‘I must be gone and live, or stay and die’

Tomas Alfredson’s chilling new thriller Let the Right One In is, essentially, a tale of young love. When eleven-year-old Oskar, a shy, withdrawn, reclusive victim of schoolyard bullying, meets twelve-year-old Eli, there is a natural connection between them. Eli is everything Oskar longs to be: bold, confident and strong-willed. Soon, under her steady coaching, Oskar blossoms with fresh self-confidence. There is one slight catch, however. Eli, for all her positive qualities, is a hooded-eyed, blood-sucking vampire. As the pristine-perfect backdrop of snowy Sweden is stained with innocent blood, Oskar and Eli, united as social misfits, must fight to stay together in this haunting yet touching coming-of-age tale.

Alfredson’s casting crew deserve praise here for having sought out a remarkably convincing pair of protagonists, played earnestly and sensitively by the young Kåre Hedebrant as pale little Oskar and Lina Leandersson as the even paler Eli. Despite some highly graphic spectacles, including corrosive acid-induced facial disfigurements, severed ligaments and the unnerving sight of a young child lapping up spilt blood like a hungry kitten, Alfredson creates a highly successful balance between images of eye-watering butchery, and scenes so sensitive and tender that it is near impossible to believe the monstrosities this child is capable of. The film is more about fighting one’s personal demons than the physical demons involved, and as such, Alfredson does not have to rely too heavily on shock tactics or gory images to maintain tension. With the exception of a few well-timed comedic moments, this film will have you gripped throughout.

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Let The Right One In is completed by a first-rate orchestral soundtrack, with credit due to Johan Söderqvist, along with stunning cinematography of the brutal yet beautiful Swedish mountains. If there is any criticism to be made, it is that scenes sometimes feel overly long and drawn out, leading to a slight deceleration in pace. Despite these minimal faults, however Let The Right One In is a chilling masterpiece which is well worth watching, and is fully deserving of the 23 prizes it has already picked up overseas.