Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My years in horror: 2008

There were some good horror movies released in 2008, including The Ruins, which I still use to creep out my mom. But you won't be able to convince me that there was a better horror movie from 2008 than Let the Right One In.

This Swedish vampire flick (remade well by Matthew Vaughn in America as Let Me In) raised the bar for the genre. Not only is it effective as a modern vampire tale, but it also highlights the reality of certain living outsiders: the bullied. Let the Right One In is arguably horror's best statement on bullying since the original Carrie. Much has changed since 1976 when that film came out, but any things haven't. There are still bullies and there are still victims. In this vampire film, it is a young boy, Oskar, who is a classic victim of bullies: he looks different from every one else, he's from a broken home, he has no friends. And then he gets a new neighbor.

Eli, supposedly an 11-year-old girl, moves in to the apartment next to Oskar's with her "father." Things next door are not what they seem: Eli is a vampire, but since she has the body of a child, she has a hard time hunting for herself. Her "father" kills and collects blood for her ... until he gets caught.

As the relationship between Oskar and Eli develops, they each let the other in on their secrets. Eli is a killer by nature and Oskar wants to kill he bullies. The resolution of this situation is brutal but not any worse than watching CNN on one of those dreaded days when another school shooting is announced. Oskar must comes to terms with what happens and both must live on. Neither asked to be put in the situations they are in, and they fight against it by trying to enlist outside forces before ultimately accepting that they are the agents of change in their lives.

The Swedish setting of the film lends a unique oddness to the experience. There is always snow on the ground and if a scene is indoors, there is always something white, which plays to Oskar's pale hair and skin. Eli has pale skin, too, but is the dark to Oskar's light. She has dark, almost black eyes, and deep brunette hair. Her appearance make sit obvious that she does not belong.

Let the Right One In includes some difficult backstory and revelations which the American filmmakers chose to leave out of their remake. I think they made the right decision for the tone of their movie but if those same moments had been left out of the original Swedish film, I think it would have lost some of its impact.

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