Let the Right One In
Swedish vampire tale is much grislier than Twilight.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this vampire drama has brief but intense, bloody scenes of biting, dismemberment, beheading, and grotesque images of an acid-scarred face and severed limbs. Sunlight turns one vampire into a fireball, while another begins suddenly bleeding all over. Swearing includes a few uses of "f--k." A "blood brothers" ritual is attempted. There is a bleak depiction of kids on their own in a world where adults are distant/distracted/divorced/drunk, in varied combinations. There are strong overtones of bullying and kids warped by divorce. The boy-girl relationship at the center of the film starts to take a homosexual turn. This movie was filmed in Swedish, but an English-dubbed version is a DVD option for viewers who don't like subtitles.
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What's the Story?
The setting is Sweden in the early 1980s. Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a misfit adolescent schoolboy living with his divorced mom in the Centrum, a sterile apartment complex, even bleaker in the winter months. New neighbors move in: Eli (Lina Leandersson), a precocious, friendless little girl who only seems to appear at night, and an unsociable, taciturn man who acts as her parent-guardian. In fact, the adult periodically kills strangers to drain their blood to bring to Eli -- who is, in reality, a vampire, incredibly old, strong, and lethal despite a waifish appearance. In the effort to solve the murders, police and other grownups edge nearer to the Centrum; meanwhile Oskar and Eli draw closer as friends.
Is It Any Good?
Shot in austere style, often with long, formal takes -- hardly any MTV-action stuff -- LET THE RIGHT ONE IN sacrifices much of the character development in the Swedish source novel. But it remains strongly focused on the Oskar-Eli relationship, which is creepy and compelling in a way similar movies aren't because the Swedish lead thespians are obviously real children, not 20-ish actors playing a decade younger like in Twilight adaptations.
The title refers to a snippet of vampire lore (also employed in the more mainstream-Hollywood Lost Boys) that a supernatural bloodsucker cannot enter a private residence unless invited in first. In other words, Oskar's learning the dreadful truth about Eli and her fatal appetite is no deal breaker -- and it even strengthens their relationship as fellow outsiders. Oskar does not reject her, and when it seems Eli might not even be a "her" at all, the film suggests unconditional love, albeit in a kinky and grisly way.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about whether Eli is an "evil" vampire or not. What do you think will happen to the characters after the ending?
Oskar is a regular target of bullies. Talk about Eli's advice for him to fight back -- hard -- and whether that's a good idea or not in real world.
Vampire movies continue to be popular. Ask kids who their favorite screen bloodsuckers are and why.
- In theaters: October 24, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: March 9, 2009
- Cast: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
- Director: Tomas Alfredson
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some bloody violence including disturbing images, brief nudity and language
- Last updated: February 14, 2023
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