Fantastic Fest 2008 - Let the Right One In


Every once in a while, a professional movie freak (like me) sees a very special film (like this one) and then raves about it on every forum imaginable (like this one) -- and I'm here to tell the fine horror geeks of FEARnet the following: You've simply never seen a movie like the Swedish import Let the Right One In. It's not just because the movie is smart, sweet, twisted, touching, and sincere -- but it also does something very unique: It actually elevates the whole damn genre. Show this wondrous flick to someone who doesn't normally enjoy horror films, and just watch them melt in the glow of LTROI.

The story is an appreciably simple one (although it branches off in directions you simply won't expect), and here it is: A lonely young boy discovers that his new neighbor is a girl about his age. What he doesn't know is that the new girl is actually a vampire who travels with a "servant" who brings her food whenever she needs it. And since vampire food is (of course) blood, we can expect this small Swedish village to contend with all sorts of newfound miseries.

But that synopsis makes it sounds like Let the Right One In is a straightforward (if slightly youth-oriented) horror flick that takes you from point A to point B in potentially conventional fashion. It's not, and it doesn't. Tucked beneath the surface of a novel new vampire twist is a story about honor and loyalty, fear and friendship, isolation and invasion. The film works as both a touching tale of "puppy love" (of a sort) and slowly ramps up to become a very fresh horror tale that never takes the easy way out.

Handsomely shot, very well-paced, and packed with a handful of gruesome surprises for the horror freaks, Let the Right One In is one of those genre imports that gets discovered at film festivals and goes on to live very popular lives on the video store shelves. The lead kids (Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson) are nothing short of flawless, which is especially impressive in a fairly "mature" horror movie like this one, and their chemistry allows a potentially outlandish premise to feel as real and personal as, well, a teenage romance that DOESN'T involve ravenous vampires and horrific murders. Suffice to say that Let the Right One In is a pretty unique beast, and it's a flick that would NEVER arrive via the Hollywood studio system, seeing as how it deals with hardcore gore, pre-teen sexuality, and some rather nasty kid-on-kid violence. And yet, for a movie that has a lot of dicey components, it sure comes off as a really sweet story. That's not just good filmmaking; that's real intelligence behind the camera.

Word is that an English-language remake is on the way (eventually), but I wouldn't wait on that one. Magnet / Magnolia has a real classic on their hands, and their plan is to begin a limited release in late October -- with a DVD release to follow. The Fantastic Fest jury recently award Let the Right One In with the Best Horror Film award -- and this was a festival pretty much stocked with solid horror movies. And take it from a guy who's seen the flick twice already: I can't wait to see it again.