Let The Right One In Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated March 10th, 2009 at 9:00 pm,

Short Version: Let The Right One In is one of the greatest vampire movies ever made; a worthy Oscar contender for International Film of the Year.

let the right one in eli Let The Right One In Review
Screen Rant Reviews Let The Right One In

I just had to see  Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel, Let The Right One In, as soon as it hit American theaters this past Friday. There had been such fervent buzz about how good this film was that I, as a fanatical follower of the vampire genre, could not ignore the opportunity to see if the film lived up to the hype.

Well, having seen the film and already scheduled a second viewing, I can tell you that Let The Right One In deserves every amount of praise it’s earned: it sets new standards for what a vampire movie should be, and how horror movies should effect us.

The film mirrors the novel’s plot about a twelve year old boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant). Oskar is not like a lot of his classmates: his pale, awkward looks mark him as an outsider; he has morose hobbies, such as keeping a scrap book of newspaper clippings about the grisly murders happening just outside his small town. His parents are divorced, both mother and father can barely be called adults, and poor Oskar is tossed back and forth between them like the hot potato neither one wants to hold too long. No surprise then that in his private moments, Oskar indulges in violent fantasies about murdering the bullies who torment him every day in school.

Life changes the night that Oskar first meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a twelve year-old girl who has moved in next door to him in his large apartment complex. Oskar immediately senses that he’s found a kindred spirit: Eli is also a loner, she smells “funny,” she walks around in the snow with no shoes and no coat, she’s never even seen a Rubix Cube (the film is set in the 80′s, mind you), and oddly enough, she only comes out to play at night. Eli quickly takes a liking to oddball Oskar and the two form the kind of friendship/puppy-love bond only ‘tweeners share.

Admist all this young love, a string of ritual slayings begin to occur in Oskar’s small town–right around the time Eli and her “father” move in. The victims are found hoisted up by their feet, their throats slashed, blood drained. It’s no great SPOILER to tell you that the murders are indeed being perpetrated by Eli’s “father.” However, when one of blood-hunts gets botched and Eli’s father has to make a terrible sacrifice (you have to see it to believe it) in order to protect his “daughter,” Eli is left alone, forced to hunt for her own blood supply. Having no other protector Eli turns to Oskar, her only friend, forcing the young boy to make a man’s choice about who he is going to be in a world of predators and prey.

Let The Right One In is a stunning achievement in terms of direction. Unlike so many American horror films, Let The Right One In doesn’t bash you over the head with obvious metaphors or hackneyed plots that barely hold together beyond getting you from murder scene A, to murder scene B. Tomas Alfredson crafts the film like a series of short stories, rather than a whole novel. What I mean by that statement is that Alfredson meticulously packs every scene with detail and nuanced implication, helping every moment to convey so much, while doing so little. Like any good short story, you could take any scene of Let The Right One In and have it stand alone as it’s own short film-and because every scene succeeds so well in telling it’s own story, the movie as a whole is able to present what, on the surface, seems like a straightforward narrative, yet taken in context with all implications surrounding it, the story becomes a complex, densly layered morality tale that resonates in a fundamental way with our emotional compasses. This is all accomplished using the bare minimum of cinematic tools: dialogue in the film is sparse, there is very little ambient music (basically the same eerie tune from the trailer playing out in full), and the stripped down format helps to give the gorgeous visuals extra room to breath–creative space that Alfredson works with a skillful hand only the most masterful directors posses.

Within the context of a horror film, the minimalist approach truly flourishes: before a word is even spoken we’re already deeply invested in Oskar. We sympathize with the pain of each and every hit the boy takes in the schoolyard, yet we can’t help but feel a deep-seeded anxiety whenever Oskar, alone at home, takes his favorite hunting knife out into the yard to fantasize about murdering the classmates who torment him. Twenty minutes into the film, Alfredson has us doing emotional somersaults about whether we’re watching the sufferings of a picked-upon nerd, or one of the Columbine killers (to put it in an American context)  having the seeds of a murderer sewn by the abuses of his formative years. By minute twenty-one, when Eli first appears, the movie has achieved one of the near-impossible feats of telling a good vampire story: keeping the human drama elevated above the monster madness.

By keeping things emotionally grounded, and utilizing a “less implies more” approach, Alfredson corners us right where he wants us. Whenever there is a display of violence–be it human on human, or vampire on human–we feel it and it disturbs us. In this era of Hostel, where people can so often watch others get maimed and murdered while still wolfing down their popcorn a handful at a time, getting the audience to feel anything is a feat in and of itself. Let The Right One In forces you to grapple with the  psychological weight and violent nature of the survival instinct–and because that weight is being placed on children who are barley at the threshold of adolescence, the gravity of their choices resonates in a profound way that adults (i.e. those no longer “innocent”) could never convey.

let the right one in Let The Right One In Review
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) In Let The Right One In

Thank Hedebrant and Leandersson for bringing lead characters Oskar and Eli to life so vividly. I can’t imagine another pair of young actors playing these roles. Hedebrant breathes unique breath into what could have been a cliched character: the social misfit.  In Hedebrant’s hands, Oskar’s every quirk and awkward glance work to make him a three-dimensional and relatable character. No matter what country you are from, or where you went to school, you knew a misfit kid who was just like Oskar, yet at the same time, not quite him. Leandersson, on the other hand, is a beautiful young actress who is bound for stardom, if she chooses to pursue it. In playing Eli, Leandersson has an ageless stare about her–one that makes you question whether Eli has been a vampire for five days, or five hundred years. To keep the monster grounded in humanity, Leandersson treats Eli’s vampirism like a communicable form of cancer, portraying Eli like the long-time patient of a cancer ward, who wants to be free to explore her  adolescence, even if it costs the lives of those around her. This dual rendering of Eli, as both rabid predator and afflicted victim, is a major reason why the film’s climax (and a lot of the more nuanced plot points) works so plausibly. Hedebrant and Leandersson exhibit tremendous chemistry: their relationship is Shakespearean in scale: as complex as a middle-aged couple trying work through the turbulent circumstances of a breast cancer diagnosis; yet still as naive and innocent as that first adolescent crush we’ve all had. Remarkable work from these two young leads.

Let The Right One In is such a good film that after just one viewing I too share Tomas Alfredson’s anger over the American remake that is already underway. This film doesn’t need to be remade: it needs to be dissected, so that more American filmmakers can observe and understand the fact that it is subtlety and nuance that help films transcend their medium; horror filmmakers need to be reminded that good horror films in fact HORRIFY us by having bad things happen to fully-formed characters we’re actually rooting for. Stock victims and buckets of blood be damned.

Unfortunately, at the moment Let The Right One In is only playing in L.A. and NYC. No word yet on if it will get a wider release in forthcoming months (if it doesn’t, the DVD is due out March 10, 2009, so Netflix it now). The American remake is scheduled for a 2010 release. But don’t wait, see this film now, in its original form. You will so very happy that you took to the time to sink your teeth into it (the obligatory vampire pun).

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Just my point. George Romero was right!
    They walk amongst us

  2. @ Firewalker

    Not everyone scares as easily as you. Being a horror fan doesn’t mean believing that everything tagged as horror is scary. Did you have nightmares for a month after watching Cloverfield and blairwitch? Furthermore Blair Witch not scary either. Sorry but not many horror movies produced now a days are scary. Mostly they give wtf moments and damn he/she got jacked up moments. Being a fan of horror doesn’t mean being a mindless sheep that just says yes its labeled as horror so its scary. Furthermore Cloverfield was more Sci-Fi than horror.

  3. I saw this movie, and I have to say it was one of the most unique takes on the vampire myth that I’ve ever seen. The idea of Eli still, somewhat being a child mentally was kind of an interesting twist.

    The romantic overtones of the relationship made me a bit uncomfortable. I think that had more to do with the fact that real children were being put in a position to act out these events as opposed to the story itself. The film, in that sense, skirts a fine line of mature filmmaking as opposed to child pornography (that statement might stir a bit of controversy. Sorry if it does). That said, it’s the film’s unwillingness to flinch from where the story demands to go that makes this such a great film. I suspect an Americanized version will find this very difficult to handle.

    The other challenge to this film in a remake: the casting. Those two kids did an incredible job. The young girl playing Eli delivers such a dead-on (sorry, my turn for the obligatory pun) performance. She is both the child and the ancient vampire.

    Yes, it’s a bit slow. If I didn’t know that it was going to be a vampire film going into it, I don’t think I’d have the patience to watch it.

    A very good review here. I think it hits on a lot of the important points about this film.

  4. @ Bill Blume

    I can see how the “romantic” overtones could make people uncomfortable, but it’s also a reference to maturing which that is about the age kids, tweens or whatever start to become attracted to the opposite sex. As for the the skirting with child pornography, there was none. A boy in his undies is VERY DIFFERENT from a nude boy prancing around, plus there was no sexual activity between him and an adult or him and the girl, who also was not nude at anytime. Even the Puppet Master scene as unnecessary as it was, was clearly a fake molding.

    Also she was taken care of like a child and to portray that to deter suspicion so it’s not mind boggling that the character’s mind set would be that of a child, besides Kirsten Dunst played the same character in Interview with the Vampire.

    Sorry, but I saw nothing new on the vampire myth take. Even when she started dying because she didn’t have permission to come in is still along the same lines of rendering a vampire weak and somewhat powerless thus easy to kill if they don’t have permission to come in.

  5. I can be against certain facets of
    American culture if I want to. The reason that a remake of ‘Let The Right One In’ being filmed in America is a waste is because of Hollywood. Some films made there are good but most of American films I like would be cast as indie.

    The simple reason is this: the director might be gifted, the cast be perfect, the script well written etc but the producer is the one who ulimately makes the decisions. The producer is under pressure from the studio and in effect films from Hollywood are now about making money rather then films. One way to make money is to be is to not confront anyone at all so no one is offended and everyone will see the films.

    It is not that I have anything against remakes and I just don’t like it when the makers of a film assume I’m stupid or narrow minded therefore unable to challenging entertainment.

    Sure the American might be good or surpass the Swedish film but that is only if it surives the process of being turned into a cash cow.

  6. This is really just a wonderful, exceptional movie which manages to create emotional somersaults after watching and thinking about it. I just hope that many more people will be able to experience that (with the right subtitles of course…) in the future!

    @ Bill Blume
    The love story here is a very innocent, tender one, with no sexual intentions. Or let me quote Alfredson here from an interwiew he gave an other movie site some time ago:

    “….My impression has always been that the vampire bite has been a sexual act – the beauty turning herself over to the beast. In this story sex is totally left out, the urge of drinking blood is just a matter of nutrition. It’s so beautiful with this love story between these teenagers without a moment itching hardons, incipient breasts or parents who wants to talk about pregnancy.

    Just plain tenderness and eternal love. That’s really cool. No sex please, we’re Swedish! ” :-)

  7. @SIN187UM

    No I do not get nightmares from films or scary easy, but I did after survieing a bomb blast in beirut in the 80′s hence firewalker but that’s another story I’ve been in love with films all my life so a scary film for me involves a certain amount of investment into the characters, so when not so good things happen (suspensefull way-see alfred hitchcook) to them yes i get scaried (entertaiment). So in my opinion again Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project and yea 28 days later Have the elements of a good story, character investment and suspense and in addition the films have a cinema verite stlye which gave a realistic feel and yes because of my investment into the film made the horror even more frightening, so please what films have made you scared?

  8. @ Firewalker

    The only film that has ever truly scared me was John Carpenters The Thing, and that was when I was like 5 or 6. But now nothing scares me as far as horror movies go, and I always compare “scare factor” to that film and how I felt back in the day. Other wise for me its just shock factor these movies. So for me if a movie isn’t giving me a nightmare later on then its not scary, hence Cloverfield and Blair Witch.

  9. @ SIM187UM
    i understand your pain Both “The Thing” fims were frightening, especially charpenter’s.

    I saw the original Night of the Living Dead when I was 7 or 8 and I know today I was way to young for that film.

    There’s a little known film from Norway now on DVD called “Cold Prey” you might like I loved it, nothing like a Winter setting, if you see it or saw it already let me know what you think.

  10. sorry i just realized I wrote @SIM187UM instead of @SIN187UM

  11. @ Firewalker

    Yes I have seen Cold Prey, it was decent with a very good twist at the end. NP on the misspell.

    Have you seen The Burrowers?

  12. @SIN187UM

    No I haven’t is it playing in the threaters? or is it out on DVD?

    I just returned the “tell no one” DVD not a horror but a very good suspense thriller. and another good thriller “true crimes”

    I’ll look for the the Burrowers and give you my review.

  13. @ Firewalker

    Yes it is on DVD, at Blockbuster I know. I think I saw tell no one on the shelf. Is it similar to Dirty pretty Things?

  14. @SIN187SUM

    sorry I haven’t seen “dirty pretty things” but i quickly looked up a review and now my interest is sparked the film looks good The director Stephan Frears has done a couple of good films in the past “The Grifters”, “my beautiful laundrette”.

    “Tell No One” is similar to the “fugitive” but alittle more character driven and updated

    The Film “Splinter” now on DVD is my next must see.

    Also “Dirty Little Things” sounds like it might be similar to another little gritty film that came out a couple of years ago called “Running Scared” which i really liked

  15. @ Firewalker

    Oh man I need to stop by blockbuster again so I can get a copy of Splinter, it looks along the same lines of Alien Raiders. Yes Dirty Pretty Things is a good drama/thriller that is well acted. I’ll see if they have tell no one there also.

  16. @ Firewalker

    Saw Splinter the other day. It was pretty good, just too short. Let me know if u watch it and what u think of it.

  17. @SIN187UM

    Sorry I tried to rent “Splinter” at blockbuster but they were all out. blockbuster will probably be out of it for awhile. They only carry 3 copies but they have over 30 copies of Twilight, and other mass appeal crap. When i get a chance I’m going to watch those other films you recommend.
    I’ll probably end up buying Splinter.

  18. Ok, I finally rented this and saw this movie. Firstly, I unfortunately got the crappy subtitle version, not the theatrical version, but anywho.

    I liked the movie, I’ve never had any interest in vampire movies, especially how they make them seem so romantic or whatever. This movie wasn’t like that, it was treated kind of realistically, and the focus of the movie was less of the fact that one of them is a vampire, and more of a drama between the two main characters. But the part that kind of bugged me…


    was the fact that this “romance” not only was it between a young boy and Eli, a much older vampire trapped in a kid’s body, but also that Eli wasn’t even a girl… So it’s really, if you think about it, technically a romance between an old man and a young boy… I know the circumstances are not typical, but in a way that’s what it was… Weird… Let’s just say I know for sure the crappy remake of it will most likely not include that aspect of the movie…

  19. @ken j


    Not a girl…? then you must have seen something completely different then what i saw because they actually show her downstairs in the version that i saw… and it was female.


  20. @jago


    Actually, I saw it on DVD and they do show downstairs, and that’s actually where they show it. It wasn’t a female’s downstairs, it was a closed up wound after something else have been removed… From what I know about the novel, Eli is written as an androngynous boy. In the movie, Eli “tests the waters” twice, the first time after she vomits and Oskar hugs her, she asks “Do you like me?” and then “Would you still like me if I wasn’t a girl?” Then later when she goes into his bedroom and he asks if they can be together. At first Eli doesn’t give an answer, and instead makes the remark “I’m not a girl” and only after that remark where Oskar replies if they can be together anyway, then all of a sudden Eli says yes, they are together and from then on, Eli is writing him love notes, being sweet, etc…

    My friends actually disagreed with me as well, so we actually went back to that scene where he peeks in on her changing, and if you pause it on that frame, you see the opening is not vertical like if it was a female’s, it looks like rough cuts that didn’t quite heal all the way with the main cut running horizontally. Then I looked it up online to see if it has been discussed and I read in a lot of articles where people mention how in the novel Eli is an androngynous boy, or just a boy that pretends to be a girl, probably because it’s easier for a little girl to get boys to help them than the other way around. Not to mention, getting guys to help kill for her will be easier than getting girls to… It’s pretty much accepted that Eli’s gender is an actual issue and it’s not as simple as it seemed at first…

  21. ***MORE SPOILERS***

    Ah, I just looked it up again and read one of the articles more completely, Eli was written in the novel as a boy that was castrated by vampire nobelmen very very long ago. This article also confirms what I was saying that the only mentions of this in the film are the times Eli tries to tell Oskar that she isn’t a girl and that brief scene that shows scars of the castration, not of female genitals.

  22. @ken j

    Spoiler alert

    Trust me what i saw was vertical… i didn’t see it on dvd but i saw it several times in the theater (not in the USA but a friend of ours owned one and we would see movies for free and he would even rewind and pause if we had to go to the bathroom or something)… we tried not to pause it to not look like pedophiles… but since there was money involved in the argument we had to… i don’t exactly remember when i saw it… but i know it wasn’t this year when i did but i do remember winning the bet. Now i do know about the novel where he was castrated and all so i understand what your trying to say but the version that me and my cousins saw had a regular vertical line there.

  23. @jago


    Then you guys saw a version that completely changes an important aspect of the novel and over simplifies it… Not sure which one is better… I think your more “socially acceptable” version would have been easier to swallow, but deviates too much from the source material. I’ve read that not only did they intend to keep that aspect, they actually filmed scenes that were flashbacks to Eli’s past that ELABORATES on what I was talking about, but they ended up cutting those scenes from the final cut and made the castration scar and Eli’s comments the only indications in the film.

    That was also covered in an interview with the director…

  24. @ken j


    Well either way its still creepy on my behalf whether it be an old lady or a man, but i will say this though… ever since seeing it i can’t close my eyes in a pool without thinking about that one scene if its happening behind or around me.

  25. Haha, that scene wasn’t scary, it was one of the “happy” scenes in my opinion, haha. I was more worried if she wouldn’t show up…

    I liked that they did most of that practically instead of making it all CG like most people would do now-a-days. Like that horrible horrible movie Knowing, EVERYTHING was CG!

  26. @ken j

    Oh i wasn’t saying that that scene was scary… just the thought of it happening around me in the same pool that i might just be swimming in or whatever one day…

    I haven’t seen knowing… the trailers didn’t really interest me that much… it looked to much like “next” and i didn’t really care much for that either. Haven’t really seen many movies with cage in it that i liked…ill just mention the ones i can remember:

    Family man
    The Rock
    Face Off
    Gone in Sixty Seconds
    Trapped in Paradise(mainly cause of Dana carvey & jon lovitz)
    lord of war
    ant bully

    Now that i’m looking at it… seems like more then enough really since its cage anyways…lol.

  27. Yah, we rented Knowing the day after we rented Let the Right One In. I recommended LTROI, and my friend wanted to watch Knowing. Before that another friend wanted to watch Little Children, that sucked, and then I recommended Frequency, that everyone liked, then another friend wanted to watch Two Lovers, which sucked horribly, worse than Knowing… That’s it, I’m the only one that recommends good movies in my group, lol.

  28. Damn! Now I want to see it! But, I bet we only get the American remake. :(

  29. Hi everybody,
    spoiler alert
    Reading the book the author refers to Eli as a she until the author reveals that Eli is a boy then in the rest of the book the author refers to ELi as a he.

    I think This book is rich in methaphors and hidden meanings.

    ELi is a methaphor that represents a type of social decline that seduced swedish society in the Mid eighties.

    Eli in the book at many times offers salvation,redemption, friendship and yet will kill without conscience.

    If the devil shows up as the devil will you run? But if the devil shows up as a little innocent girl will you be afraid?

    I started to think. I know I do that to much. What was going on in the Mid-eighties that had sweden (for that matter all of europe) in a frenzy. Maybe cold war, nuclear holocaust?

    I realized too that Eli was made a Vampire 200 years from the mid-eighties. I’m thinking birth of American democracy

    so in my over imaginative mind I conclude that ELI is methaphor for American and british democracy that has infected swedish society which at first offers salvation and redemption, but later leads to decline and will kill without conscience.

    Now I do not feel this way, I feel this the point the author is expressing.

    The ELI-he/she is a methphor for the Ronald Reagan/Margret Thachter Alliance