Smile Politely

Saturday night at Ebertfest: What kept you so long?

Ah, let the right one slip in

Slip in, slip in

And when at last it does

I’d say you were within your rights to bite

The right one and say, “What kept you so long?”

What kept you so long?” Oh…

Let the Right One In played to a sold-out audience at Saturday night’s 9:30 showing at Ebertfest. The above Morrissey lyrics from the song “Let the Right One Slip In” as being the inspiration for the film’s title were only some of the revelations revealed during the Q & A with the film’s producer Carl Molinder.

Let the Right One In is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist that details the unusual friendship between 12 year old Oskar, a lonely boy who is tormented by bullies at school and his new neighbor, the mysterious vampire child, Eli who she admits, has been 12 years old “for a long time.” While the novel details some darker themes, including pedophilia, as evidenced in Eli’s relationship with her caretaker and “blood-gatherer” Hakan, the 2008 Swedish film adaptation wisely does not introduce this element, preferring instead to turn its lens into the supernatural realm and the evolution of the friendship/love story between Oskar and Eli.

This is a horror film with subtlety, powerful imagery, and haunting beauty, somewhat of an anomaly in the overt “thrash and slash” violence characteristic of American cinema we as patrons are accustomed to and even the glamorized and stylized vampires of the enormously successful Twilight franchise.

Usually the horror movie genre treats its viewers to an “in your face” exploitation that horrifies one to look, yet cannot get one to quite have the willpower to turn away from the unfolding onscreen. But the powerful imagery in this film is quiet, yet enormously potent and readily invites viewer introspection. Whiteness and darkness is a motif, the contrast present even its young stars, as Oskar’s paleness is angelic contrasted with the sallow darkness and underlying evil that is Eli. Snow is also a powerful image interlaced throughout the piece. The film opens and closes with the silent reverie of falling snow and is usually seen gleaming on the face of Eli, as a baptism that cannot forgive her sins and is apparent in a particularly poignant shot of Eli and Oskar’s hands interlaced forging an unholy communion. Water as a catharsis, as a vehicle of renewal is symbolism at its most basic and classical. However, there is nothing cliché about the harrowing final “swimming pool” scene and while I don’t want to provide details that could ruin its impact, the rebirth that occurs here is transformation at its finest.

The Q &A that followed with the producer Carl Molinder revealed some interesting facts about the film. I felt that it could have illuminated even more if he had been allowed to freely speak-at times it seemed as though he was competing to express himself over the panel moderator, Michael Phillips’ commentary. However, among the fun facts include Molinder’s admission that cats are “difficult to direct”, especially in a particularly gripping attack scene, that Eli’s slurping of blood was achieved by mimicking the ingestion of yogurt (that’s enough to get me to think twice about my daily Yoplait), and that Eli’s voice in the movie is not that of the child actress, but of another woman so that her voice would have a more aged mature effect.

Let the Right One In is slated to be remade into an American version in the next year. Although one could easily shudder to think about how this could be mishandled, it was hopeful news to hear that Carl Molinder is involved with this project. As it is, the present Swedish film is a brand of intellectual horror that is not readily seen on screen and is more than welcome to come in anytime.

Let the Right One In is available on DVD at That’s Rentertainment.

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