MOVIES | “Let the Right One In”: Classic horror, minus the naked coeds


Horror films may be, artistically, the most dismissed genre in film, but the genre has become a cash cow for studios. Films in franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Saw can cost less than $10 million but make triple that in opening-weekend ticket sales. Unsurprisingly, many of the older horror franchises have been recently remade or updated—a new Friday the 13th film is opening on Friday the 13th of February, 2009.

let the right one in, a movie written by john ajvide lindqvist and directed by tomas alfredson. opens friday, november 21 at the lagoon cinema. for tickets ($7-$9) and information, see listen to movie talk on kfai with hosts jim brunzell iii, erik mcclahanan, and peter schilling, thanksgiving day at 6 p.m., for more on let the right one in.

Horror films have always attracted teenagers and college kids, who flock to theaters in hopes of seeing inventive new death scenes, naked coeds, and gore galore splattering from aliens, demons, monsters, and humans. Most of these films, however, are bland copycats that are simply not scary. Fortunately, that can’t be said about Let the Right One In, the astonishing new Swedish coming-of-age vampire film from director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist (adapting his own novel, Let Me In). Alfredson and Lindqvist kick the doors in on the generic bloodsuckers and present a new horror classic.

Lonesome 12-year-old Oskar (an outstanding, solemn, Kare Hedebrant) is being bullied at school and goes home each night without anyone to play with—until, that is, he notices Eli (a mesmerizing Lina Leandersson). Eli is a young girl who has moved into his apartment complex; the two quickly become friends. As a series of gruesome dead bodies begin to accumulate around Stockholm, Oskar notices that Eli is only coming out at night and doesn’t seem to ever get cold. Oskar starts to have romantic feelings for Eli, even as he realizes that she may not be human.

Let The Right One In does have many spooks and surprises, but at its core, the film is a love story that captures all the desperation, isolation, and emotional intensity of being a pre-teen. Both young actors are entirely convincing in their brilliant, if bleak, debut performances. Alfredson’s keen eye for detail has vividly brought Lindqvist’s pages alive to create a haunting story with enough gore and suspense to satisfy any horror fan. The vampire mythology of darkness and sunlight is dramatized in a spine-tingling scene, set in a hospital room, that recalls The Exorcist while being completely original. Let the Right One In proves that you can make a superb vampire movie even without wooden stakes, garlic, or coffins (unless you count a makeshift casket in a bathroom).

The film isn’t perfect—it’s slow-moving at points, and Alfredson and Lindqvist make Eli’s parental guardian Hakan far less menacing than he is in the novel—but Let the Right One In is without a doubt one of the best films of 2008. It should find a growing cult audience for years to come, possibly doing to the horror genre what Memento did for the detective genre in 2001.

Unfortunately Let the Right One In is being remade in America and will be released in early 2010—so catch the original on the big screen before Hollywood subjects us to yet another unnecessary American remake of a foreign classic.

Jim Brunzell III ( writes on film for the Daily Planet and hosts KFAI’s Movie Talk.