Saturday, October 11, 2014

31 Days of Horror: Let the Right One In

Oskar and Eli become fast friends on a dark night in Let the Right One In.
In addition to our regular programming, every day this month, Last Cinema Standing will be bringing readers recommendations from the best of the horror genre as we make our way to Halloween. This should not be treated as a “best of” list but more as a primer. You can read the full introduction to Last Cinema Standing’s 31 Days of Horror here, and be sure to check back each day for a new suggestion.

Day 11: Let the Right One In (2008)

Around the end of the last decade, America was in the midst of a full-blown vampire renaissance. 30 Days of Night had come out in 2007, while Daybreakers would be released in 2009, and right in the middle of it all was 2008’s Twilight – the mega-selling young-adult fiction turned blockbuster franchise that was as ubiquitous as it was kitschy. We all lived through it together. I do not need to remind you of it.

But three and half weeks before Edward and Bella taught us to love again – or whatever those movies were about – U.S. audiences were treated to a Swedish import with genuine insights into human relationships and the existential trappings of being alive and undead.

Let the Right One In has legitimate scares and a haunting atmosphere that hangs over the whole affair – partially thanks to a snowy northern Sweden climate – but it comes to life most in the small, human/no-longer-human moments shared between a friendless boy and a friendless girl. That she is a vampire is a conceit, not the end all, be all of their struggle.

Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is small, uncool, and lonely and suffers at the hands of a trio of larger, older tormentors. As the days begin to blend together for Oskar – wake, school, bullied, dinner, sleep, repeat – Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves in next door. Their burgeoning friendship is the thrust of the story. Even when he finds out she is a vampire, little for them changes. Kindred spirits come in all forms. It is the town that senses something is out of balance, and that is from where the action derives.

Make no mistake, the thrills will leave you thrilled, and the scares will leave you scared, but it all works because director Tomas Alfredson and writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, adapting his own novel, have made you care deeply for these two “kids.” The audience’s investment in their relationship is the filmmakers’ first priority, and by focusing on that, the flower of a deeply felt and dread-filled horror tale blooms.

Tomorrow, we pack up and head to camp to meet some kids who are not so friendly.

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