of down on their luck residents only add to this.

Let The Right One In (2008) Review

Oskar is severely bullied by his peers and has fantasies about revenge.

Oskar and Eli are complicated characters. Badly bullied and with a home life marked by a lack of attention and poverty. Oskar is developing homicidal thoughts and yearns for revenge against those that wrong him. Eli’s history hints at a world of persecution and hurt. She has an odd relationship with the man she lives with and presents a somewhat hostile personality to Oskar. As the two characters begin to understand their similarities, they grow closer and closer.

Let The Right One In is as much of a drama as it is a horror movie. It is extremely slow paced and takes its time developing the relationship of its two main characters. The horror themes are always present but the romance element is never pushed to the background. We are supposed to understand these two young people and to appreciate why they would gravitate toward each other in a world that doesn’t welcome them at all. It’s an interesting story and the unusual main characters only add to that.

A Different Approach to Horror

We have reviewed many horror movies with strong drama elements here on Knockout Horror. We haven’t, however, reviewed many with such a complex relationship subplot as that of Let The Right One In. The relationship that develops between Eli and Oskar takes centre stage here and the horror aspect is really more of just a backdrop. This lends the movie a somewhat unique feeling. Oskar is a troubled child and Eli is even more complex. There relationship shouldn’t really work but it does. The movie plays off of the fact that strong connections can form between people who feel ostracised.

Let The Right One In (2008) Review

Much of the movie takes place in the pitch black, oppressive night.

The romance element between the two characters takes a backseat. The sense of camaraderie and understanding between the pair is far more of a focus than anything else. But this doesn’t mean that Let The Right One In entirely sacrifices its horror leanings. Naturally the movie is toned down somewhat from the source novel but we still have a significant horror element here.

There are a number of scenes that are simply traditional horror. The final few scenes, in particular, are pretty damn graphic. The near two hour runtime means that these scenes have to be spaced out but they are very much there and extremely effective. Let The Right One In is simply a different approach to horror and a fascinating one at that. It bears mention, however, that fans of fast paced horror will probably want to think hard before devoting an hour and fifty four minutes to the film.

An Oppressive Atmosphere

Much of Let The Right One In’s horror element comes from the hugely oppressive environment afforded by the dark, snow covered landscape. This is something I think the original does a lot better than the American remake. The poverty filled tower blocks and apartments, adorned with 80’s furniture, offers a feeling of destitution to the film. Added to this, many of the scenes occur at night. The lack of light pollution in the incredible Swedish town the movie is set in makes night time feel almost completely black. Events often take place in the shadows of trees or under bridges. You can almost imagine how those places would feel in real life which only adds to the horror aspect.

Let The Right One In (2008) Review

Let The Right One In features a unique approach to horror romance.

Even during the daytime the landscape feels hostile and unwelcoming. Iced over lakes make for a perfect environment to hide a body and the blood stained snow creates a hugely impactful image. Being set in the 80s, the incandescent lighting seems to only add to the feeling of gloom. Even interior shots feel dull and depressing. This is all very deliberate and works perfectly given the context of Oskar and Eli’s situation.

Cinematography, as a whole, is fantastic. Generally shot in a fairly simple manner, the 2:35.1 aspect ratio feels very fitting to capture outdoor shots of tall trees, snow blanketed streets, and frozen ponds. Interior shots are dimly lit and make the most of the interesting closeup character shots afforded by the camera. Set design is very fitting for the 80’s setting and the abundance of brown highlights the bleakness of the character’s home lives.

Fantastic Acting

Huge credit has to go to the young cast of Let The Right One In. Apparently the filmmakers didn’t want to cast experienced actors in the role so spent a year auditioning children from local schools. The result was the casting of Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli. Both are absolutely pitch perfect in their respective roles. Kåre Hedebrant is the primary focus of the movie and does a fantastic job carrying every scene. He is entirely believable as a complicated boy tortured by bullies and developing homicidal feelings of revenge.

Let The Right One In (2008) Review

It’s easy to become invested in the relationship between Oskar and Eli

Lina Leandersson does not feature as heavily but her performance is equally as brilliant. She is utterly convincing as the young girl hiding something dark from Oskar. She is tasked with having a more dynamic personality than Oskar but does great with each presented scenario. These roles are undeniably complex and the young actors deserve all the praise in the world for how well they do.

A Horror Masterpiece but Not For Everyone

Let The Right One In is, in my opinion, close to a horror masterpiece but it may not be for everyone. As I mentioned before, it is a slow paced movie and the horror element is more of a backdrop than anything. There are a few scenes that may unsettle viewers but this is, first and foremost, a movie about two people who feel ostracised and find comfort in each other’s presence. If you are looking for fast paced thrills then this is most definitely not the movie for you. Let The Right One In wants you to sit down and become enveloped in its story and environment.

The characters presented here are the driving force behind the movie. The contrast between good and evil begs a number of questions from the viewer and this is exactly what the movie is intending to do. It wants to get into your head and make you question whether a person is justified in seeking revenge and whether they can still be considered a good person. It wants you to ask yourself what you would do in the interests of survival and what lengths you would go to for the person you love.

Rarely in horror do you see such complex characters and rarely in horror do you have such a reason to think about a movie when it is finished. Nothing here is black or white, much like it never is in everyday life. It’s this exact thing that makes Let The Right One In such a special movie. It manages to stay with you and does so in such an artful manner that it almost makes you forget that you are watching a horror. It is an incredible movie and essential viewing for all fans of horror.

Should You Watch Let The Right One In?

All horror fans should watch Let The Right One. It is one of the truly great modern horror movies and will stay with you long after watching. Dark and somewhat disturbing, it is a movie that wants to get into the head of the viewer and presents them with a world that is not simply black or white. The characters in the movie are deeply troubled and complex. Rarely in horror do you see such well developed characters and the fantastic acting from the young leads only elevates the story. Some may find it a bit slow but fans of vampire horror looking for something different should love Let The Right One In. It is a modern horror classic.

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