FEATURE: Shocktober - Let The Right One In

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here

Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist and directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In follows the relationship between two isolated 12 year olds; Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) who is being bullied at school and has a macabre fascination with local murders and Eli (Lina Leandersson) who may or may not be the reason behind them. Let the Right One In bucks the trend of seeing vampires as tragically heroic or outright villainous by focusing on how a creature of the night stuck at 12 years old can find friendship with someone who is equally lonely.

The idea of blurring the boundaries as the film does with Eli's vampirism (she kills to feed, but would rather get someone else to do it) is a recurrent theme throughout various aspects of the narrative. The boundaries between socially and physically established binaries become increasingly blurred as the film develops. As night melds into day, it's hard to notice straight away given the harsh lighting used to illuminate the scenes. Eli and Oskar's respective sexualities are similarly fluid given their respective ages and experience; Oskar may think he is friends with a girl, but is also quick to point out that he doesn't really care either way, he's just happy to have a companion, romantic or otherwise. 

Alfredson's use of physical boundaries within the various scenes themselves is fascinating stuff. Windows, doors and archways are used to varying symbolic effect in key scenes; Oskar begins the film staring out of the window, separated from Eli by the glass. As the pair grow closer, those barriers break down, culminating in a traditional vampiric trope as Eli must be invited in to Oskar's home before she physically deteriorates. The same goes for the more horror-based scenes; important moments are shot within arches or doorways with key moments taking place at windows too. They are moments of transition, much like the ones the characters are going through, be it a growing friendship or a quick approach to death.

The central image of opposition is between Oskar and Eli, he is as fair as she is dark, but they are another binary that is slowly eroded as the course of the film progresses as they become physically closer and more reliant upon each other. Both Hedebrant and Leandersson are both fantastic throughout the film, contrasting his innocence with her wary cynicism. Watching their relationship evolve over the course of the film is its most involving element, a haunting tale of friendship in the face of considerable danger and adversity.

What struck me the most over the course of the film was how understated Alfredson kept the proceedings (though considering his work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I shouldn't have been that shocked). The atmosphere is wonderfully macabre but with a banal edge that makes the more shocking moments stand out. 1980s industrial Stockholm doesn't allow for too many flights of the fantastic and everything is wisely kept grounded. Even the score is only allowed to flourish in certain moments and is often elegiac, mourning for a loss of innocence and yet hopeful about the burgeoning relationship. It's a delicate balance, but one that serves the film well.

Let The Right One In is one of those rare vampire films that uses the monster to say something about human experiences and conditions rather than as a mere antagonist (or sparkly love interest) and is all the better for it. It's a meticulously constructed work of art and a beautifully realised adaptation of Lindqvist's haunting novel. 

- Becky

You can check out the full list of Shocktober reviews so far here.

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