Monday, July 12, 2010

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson, 2008, Sweden)


PRE-RAMBLE: The new (and improved?) Hammer Studios is remaking this wonderful Swedish horror film for the US market because, I suppose, we Americans are too stupid to read subtitles. There is no other reason to "Americanize" Alfredson's film because its testament to eternal puberty, growing (and hunger) pains, that nebulous journey into adulthood where we learn that the meek only inherit pain, are universal themes. Though Matt Reeves directed CLOVERFIELD, a surprisingly fun jaunt into Kaiju, I approach LET ME IN with trepidation.

Now for my review of the original:

Oskar’s troubled life is like Rubik’s cube, its many permutations seemingly unsolvable until he befriends Eli who bleeds tender mercy…and violent hunger. Director Tomas Alfredson crafts a gentle coming of age story tinged with archaic bloodletting, as Oskar and Eli slowly form a mutual bond of trust and love, both outcasts who haunt the periphery of reality’s penumbra.

Their sexless relationship builds slowly while we experience a few gruesome murders: young men captured and bled like cattle, the thick rush of life force collected into a plastic container. A rip current of angst and mischievous horror lurk just below the surface tension, as we discover our dark eyed heroine stalking a darkened underpass, feeding upon unwary strangers and spreading her infection.

Eli is in the care of a mysterious father figure: an incestuous affair as he murders to quench her cursed hunger. Oskar is being bullied at school, and it’s Eli whose reserved passion gives him strength to finally take a stand, to fight back and no longer become victimized. But this tangled web of horror begins to unravel as the neighbors discover Eli’s freakish secret, and together Oskar and Eli must escape to a new life…or undeath.

This is a beautifully shot film that relies on characterization and pacing without need to resort to CGI or flash-cut editing: the few images of horror are quite shocking and the true fear is in the soft animal sound of Eli’s growling thirst and her struggle to master this supernatural instinct. The mystery deepens in the depths of a swimming pool: suspended in his watery grave and lungs slowly filling with certain death, a ripple of salvation lifts him back into life. Oskar has finally found his niche, and carries his love in a heart shaped box to an unknown destination…towards a better (a certainly bloodier) future.

Final Grade: (B+)

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