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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Let the Right One In (review)

You’ve never seen a vampire movie like this before — that I can promise you. There hasn’t been one like this before. Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, working from an internationally bestselling novel by by John Ajvide Lindqvist [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.] (who also wrote the screenplay) posits befriending a vampire as the cure for what ails lonely, beat-up-on 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant)… sort of. His new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), who’s also 12 (and has been for a really long time — she’s undead), is full of ideas about how he can defend himself against bullies, though they’re probably not the wisest defenses he could be deploying. Meditative and mournful, this unexpectedly poetic film punctuates its serene atmosphere with shocking moments of unexpected gore, some of which are almost funny in their wildness — cats, it turns out, really don’t like the bloodsuckers — and others of which are so disturbing that they’re gonna keep me awake at night, especially a few moments that highlight how very much normal humans are prey for vampires. This one is slated for a Hollywood remake, so catch the overseas original now, if you can, and see how it’s supposed to be done.


MPAA: rated R for some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Anne-Kari

    Hey! It was on your radar after all, MAJ. Thanks for this review.

  • MaryAnn

    It wasn’t until after I said it wasn’t. :->

  • Anne-Kari

    Whatevs. Great minds think alike :)

  • I’m glad you changed your mind.

    It would have been all so ironic if one of the few film critics who didn’t review a Swedish horror film turned out to be a person named Johanson.

  • MaryAnn

    But I’m not Swedish. I’m American.

    And honestly, the only reason I reviewed this is because one of the newspapers that runs my reviews asked for it. I probably wouldn’t have gotten to it otherwise.

  • JoshDM

    Herde berde wampire, bork bork bork!

  • livia

    This is a gorgeous, disturbing and moving film. Go see it before they cast Dakota Fanning in the remake.

  • Doa766

    [[added by maj: this comment contains a major spoiler]]

    “His new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), who’s also 12 (and has been for a really long time — she’s undead)”

    she’s not undead, HE’s undead

    Eli is a boy

    but don’t worry, about half of the people who see the movie fail to notice that

  • MaryAnn

    Yeah, I noticed it, Doa. I was trying not to spoil it for everyone who hadn’t seen the film.

    Nice goin’.

  • Anne-Kari

    MAJ – I only read your last comment and then hid my eyes from the previous one – can you now delete the spoilerish comment?

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not going to delete the spoilerish comment because I’d like to discourage others from posting similar comments in the future, and the illustration of the comment itself really is required. But I added a spoiler warning to that comment.

  • Doa766

    is not a spoiler because it doesn’t affect the plot in any way

    is as much as a spoiler as saying he’s a vampire

  • Doa766

    and actually you would probably like this movie a whole lot more if you go in without knowing that one of the main characters is a vampire

    and you gave that away on the review, the fact that all other reviews give that away too is no excuse, you won’t fine it on the movie poster, trailer or on the back of the original novel, it’s a plot development that it’s not known from the beginning

    knowing that Eli is boy is just trivia because, like I said before, most people who see the movie fail to noticed it, and it doesn’t make much difference on the story, but knowing he’s a vampire IS a spoiler

    the screenplay was written by the author of the novel and on the novel you know Eli is boy from the first time he’s mentioned, but not that he’s a vampire, and the movie was meant to be the same but whe you actually see the actor playing the character the ambiguity is much harder to get across and they try by casting a girl with an androgynus look

    so don’t talk to me about spoilers

    and if you can’t write a review without mentioning that then take a note from AICN where they mark the links of the reviews with a spoiler tag so you’re warned about it if you click on it

  • Anne-Kari

    Doa766:

    Traditionally, I am not one to jump all over another poster, but:

    From IMDB tagline description: “Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.” That’s it.

    The creators of the movie approved that blurb. Which quite clearly does not give away all the details you did in your MULTIPLE spoilerish postings.

    How about this: I don’t want or need to know every bit of information about the characters before I see a movie. I don’t think it’s up to YOU to decide what everybody else should know about a film prior to seeing it.

    I don’t know what your motivation is for this kind of trolling and I really don’t care. You are ruining things for other people, even if YOU don’t think you are. Trust me, YOU ARE.

    Cut it out.

  • JoshB

    Generally speaking, if the information isn’t in the trailer or press info for the movie then it’s a spoiler.

    I don’t know how easy it would be to implement, but an html spoiler tag would be most useful for this sort of site.

  • MaryAnn

    I *have* posted spoiler warnings when I feel that I cannot discuss a movie without spoiling something. I did not feel the need to do so in this case, because I did not spoil anything.

    “OMG, vampires!” is not a spoiler for this movie. I think it does spoil something, though, to reveal what Doa revealed. Not irrevoccably: don’t avoid this movie because you learned something about that you perhaps shouldn’t have. But still: This isn’t a movie about plot. It’s a movie about emotion. And that revelation will change how you view the movie the first time you watch it.

  • JoshB

    I *have* posted spoiler warnings

    I dunno know if you were talking to me or Doa there, but just in case…I was referring to spoiler /spoiler tags that can be used in the comment section to black out text until it’s highlighted by the reader (or something similiar.)

  • MaryAnn

    Ah. But that still wouldn’t help if someone doesn’t think they’re spoiling.

  • Doa766

    from roger ebert’s review of this movie:

    (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081111/REVIEWS/811129995/1023)

    “They decide to have a sleepover in his bed. Sex is not yet constantly on Oskar’s mind, but he asks, “Will you be my girlfriend?” She touches him lightly. “Oskar, I’m not a girl.” Oh.

    Oskar is cruelly bullied at school by a sadistic bully, who travels with a posse of two smaller thugs and almost drowns him in a swimming pool. At a time like this, it is useful to have a vampire as your best pal. A girl vampire or a boy vampire, it doesn’t really matter.”

    what did I revealed?

  • Doa766

    it’s very difficult for movies to keep important things hidden and really surprise the audience nowdays, people who will see this movie on cable late at night without knowing anything about it will find it more special because they didn’t know that Eli is a vampire, the movie is designed for people to gradualy become aware of that, and it won’t make difference for them the gender of one character

    but usually critics who have hard time writing reviews try to padd them with as much re telling of the plot as posible to hide the fact that they don’t have much to say, and they spoil things

    if you see terminator 2 now you’ll notice that first 20 minutes or so are built to make people relate to the T1000 (was kind to the parents, seemingly stol a poclicar by punching the cop on the belly) and fear arnold (destroyed a bikers bar), so it was meant to be a huge revelation when he says “get down” on that hallway to John Connor and shoots the real bad guy, but it didn’t work because everyone already knew he was the good guy because of poorly written reviews among other things

    if you still disagree, answer this: for someone who doesn’t know anything about the movie what would it be a bigger spoiler and affect their enjoyment, knowing that Eli is really a boy or a knowing he’s a vampire? (only two posible answers)

  • Anne-Kari

    (Throws hands up in exasperation) – I give up.

  • John

    Well, *I* had no idea about that particular detail, and I haven’t seen the movie yet. And I feel that that revelation was supposed to be something important. So thanks for killing that part for me, Doa766.

    And you seem to be justifying your actions with ‘well, Roger Ebert did it too!’. That does not make it right or justifiable. There’s a reason I don’t read Ebert’s reviews, he has a habit of doing this. I read MaryAnn’s reviews because she NEVER does that without a fair warning. I guess now I have to avoid the comments sections of her reviews until I’ve seen the movie in question, too.

  • Doa766

    John:

    Ebert did it because it’s not a spoiler, see the movie and you’ll understand that what you’d have wish not to know already is the vampire thing, and you’ll see that boy thing hardly matters at all

    “she’s undead” wrote Maryann on the review, now that’s both a spoiler and wrong and the same time

  • Doa766

    of course, for a movie exec (and dumb people in general) the only way to sell this movie is with the vampire angle but that would attract the wrong audience, the hostel/underworld audience, they would be bored by it and won’t recommend it

    the audience for this movie is the same people who loved lost in translation, in the mood for love and even amelie, that kind of audience would make it much more succesful, but they didn’t see it because all they know about it’s a poster of a kid covered in blood and that it has vampires

  • Doa766

    Anne-Kari:

    don’t give up, instead explain to me why “boy” is spoiler and “vampire” is not

    maybe I’m missing it and somehow ELI being a boy has some kind of transcendence that overshadows him being a vampire in terms of the narrative, because I thought it didn’t make any diference

    or maybe you just can’t accept that something believed by a majority is wrong

    let me put it this way:

    “she’s undead”: spoiler and misinformation

  • JoshB

    @Doa766: Are you just trolling now?

    Anne-Kari doesn’t have to explain anything to you. All she has to do is say she doesn’t want to hear it. For any person with a modicum of courtesy that would be enough.

  • MaryAnn

    Yeah, honestly, folks: Whether you think something is a spoiler or not, have a bit of courtesy and give a warning if you’re going to post a potential spoiler in the comments here.

    And here’s why “vampire” isn’t a spoiler and “boy” is: Even if you know absolutely nothing about this movie, from the opening seconds, you know it’s about either actual vampires in the supernatural sense or some crazy-ass people who just like to consume human blood. So you have a certain footing upon which to approach the rest of the story. What you do not have, from those opening seconds, is any idea that gender issues might come into play. So: vampire = not a spoiler. She’s a man, baby = spoiler.

    I don’t see what Ebert has to do with any of this.

  • NR

    I haven’t seen the movie yet (I’ve got the DVD pre-ordered), but I have read the book and I know enough about the movie to know it follows the book fairly well. Eli is not actually a boy anymore; the vampire that turned Eli sexually mutilated Eli was in the process…Sort of a vicious sex-change. The human boy that Eli was became a sexless vampire, neither boy nor girl nor human. Therefore, one can legitimately describe Eli as either a boy or girl. In the book, Eli says to Oskar, “I’m nothing,” in regards to gender.

    I personally don’t think knowing Eli is a vampire is a spoiler, and I don’t think knowing Eli is sexually ambiguous is a spoiler. The subtle, effective way the relationship between Eli and Oskar unfolds onscreen is such that by the time it’s obvious that the two love each other, this is all that matters.

    That’s how I see it anyway. What can I say? I’m a die-hard romantic. :)

  • JoshB

    What. The. Hell.

    You respond to this conversation about spoilers and how bad they are by providing yet more spoilers?

    You’re melting my brain.

  • What. The. Hell.

    You respond to this conversation about spoilers and how bad they are by providing yet more spoilers?

    No doubt the inevitable response to JoshB’s all too valid complaint will be a Television Without Pity-style recap of the whole movie…

  • JoshDM

    I was looking forward to watching this movie on DVD this weekend.

    Now I have a reason to catch these things in the theatre.

  • ms

    I have a suggestion – make two threads. One for before watching the film and one for after, because I’m dying to know loads more about it and can’t find any explanations on the web, but also don’t want to annoy those who haven’t seen it. Maybe you could post a url of more explanations if you know one? Thanks!

  • MaryAnn

    Just a big, clear spoiler warning at the top of your comments, so those who haven’t seen the film know to avoid it.

    (And I’m hoping to able to implement threaded comments some day. Then we’ll be able to have multiple conversations about a post without running into this issue.)

  • Anne-Kari

    A warning to those who would rent this on iTunes: IT IS DUBBED, BADLY on iTunes. I mean really, really badly.

  • amanohyo

    Hilariously badly, or does it not quite qualify as “so bad it’s good?”

  • Anne-Kari

    No, just really, really badly dubbed. It makes it unwatchable, and not in a funny way – it just sucks. Rent the dvd (check the case first, some editions are also dubbed) or catch it at a local art theater.

  • Pedro

    first time watching, first few scenes:

    do we know Eli is a vampire? yes. we see him/her bite a guy and kill him.

    do we know his/her sex? no. in one scene, he/she is wearing a frilly PINK sweater, for chrissakes!!

    therefore, we know what’s a spoiler and what isn’t. when i first read the description for this, it contained the word ‘vampire’, but it mentioned Eli as being a girl.

    by the way, i really didn’t like this movie all that much. if you want good Norse ghost stories for kids, go see “No Network”. it won the Junior Award in this year’s Indie Lisbon film festival, much as “Let The Right One In” did last year. except it’s way better.

    and is it just me, or is our main character more of a girl than his allegedly-female vampire friend?!

  • Anna

    Did anyone think Eli was just using Oskar to replace her “dad.” it seemed she had her dad as a human servant to take care of her. Maybe she seduced him when he was also 12 and he grew with time. She pulls oscar in only when this human helper dies making me beleive poor oscar is just her new servant in training (I e helping her travel by train at the end). How could a 100 year old vampire fall for a 12 year old boy? This is my take on it.

  • Nayan

    *SPOILER ALERT*

    Anna:

    Firstly, what they heck? Most of the comments posted here are about not revealing plot points and you reveal the end?!

    Secondly, I agree. I saw her as one of the most calculating and cunning movie characters in a long time. It seemed that her “Dad” was getting old and sloppy and it was time to groom a new “helper”. Maybe calculating enough to even cultivate the appearance of being a girl because that would help to lure in victims and get men to help protect her. (I say this from not having read the book and just going by the movie). No romantic story here. Just an old creature of evil and a vulnerable boy.

  • Marina

    Doa766:

    i´m an underworld fan and i loved let the right one in, what you said about underworld fans is offensive for me.

  • **SPOILERS**

    Anna, I know your comment is a couple months old now, but that’s kind of the entire point of the movie… :)

    And I gotta say, I saw this a while ago, with the proper subtitles even, and I had no idea Eli was a boy until I read the comments here just now. I may watch it again just to see if it makes a difference, and to try and figure out how I missed that in the first place.

    Right now I can’t figure out if it changes the film for me; I think maybe it doesn’t.

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