Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Twilight" is Darker in Sweden

When I learned the Crest Theater was going to show the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In for the last time, I had to go. It's produced dozens of glowing reviews from the usual suspect sites, from Aint It Cool News to io9.

I was there for the first showing, but I think they were delaying the showing to get more people in the main theater. It was competing with two Oscar contenders, Doubt and The Reader (both that I have reviewed). Ironically, they were shown in the smaller theaters, as in megaplex size.
For a while, I thought I would be the only person seeing it, but the "audience" grew to about 15 people. Really, this movie deserves better, and just because it's shown at noon on a Saturday. It's a tender vampire love story that makes Bella and Edward the lame posers they really are. It's all because of the story, and how it's shown.

The movie opens with Oscar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12 year old boy who lives with his mom in a suburb of Stockholm sometime in the early 1980's. He's a lonely kid who is often the target of bullies in school. He also carries a knife, and a scrapbook with some disturbing stories. One night, he sees an old man and a young girl move into the apartment next door. He is Hakan and the young girl is Eli (Lina Leandersson). Later that night, Hakan meets a man and drugs him. He hangs him from a tree, and taps his blood as if he was a maple tree. He's not able to get as much blood as he would like, and Eli is upset by this. Guess why.

Well, try this: when Oskar steps out into the courtyard one night, he threatens a tree, as if it was one of the bullies. As he stabs it, Eli is standing at the jungle gym behind him. She's dressed as if it were a spring evening, but it's winter. She tells Oskar she's moved next door to him, but they can't be friends. Well, Edward tried that with Bella, and it didn't work. It won't work here, either, because they do have a connection. Soon afterwards, we see a man named Jocke who finds someone under a bridge who looks cold and hungry. The truth is, what he has found is bait. The person bites him immediately...and it's Eli.

While the body count is slowly rising, Oskar and Eli get to know each other, sharing a Rubik's Cube and each other's company. He slowly figures out his new girlfriend is a vampire, but that doesn't matter. She may be bloodthirsty, but she gives him an odd form of love...and yet one of more substance that Twilight or its imitators (and I don't mean Buffy, Angel or Spike) can ever have. She never sees him as a Happy Meal with legs, even when it comes close to that.

Still, there is the fact that she can't stay anywhere for long or she will be found out. She tries to say goodbye to Oskar more than once, but she is even more lonely that he is. She even climbs into his bed naked, but they don't do anything. If not for the obvious problem, Oskar and Eli make a cute tweener couple. There is a bit of sensuality in their relationship, but it's chaste. They are both pre-teens, him more than her. For Eli, what's important is survival, and the next meal...and to leave when it's necessary.

Oskar benefits from this relationship by learning how to be stronger, and to stand up to his tormentors. However, he has to make some hard choices to help her. Meanwhile, the public, represented by a close group of friends, are at a loss on what to do about the murders. One of them does survive an attack by Eli, but it ends in tragedy. Another comes close to discovering Eli.

You have to hand it to Kare and Lina on their performances in this movie. They are very believable as two lost kids who find comfort in a cold world.

You'll notice in this movie that it doesn't overuse blood. You see Eli's bloodied mouth after she has fed, but the attacks themselves are not too graphic...but still disturbing enough.

This movie is based on a horror novel written five years ago. I can say that while Eli doesn't say exactly how old she is, the book hints she's around Angel's age. The movie also leaves out a few other things from the book (and yes, I thank Wikipedia for this). There are plans for an English language remake, but they want to use the book as the basis for the script. So, we may get a very different version next year, aside from the new title, Let Me In. Any bets the main characters may be 17, rather than 12?

So, if you want to see the real Oskar and Eli, before they become Twilight-ed, or Twi-lit, welcome Let the Right One In if it's playing in your area.

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