Kids' movies have usually concerned either the littlest among us or those working out their differences with adulthood. But the Swedish drama "Let the Right One In"-- which shares with "Stand by Me" an appreciation of the 12-year-old state of mind -- lurks in a cold, dark, brooding territory, inhabited by people both haunting and terrified: tweens.
Chief among them: Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), the pink-skinned, white-blond, Billy Budd-ish child of a single mother, a loner and a target, whose days are tormented by a trio of very devoted schoolyard bullies.
The other is Eli (Lina Leandersson), the dark-eyed waif who moves into Oskar's apartment block, goes barefoot in the snow and gives Oskar something to live for. Even though she is technically dead. Or, rather, undead.
Yep: Eli is a vampire, and "Let the Right One In" (probably the most uninviting title of a film this year) is, in the basest of terms, a horror flick. But it's also a spectacularly moving and elegant movie, and to dismiss it into genre-hood, to mentally stuff it into the horror pigeonhole, is to overlook a remarkable film.
The movie's horror aspects toy with the audience's existing vampire knowledge, specifically, the survivor guilt inherent to the immortal bloodsuckers of modern ghoul lit. Eli doesn't want to put the bite on anyone. For that she has Hakan (Per Ragnar), a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Eli is a slippery matter. She is 12, she tells Oskar, "more or less," but we know just how old she might be. Hakan may have been her husband; he may have been her father; he may have been only the latest in a long line of companions devoted to Eli's survival. And that leaves Oskar, whose need for love has him looking for a friend -- not on the Internet, but in the realms of the undead.
-- John Anderson (Nov. 7, 2008)
Contains bloody violence, including disturbing images, brief nudity and profanity. In Swedish with subtitles.