Perhaps it's because all this adoration over "Twilight" is making me rave about "Let The Right One In" (also known as the other coming-of-age vampire movie out now) more than I should.
Perhaps it's just a simple case of spitefulness on my part. Or maybe it's because "Right" is the engrossing, unnerving tale of danger, terror and awkward adolescence that "Twilight" fraudulently claims to be. I still haven't seen "Twilight" yet to verify these claims -- and still, I'm not going to. (And, seriously, all you obsessive "Twilight" fans still on my case about my refusal to see the movie -- y'all need to do something with yourselves. You don't see me trashing people who refuse to go see "Happy-Go-Lucky.")
Just like "Twilight," "Right" is also based on a novel, by Swedish horror writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (who wrote the screenplay). Set in a forever-wintery suburb in Stockholm, "Right" focuses on young Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a milk-pale, 12-year-old boy who serves as the resident outcast of his local school. Tormented on a daily basis by bullies (they call him "piggy"), he keeps to himself until he sees new neighbors -- a man and a little girl -- roll up one night outside his bedroom window.
He eventually meets the even more pale, even more shy girl, Eli (Lina Leandersson), who says she's "12 -- more or less." It turns out Eli is a 200-year-old vampire, and the man (Per Ragnar) she's with keeps her fully stocked on blood by drugging strangers, stringing them up and slitting their throats.
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While the oblivious Oskar and Eli begin to bond, with Oskar teaching her Morse code and Eli advising Oskar on how defend himself against his tormentors ("Hit back. Hard."), bodies begin piling up. And people are beginning to get a little worried that a serial killer might be on the loose.
As it turns out, "Right" has the right mix of haunting horror, adolescent despair and gentle romance. Director Tomas Alfredson sets a cold, calm and persistently suspicious mood. (Not since "Fargo" has a filmmaker captured a snowy landscape with such chilly, foreboding ambiguity.)
Lindquist significantly tweaks his story for the movie. In the book, Eli's guardian is something of a pedophile. Now, he's just a tortured guy (perhaps an older version of Oskar) who takes care of Eli so she/it won't go out and handle things alone. Eventually, Oskar will have to decide whether or not to step in his shoes, especially when a local (Peter Carlberg) decides to go after the little bloodsucker for attacking his loved ones.
Sometimes too creepy and unsettling, "Let the Right One In" is a visually awe-inspiring story of first love. It's a juvenile vampire flick that appears to be more mature in its execution than you-know-what. It does something that I've yet to hear those fans gush about their beloved flick: It shows us that doomed love is better than no love at all.