Movie News & Reviews

'Let the Right One In' shows vampire fad has yet to be sucked dry

If there were a game called "Nation or Monster," where you listadjectives and everyone else has to guess whether you're talking abouta country's people or a mythological horror, that game would fail assoon as anyone starts talking about vampires or Sweden.

Pale? That's no help. Moody? Tall? Could go either way. Overserious,fond of gross beverages, and impossibly pretty? Again, there's nopractical difference. But it does explain why the two go so welltogether, as in 2008's Let the Right One In.

12-year-old Kare Hedebrant is ignored by his parents, bullied by hispeers, and cut off from the world. He finds his first friend in LinaLeandersson, the new girl in his apartment complex, an odd duck whopromises to help him deal with his tormenters. Oh, right: and she'salso a vampire.

Like you might guess, Let the Right One In is moody. And snowy.And slow. It's the kind of movie people call "atmospheric," which isusually code for "interesting even though nothing's really happening."

But far from being plotless, Right One's story just takes itstime to play out. Adapting from his own novel, screenwriter JohnAjvide Lindqvist sets up small events early (inasmuch as crazy publicbloodsuckings can be considered "small") with big consequences later.Director Tomas Alfredson nails that novelistic feel, handling bucketsof secondary characters and tangential scenes without losing focus.

What more could you want than brooding atmospherics and a literaryfeel? Ah yes, the part where you have fun. No worries: Leanderssonisn't the sparkly or swoony kind of vampire. She's hungry, and thatmeans tackling grown men into the snow like fat-bellied deer andmaking them scream in ways that would embarrass them if they didn'thave far greater worries, like their rapidly dropping blood pressure.

It's the contrast between Leandersson's animal brutality andHedebrant's very ground-level, young adult problems that makes it sogripping. Meanwhile, the rules of vampirism are treated with as muchattention to detail as the ins and outs of Hedebrant's schoolboy life.

As for the romance that inevitably follows vampires around (I thinktheir natural eroticism is so highly charged the only way to preventit from exploding is to strap it down with tight black leather), here,Hedebrant doesn't even know what going steady means. I'd like to thinkthe vampire fad has played itself out, but with fresh takes likeLet the Right One In, it may be around a while yet--and in thatcase, it won't be all bad.