Let the Right One In (15)

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The Independent Culture

One of the spine-tingling pleasures of Let the Right One In is that it takes a while to reveal what sort of film it is. It begins by introducing you to Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12-year-old who lives with his mother in a cramped flat in a concrete Stockholm suburb. Cursed with a page-boy haircut and a dribbling nose, he sits alone in his estate's snowy playground every night, fantasising revenge on the school bullies who harass him every day. It looks as if we're in for a gloomy social drama, but then we see a haggard middle-aged man (Per Ragnar) calmly slit someone's throat in the woods nearby, and it seems as if Let the Right One In is going to be a thriller. Meanwhile, Oskar meets a new neighbour, a girl his own age called Eli (Lina Leandersson), and the film veers towards a very different genre. Anyone who wants the mystery to unfold at the careful pace the director intended should probably stop reading now.

Everyone else: Eli is a vampire. This becomes clear early on, but we have to wait an hour and 20 minutes to hear the V-word, and even then there's much about Eli that's left unspoken. There are no stakes or crucifixes to be seen, and no clue as to where she comes from. The only excerpt of Dracula lore that's dwelt on is the idea that vampires can't come into your home unless you invite them, hence the Morrissey-quoting title. So is Let the Right One In a drama, a thriller or a horror film? The answer is d) all of the above. But primarily it's a sensitive portrait of two lonely children's delicate friendship. Horror hounds won't be short-changed, mind you. There are bursts of black comedy, and some ingeniously choreographed throat-biting which is all the more startling because it's used so sparingly. What lingers is the film's chilly air of melancholy and flickering hope, and the unsettling ambiguity over whether Oskar, having invited Eli into his life, has let the right one in or not.