Judging by the trailer, Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) was a low priority on my radar even with the deluge of global acclaim. Frankly, I'm leery of most modern universally praised foreign films. Once getting around to them, I usually find them either fluffed-up pretentiousness or loaded down with almost purposeful ambiguity that's so far above my head that I doubt even the filmmakers knew just what they themselves were trying to convey. Big splashes of bold imagery and themes that ultimately don't test well with time as their once impressive sheen wears hollow.
Though once in a while there's a Spoorloos, Audition, Ringu, or El espinazo del diablo. Features far outside the Tinseltown gristmill that effortlessly bring fresh perspectives without feeling like desperation-soaked calling cards for Hollywood kingmakers to "hopefully" notice abroad.
Let The Right One In much to my relief feels like it's destined to slip into this latter group. Director Tomas Alfredson, author/writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and truly "beyond their years" performances from newcomers Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson construct a "realistically whimsical" fanged yarn that never betrays the horror genre for the sake of mainstream popularity while making formalities out of what other films find essential to explain.
Reading other assessments now, that last plot bit seems to stick in the crawl of naysayers. The film doesn't delve into gaps concerning the police's involvement in the murders (no easy DNA testing in 1982 regardless), the portrayal of Oskar's school life, and even the roles of Oskar's separated parents. And yes, I can see the basis of these complaints since it is strange there aren't detectives snooping about, no severe punishment from school policy over Oskar's stick confrontation with Conny, or how Oskar's mother is as distant as a stranger to her son.
Though as stated, the film is akin to a fairy tale and doesn't necessarily need to conform to common expectations. That and what Oskar and Eli give us is far more valuable than being spoon-fed every detail of laborious, boring realism. Their fledgling relationship is innocent yet has an underlying danger that first draws the disillusioned Oskar in. Eli falls as well after some internal deliberation and it's interesting to ponder if this is the first time she's ever felt a connection to a human as one herself and as what she's been for centuries other than a food source or blood-collecting servant. It also must be applauded that the presentation of their bond is never sexualised aside from natural curiosity that leads to the revelation of Eli's gender.
On the theory of Oskar being a replacement for Håkan's murderous duties for Eli, this notion never once entered my mind while watching. The question is left open, but if true, this would beguile and cheapen the audience's connection with its young central characters. Oskar's love is clear in his hug in the aftermath of not properly letting Eli in, Eli's cold caress of the hand of a sleeping Oskar, and sealed in their bloody kiss after all is revealed. To the uninitiated that might sound corny and sappy, but it's not.
A true vampiric chiller for the new century that's wonderfully acted, paced, and photographed. I can't say this is the "best vampire movie, ever" but Let the Right One In deserves to stand proud in the pantheon of vampire screen greats. Speaking on the impeding inevitably Americanized "Let Me In" remake, don't worry those who throw venom this Swede's way, I'm sure the neutered redo will fix this film's lingering mysteries right quick and probably throw in some sculpted teen adonis investigating the happenings to appeal to hollow-headed Stephenie Meyer fanatics. Let the Right One In is the mature, revitalized direction bloodsuckers need to follow instead of burning alive in a sparkling purgatory of quaffed emo hair and disposable Hot Topic merchandise.