Sweden provided moviegoers with both the novel and initial cinema adaptation of last year’s sensation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The country’s contribution to the ongoing European Film Festival, Let the Right One In, has been remade by Hollywood and is also from a Swedish novel.
Released in 2008, Let the Right One In is masterful horror by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson who gave us last year’s British espionage, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Like that film, Right One uses silence as much as it uses sounds, only here its use provokes a genuine sense foreboding. Meanwhile, the sounds – blood dribbling into a can, the intermittent snips and slurps of a vampire biting and drinking blood from a human in anguish, the terrifying meows of cats attacking a screaming human – are equally potent.
Oskar is a twelve year old being bullied at school whose life changes when he meets Eli, the girl next door, who is far from ordinary. She is everything he is not – strong, brave, particularly adept at Rubik’s cube (the toy was a rave in the early 80s) – and he, either due to loneliness or in spite of it, falls for her. In a tender heartbreaking moment that speaks to the angst and terrifying desperation of a lonely childhood he asks her, “Will you be my girlfriend?” And this is after she has admitted to being a vampire. Eli’s father is in charge of supplying the child with blood, but he’s become increasingly less reliable so Eli has to help herself to some blood from the neighborhood which sparks a quest for revenge.
Two strands are effectively handled by this masterpiece of horror: on the one hand, there is the chilling vampire story; on the other, is a love story between two people from literally different worlds. Both are guided by the expert directorial hands of Alfredson and captured beautifully by Hoyte van Hoytema, in whose hands the wintery scenery is transformed into a place of potential danger but nevertheless one of beauty.
The horror tale succeeds because of its frankness and matter-of-fact approach to the terrifying moments – there is a close up of an acid induced disfiguring of a face; the first scene of murder is handled steadily, so without gimmicks as to appear to be an occurrence that could happen anywhere from Scandinavia to Okokomaiko; rather than gush, blood drips – while, the love story is carried through by the remarkable acting from the children, Kare Hedebrant (as Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (as Eli). This is no Twilight, this is a reinvention of the Dracula tale as dreamed into being by Bram Stoker.
Nigerians famously don’t scare easily – there are too many terrifying details in our daily lives. Still, I doubt anyone can watch Let the Right One In without a few shivers down the spine.
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