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Film review: Let the Right One In

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Like the recent movie version of the best-selling novel "Twilight," "Let the Right One In" examines the relationship between a human youngster and an eternally youthful vampire. But the similarities between the two end there.

While "Twilight" was clearly aimed at teens and tweens, this Swedish import is more grown-up stuff. In fact, it gets pretty graphic and somewhat gruesome toward the end.

It's also the much-better film, especially in terms of its scariness and generally creepy atmosphere. The cold and gloomy Swedish landscape certainly helps in that regard.

Like its source material, a well-regarded horror novel, the film is set in a snowy town, which is where Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) lives. He's a bullied, picked-upon youngster on the cusp of his teen years.

Recently, Oskar has become obsessed with his mysterious new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), another youngster who only emerges at night. And she never eats, nor does she need protection from the bitter cold.

As it turns out, there's a good reason for that. Eli is a vampire. And her guardian, Hakan (Per Ragnar), is going out at night, trying to find victims and procure blood for her to survive.

Director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter Jon Ajvide Lindqvist (who adapted his own work) spend the early part of the movie setting the mood. So, it starts a little slowly, but it gets more disturbing, more effective as it goes.

Also, this was a pretty low-budget affair, yet aside from a bit of digitally created goofiness involving an animal attack, the effect sequences are convincing.

The casting of the youngsters is nearly perfect as well. As Oskar, Hedebrant appears to be almost ghostly white — a stark contrast to the dark-haired and dark-eyed Leandersson.

And for fairly inexperienced actors, their performances are astonishingly good, especially Leandersson, who has the right amount of youthfulness and viciousness. (Let's just say that the character is eventually set loose and leave it at that.)

"Let the Right One In" is rated R for strong violent action (vampiric attacks, including dismemberment, and childhood bullying and violence against animals), some fairly graphic gore and blood, scattered strong sexual language (profanity and some suggestive talk), derogatory language and slurs, drugs, brief partial male nudity. Running time: 114 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com