LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – Blu-ray review

In recent memory, I can’t think of any film to receive such high critical praise more than Sweden’s “Låt Den Rätte Komma In” (“Let the Right One In”). So far the foreign production has topped a multitude of “Best Of 2008” lists and scooped up over forty prestigious awards, not to mention as of this writing the film has also received a practically unheard of 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently ranked #191 on IMDb.com’s top 250 movies of all time. That alone is surely impressive, but when you factor in the countless times vampires have been tackled in movies over the years and someone can still somehow manage to give us an entirely refreshing take—it becomes a near-supernaturalistic feat.

Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (and adapted from his own best-selling novel), “Let the Right One In” tells a fascinating tale taking place in Blackeberg—a suburb of Stockholm—during the early 1980s. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a lonely and frail twelve-year-old boy who doesn’t have any friends and gets little attention from his separated parents. Being too weak to fight back at school, Oskar is an easy mark and is routinely tormented by a group of bullies and especially their ringleader Conny (Patrik Rydmark).

One evening, Oskar’s life dramatically changes when he meets and instantly connects with a strange girl his age named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who has just moved into the next door apartment with her father, Håkan (Per Ragnar). Eli smells funny, walks around the courtyard barefoot in the snow, and only comes out at night. Oskar is also aware there has been a string of disappearances and murders in the area since Eli’s arrival, but none of this seems to bother him. All that matters is that he has finally found a kindred spirit—a soul mate—one who keeps him company and gives him the courage and willpower to stand up for himself. But as the two grow closer and closer, Oskar comes to the revelation that Eli isn’t what she seems—and is in fact a creature of the night.

What I love about “Let the Right One In” is that it concentrates on friendship, love, and retribution with the whole vampire subplot merely lurking in the shadows. We aren’t beaten over the head with Eli’s history and really only get to see brief glimpses stemming from vampire lore. In a sense this not only makes the film mysteriously intriguing, it becomes that much easier for us to lose ourselves within the story.

Of course, Lindqvist deserve some credit for crafting an incredible and charming story with “Let the Right One In,” but a fair amount of the film’s success is owed to Director Tomas Alfredson. For one, his cinematography is simply brilliant, as every frame is a work of art—from the scenes in the pool to the solemn courtyard—and he uses stylish camera angles to keep a tight grasp on our interest. I also love how Alfredson and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema even developed a new filming technique they call “spray light” that has been described as “dull electrical light captured in a spray can” for the walls around Eli’s apartment. All of this comes together to set the acclaimed atmospheric mood of the film.

The heart of this beautiful film, though, is its two lead stars Alfredson finally discovered after a year of searching. Hedebrant makes an excellent Oskar, as he exudes pure innocence and looks the part of a societal outcast. Leandersson on the other hand, has an alluring charisma like one would expect a vampire to have, and she really does seem wise beyond her years. It has been a very long time since I’ve seen such stellar performances from children, and they both drive this one out of the park.

What is most peculiar is that an American remake is already in the works for a 2010 release supposedly helmed by director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”). Personally, I find this to be utterly baffling and feel it’s destined to be a recipe for disaster. Alfredson set the bar so high that it’s going to be one mountainous hurdle to climb just to capture a sliver of the magic in the Swedish cinematic masterpiece, but if Reeves thinks he has what it takes to pull off a miracle—then more power to him.

Magnolia presents “Let the Right One In” on a BD-25 (VC-1 codec) in its original widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film features a very subdued and frigid color palette that suits the eerie atmosphere of the story perfectly. The snow is so white it gives off a fresh and cold aura, while black levels are very dark and inky. The image also has strong depth, particularly in the exterior scenes, and detailing is fantastic. I didn’t notice any blemishes, banding, or other imperfections, and the transfer appears to be free of DNR having a hint of grain throughout. I’ve never seen the movie in theaters, but it’s hard to imagine that it could look better than it and does on this Blu-ray.

As a side note: the U.S. version of the “Let the Right One In” Blu-ray apparently isn’t locked so it should play in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.

The Blu-ray features two lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks—the first in the film’s native Swedish language and the second featuring an English dub. I strongly recommend going with the Swedish and activating English subtitles, as the dubbed version doesn’t quite convey the same level of emotion.

However, it has recently come to my attention in a few steaming articles around the Internet that the English subtitles on the U.S. version from Magnolia are not the same subtitles that are included on the actual theatrical version of the film (and the Swedish Blu-ray). Apparently, parts of the dialogue are stripped down or omitted completely, but you can get the complete lowdown from Icons of Fright here. To be honest, I was oblivious to this mishap when I saw the movie myself and still found it to be an amazing picture, but I can understand why some people are a little bit peeved. In any case, Magnolia is aware of the outcry and has made a statement that future discs will be the proper ones (marked with “theatrical subtitles” on the case), although there are no plans for an exchange program.

Back to the audio, I found the score by Johan Söderqvist to be very soothing and envelopes the viewing area nicely. Dialogue is also crisp, even though it’s in a different language (if you’re watching it in Swedish). The track is a relatively quiet one, although there are occasional bursts of sound that penetrate the chilling silence like a stake through the heart. It isn’t the type of movie to blow away your sound system, but for what it is, it sounds fantastic.

Optional English Narrative, English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are also available.

Nearly all of the bonus supplements included on the Blu-ray can be found on the standard-definition DVD.

First we have Behind the Scenes (SD, 7:37), which is an all-too-brief “making of” with Tomas Alfredson. The director discusses the story, casting, and shooting locations, while viewers get to see raw footage from the sets. It’s just too bad it didn’t dig a little deeper, but it’s still worth checking out. This featurette is in English.

Next are four Deleted Scenes in SD: “Bullies” (1:27), “Eli & Oskar Exterior” (1:13), “Virginia Vomits” (1:07), and “Eli and Oskar Interior” (2:04). They can be viewed individually or with the “Play All” option and the scenes are presented in Swedish with English subtitles.

After those, viewers can browse through a Photo Gallery as well as a Theatrical Poster Gallery.

Finally, although the package doesn’t exactly specify it anywhere, the Blu-ray is also equipped with an exclusive feature enabling viewers to create and save Bookmarks by pressing the green button on their remote controls. This option is only available on profile 1.1 players or higher.

The Final Cut:
The first thing that came to my mind to wrap up this review was to say “Let the Right One In” kicks “Twilight” squarely where the sun don’t shine, but that would just be mean. So let’s just say Alfredson’s picture is an incredibly captivating yet haunting film that certainly lives up to the hype as one of the best of 2008. Magnolia’s Blu-ray comes with a smattering of bonuses and the high-definition video and audio is practically top-notch. However, the inconsistencies with the subtitles may be enough for purists to hold off on purchasing the U.S. Blu-ray until the right onecomes along.

You can also read DVDTOWN’s own Christopher Long’s theatrical review here.