Saturday, October 9, 2010

Let the Right One In

I saw this on Netflix Instant yesterday before I went to see the remake with my friends, because I wanted to be sure I saw the original first, undiluted by preexisting opinions. Of course seeing it first, especially so soon before going to the new one, might have adversely affected my opinion the other way instead, but in cases like this I think the original deserves the benefit of fresh eyes. And I'm glad, because it turned out to be my favorite vampire movie ever (honestly not that high of a standard previously) and one of my favorite films of any sort of the last decade. Though it has its share of disturbing imagery, it's not really horror, but the story of a boy named Oskar's coming of age as he becomes friends with the new neighbor girl named Eli, who happens to subsist on human blood. Some of the creepier scenes don't actually involve her, but her caretaker posing as her father, who tries to kill people and drain their blood so she isn't put at risk. Eventually though she has to do some killing herself, and these scenes are also effectively moody and borderline frightening.

But again, the movie is really about Oskar. His parents are divorced, and although clearly loving they occasionally show some less than stellar skills at the job. He has no real friends, and is regularly bullied, by one kid in particular. He seeks solace in a friendship with Eli, who pushes him away at first, but he slowly gets pulled into her world, almost inevitably. It's a really effective story, told very gradually, but generally well paced and never feeling slow despite the stately feel. It builds to an impressive and bloody finish before a poignant ending. The acting is generally good, especially the kids in the main roles, although I could have done without Oskar's constantly runny nose. There are a couple scenes that could have been cut and improved the movie, especially one with some particularly unfortunate CGI work, but overall it's a well shot movie, particularly focusing on the photography itself. It's an absolutely gorgeous film, using little more than the Swedish environment itself, and there's an endless supply of scenes improved with perfect framing and lighting. Not every movie can be filmed this way, but it just works extremely well with this story in particular. If you're going to see just one of these films, make it this one.

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