One of the elements that make up what many people consider to be a horror film is the music and sound effects. Directors often use a combination of these, together with well-timed silent pauses, to build up the tension in during particular scenes, and increase the emotional impact on the audience. “Let the Right One In”, however, is a story of silence. Couple this with wide camera angles and a winter time setting, and you’ve got an unconventional vampire story that revolves around a boy and the mysterious, pale-skinned girl that lives just around the corner.
“Let the Right One In” is definitely a horror film, and it’s worth the watch because it does things so differently from the run-of-the-mill movie industry churn-outs. Beyond the fact that it satirizes the Girl (or Boy) Next Door love story, it is also a slightly different take on your typical vampire-ridden romance. Oskar, the main character, is by no means a remarkable kid. Eli is, at first glance, the farthest thing from today’s contemporary sexy vampire. The two of them build a relationship through a series of strange chance meetings, with a combination of understated domestic encounters on Oskar’s end and brief, chilling and fragmented scenes that establish Eli’s backstory together with her caretaker cum father figure and ex-lover. It is refreshing to see, as well, that the vampire mythos used in “Let the Right One In” is a return to the basics: she is a vampire that can only come out at night, is damaged by fire and sunlight, and has to be invited inside a room in order to come in. No sparkles, no frills, no overpowering strength or abject, contrived displays of her vampiric power. With her, what you see is what you get – at least until her newfound friend is put in danger (and that was an excellent pool scene, by the way).
On that note, it might not be too far of a stretch to say that “Let the Right One In” is a film whose biggest strength is its premise on the minimal, the simple and the traditional, made “new” only because of the fact that it is set during our time. Furthermore, every piece of it is tied together seamlessly, making every moment, right down to scenes where it simply shows one of the characters walking, important. Everything in the film attempts to establish one’s sense of isolation versus the growing intimacy between Oskar – a human being – and Eli, a (for the lack of something less dramatic) monster of the night in the shape of a girl. As previously mentioned, the fact that she is different from Oskar is shown quietly, in the small details that establish the difference between her and her neighbour. He has to bundle up and keep out of the snow; she walks around in it without any shoes on. He can walk where he pleases; she always has to wait for another to expressly invite her inside. He can break and bleed; she can rip people apart with her bare hands.
If there could be a genre specifically for “quiet” horror movies, “Let the Right One In” would belong to it. In an industry full of the overblown and the bloody, the shrieking and the disgusting, this film stands out specifically because it doesn’t need any of that in order for you to feel that familiar chill down your spine and sit back in your seat to breathe.