32. Let the Right One In (2008)
I guess I get to be contrarian here because I don't think Let the Right One In is very good. But let me qualify that: The acting is good. The cinematography is good. The screenplay is good. But somehow when you put it all together, the film that results is phenomenally dull. As anyone who knows me well can attest, I much prefer watching films that are interestingly awful than competently boring. Boring is the worst thing for any work of art to be (unless its point is to explore the nature of boringness, of course)—which is why Killer Klowns from Outer Space would receive a higher rating from me than The English Patient.
During my previous run of vampire films in the Halloween Film Fest, I entertained the hypothesis that maybe I just don't think vampires are very compelling or interesting. Let the Right One In provided some more empirical evidence pointing in that direction. The film is the story of a vampire girl named Eli—although in the novel she's apparently a castrated vampire boy—who moves into an apartment next door to this homely kid with a really bad haircut named Oskar who's getting bullied at school. (Get a new haircut. That's probably why they're bullying you, Oskar. You look like an elf from Tolkien.) Quicker than you can say 'meet-cute,' these two become fast friends. At first Eli hides her vampiric tendencies from Oskar, while her 'guardian' Håkan goes out and murders people to satisfy her bloodlust, but later Oskar—no dummy, he—puts two and two together based on some of Eli's hints. For instance, Eli tells Oskar she can fly and that she'll die in the sunlight—which are less hints, I suppose, than blinking neon signs reading, 'I AM A VAMPIRE, DUMBASS.'
I know what this film was trying to do. It was trying to be a heartfelt love story about two lonely outsiders who manage to find and comfort each other in a world full of pain. And that's a really nice sentiment. I can get behind it 100%. (In theory.) But Let the Right One In didn't work for me as a love story or a horror film. Since I am somewhat of a lonely outsider myself, you'd think I'd be able to relate to the premise—that I'd have a special inclination to empathize with its characters—but I remained emotionally estranged from the film the whole time I watched it. I kept looking at my watch, in fact—not exactly a sign of rapt involvement. I think I'm just tired of people trying to get all revisionist and mine the tragic potential of vampire stories while sticking with many of the silly conventions of their backstories. Okay, so you drink blood, can't come in uninvited, and spontaneously combust in sunlight... What else you got?
Do you plan to see the American version?ReplyDelete
I hope I'm not ruining anything here by saying this, but I read the book, too, and let me tell you something: Eli is not a girl.
Hmmm... Did you even read my post, Morais? I said that she's a castrated boy in the book...Delete
Either I just got caught skimming your blog or you snuck that in there while I wasn't looking!Delete
I liked this movie. I bought the two outsiders finding comfort with one another. It made me sad that someday Oskar is going to be Eli's new Håkan...ReplyDelete
Did you read the book? Because I thought this, too, until I read the book and it explains Hakan's relationship with Eli (P.S. it is NOT SIMILAR to Oskar's relationship with him/her).Delete
But why is Oskar's hair so bad? That's the real horror here.Delete
(Yeah, Morais, we know. Håkan is a pedophile. But Oskar is still too young to be a pedophile, so there's hope for him yet.)
No, I haven't read the book. What is Hakan like in the book?Delete
Oskar's hair is horrible. Eli could have helped a brother out by giving him a new 'do.
In the book, Hakan is already a pedophile when he meets Eli. In fact, he meets Eli because he is a pedophile (I believe Eli had a pimp at that point whom Hakan pays to meet a young boy). I'm sketchy on the details that followed but basically Hakan is infatuated with Eli and Eli uses this to his advantage (basically getting Hakan to kill for blood in exchange for sex). This is very different from the way Eli meets Oskar and even though I suppose Oskar could grow up to be a pedophile, I think it's implied (at least in my mind) that it's more of a genuine friendship sort of thing, very different from the perverse relationship he had with Hakan.Delete
Lots of sexual ambiguity in the novel, too. I think Oskar makes out with Eli even after finding out he was a boy so Oskar could be gay. Or maybe the Swedes don't really define sexual preferences with limiting labels like we Americans do. Perhaps they are as lax about sexual labels as they are about bad haircuts.Delete
The book is really fucking good.ReplyDelete
The film score by Soderqvist is very nice.ReplyDelete