Thursday, 19 March 2009

Let the Right One In...

I'm not a fan of vampires. I like Dracula as a monster, I like the performances of Max Schreck and Christopher Lee who both portrayed the character as pure monster, but I'm not a fan of the gothic love story that has him as a tortured romantic hero. As I understand it, all this comes from the 1924 stage play (it's certainly not part of Stoker's novel), but I'm going to stop myself before I get into huge generalisations about things I haven't really researched. The point is I could never get behind the vampire as sympathetic character - all that moaning about living forever. Connor MacLeod dealt with that in a couple of flashbacks and then got back to chopping heads off. There are exceptions - The Hunger is ace, and my personal favourite vampire film has always been and still is Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark. But generally, not a vampire fan.

So for me to enjoy a vampire film as much as I enjoyed Let the Right One In means it's something special.

I'd been hearing a lot about this film from the US where it was released last year - why are we so slow at getting the big foreign language films over here? I'm sure there are long and complicated reasons for it, maybe the distributors just don't have enough money, maybe there just aren't the right distributors around anymore. A film like this would've been perfect for Tartan. If anyone knows why this and Inside have not been released in the UK yet please let me know. Ultimately it doesn't matter - thanks to the internet and multi-region DVD players the fact that UK distributors are slow to catch on has never really stopped me seeing the films I want to see.

And this one is worth seeing. I don't want to ramble on about it for fear of putting people off, but the thing I liked most was that it makes the audience do a lot of the work. There are no big exposition scenes, there is hardly any dialogue at all in fact, and yet the minimum that you need to know is clear while the rest is left for you to work out. It's an approach that's very easy to get wrong and something that is usually frowned upon in mainstream scriptwriting - it's certainly more daring than anything I'll ever write. But it pays off, it works, and it's so much better for it.

It also has one of the greatest single take scenes in horror film history at the end of the film.

Unfortunately it is one of those films that non-horror fans will want to insist is not a horror film because they couldn't possibly admit to liking something that comes out of an exploitation or low-brow genre (unless QT is making it post-modern and ironic), much like non-comic book fans insisted on saying that Dark Knight wasn't a comic book film. But those people will be wrong.

Despite it's gentle pace and minimalist dialogue this is, when it needs to be, a brutal, gory and sometimes quite horrific film. It also sticks very closely to the vampire mythology and even explores an aspect of that mythology that other films never really get into.

It will be remade - I think it's already in progress. And fair enough, it's based on a book so perhaps it will simply be a different take on the source material that happened to go into development just as this adaptation became a huge critical success. But I doubt it, and this is one that really won't be improved upon in any way by a big budget remake. Like Rec (annoyingly when I search for Rec on imdb the remake comes up first) and Inside I think this is one of those films that is kind of perfect as it is.

So if you get chance to see it as it is, either on import or by waiting for the UK release (which really can't be far off) then do so as it really is a unique and effective piece of horror art.


Kriztov said...

Thanks for the review. I'd heard good things, but the way you describe it as respecting the audience's intelligence makes me think it should be added to my 'must see ASAP' list.

Chris Regan said...

Hopefully it will be released over here soon - I think it's being released by Momentum but I can't find any actual dates.

Richard Hawes said...

It's out in selected cinemas on Friday April 10.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the tip. I will have to check this one out.

Andrea said...

I am one of those annoying non-horror fans who said it wasn't really a horror film... but I have now seen the error of my ways. It was awesome though. Highly recommended.