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DVD Review: Let The Right One In (2008)

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I heard quite a bit of buzz about Let The Right One In from the wonderful world of Internet nerds and geeks alike (a community of which I am a proud member, so don’t get me wrong there) — but, after watching the flick, I really entirely positively absolutely fail to see what all of the commotion is about.

Now, before I proceed any further, I should like to express the most sincere form of regret over the fact that I do not possess an attention span long enough to have enabled me to sit through the first twenty-five minutes of Let The Right One In without screaming, “Will something please happen?” Additionally, I beg your forgiveness for being far too conceited and narrow-minded (or “American” if you will) to take the time out to attempt to understand or appreciate the Swedish culture (which could be an oxymoron for all I know). Finally, I apologize for my instincts being entirely too fatherly and prudish in nature to allow myself to watch a 12-year-old vampire girl remove her clothes and crawl into bed with a 12-year-old towhead boy.

Let The Right One In (Låt Den Rätte Komma In) is something that the über-Christians in America are going to have a field day with — providing they’re brave enough to watch a filthy foreign horror film. Of course, it’s really not that much of a horror film — more like a pre-teen/coming-of-age/pseudo-romance movie with a lot of blood. But it most assuredly is a foreign film and it definitely has a strong filth vibe to it… so much so that I’m sure the entire storyline (based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay) will be washed down, sanitized, eviscerated, and then completely reassembled with leftover parts from other projects for the upcoming American remake.

The plot involves young Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a blindingly blonde-haired grade school lad who is the subject of much ridicule by his androgynous classmates. One evening, Oskar meets the new neighbor kid, Eli (Lina Leandersson). Their conversations consist of little more than irrelevant statements or half sentences (as do the discussions of the rest of the cast — more on that later), but soon, these two begin to form a weird friendship with each other. Naturally, it turns out Eli is a vampire, who has been letting her devoted familiar Håkan (Per Ragnar) do all the killing for her so as not to mount suspicion onto her (or something like that — hell, you figure it out) — but when her faithful manservant is captured, Eli’s friendship with Oskar begins to grow and mutate.

Despite the movie receiving mass critical acclaim throughout the world, Let The Right One In left a bad taste in my mouth: it just seemed too damn creepy for me — and not in a “Ooh, I‘m scared” sort of way, but more in a “I feel like I‘m being forced to watch softcore child porn and the FBI is going to bust down my door at any moment” way. While the movie does benefit from some highly inspired and impressive moments courtesy of director Tomas Alfredson (such as the vampire’s “acid-head” familiar taking a shortcut to the ground floor; the CGI cats; the saw through the ice; and the finale scene in the pool), it ultimately didn’t have me jumping up and down for joy like the rest of the world did. The vampire element in Let The Right One In? Great. Little Edgar Winter boy wandering around in nothing but his underwear and sleeping naked with a vampire? Not so much for me — but the rest of the world seems to get off on it. C’est la vie (or should it be something like sådan er liv?).

Let The Right One In is presented on DVD in an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen ratio by Magnolia Home Entertainment. On the whole, the picture quality is overly satisfying, especially the daytime scenes — the darker scenes suffer from a bit of grain. Sound-wise, you get your pick between two English dubbed tracks (5.1 and 2.0) and the original Swedish language tracks (5.1 and 2.0 as well). Three subtitle tracks are offered up in English, English (Narrative), and Spanish.

Now, here’s where some newfound controversy comes into play: fans of the film who had seen the movie theatrically or on DVD internationally are in an uproar over the English subtitles contained here, claiming that they are incorrect and completely alter the tone of the film. In a nutshell, the pandemonium is this: fans of the movie who saw the flick theatrically are furious that the subtitles on this DVD are completely different than what they had previously seen, and that this new translation completely alters the tone of the film, removing most of the dark humor and leaving the rest of the film to hang out to dry in the cold, cold snow. Magnolia Home Entertainment and Magnet Releasing claim that these new subtitles offer a more literal translation from the original Swedish dialogue (check out Icons Of Fright for the full story).

Indeed, having compared the new subtitles to the old ones, there are a lot of differences to be found — and, considering I had never seen the movie prior to this English translation, this whole subtitle fiasco may have completely altered my entire interpretation of the film. Despite the distributors' claim that the subtitle track is a better translation (although the English dub closely resembles the original theatrical subtitled version — figure that one out), there are clearly evident signs that this isn’t so. It rather reminds me of the old VHS bootlegged copy I once had of Dellamorte, Dellamore that contained an English translation of an Italian dubbed track of the original English language soundtrack — very strange indeed (of course, the Information Superhighway of 1995 wasn't anywhere near what our Internet of today is, so nobody said anything).

I should point out that the second English subtitle track (referred to as a "narrative" track) seems to have no purpose whatsoever: I turned that track on, skipped through a bit of the film, and every time I pushed ‘Play’ again, there was never anything there. If anyone knows what this track’s purpose really is, please let it be known.

Several somewhat forgettable special features are included on this disc: four deleted scenes (nothing to see here — move along), a short behind-the-scenes featurette (which isn’t bad, but it’s very fleeting — it’s also taken from an International source, so the original theatrical subtitles can be seen in one segment), a photo gallery, and a theatrical poster gallery.

Okay, so the bottom line here: this is probably a better film than I thought it was (I'm sure the whole subtitle issue makes a world of difference, and judging from what I've been reading, the new subtitles do remove much of the movie’s cynical tone) — and there are many indications from the rest of the planet that it indeed is a better film than I thought it was, but of course, I also thought Timothy Dalton was a better James Bond than Pierce Brosnan (and he was)… so what would I know? But the very absolutely bottom bottom line here is simple: Let The Right One In is a hell of a lot better than that fucking Twilight movie. However, if you’re thinking about buying it, you may want to wait and see if the distributors fix the subtitle track first.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • Loren in NYC

    I not only forgive your short attention span . . . I pity you. But if you don’t have the attention span to watch a movie, how can you review it? In spite of your prediction, you are the only one I’ve read who’s called the film ‘filthy’ . . . to me that’s not fatherly, it’s repressed and twisted. You’re really reviewing yourself, and should label the review appropriately.

    Really is too bad . . . the film’s been haunting my imagination for weeks.

  • John

    Yeah I think it is a shame too you have admitted basically to not having the concentration span to handle a movie that is NOT your typical Hollywood horrible horror film. The photography in this film alone was worth watching. Amazing shots and use of lighting. I agree with the other poster that perhaps you may be too self conscious to handle reviewing films in the first place as your review did lend itself to being some kind of self absorbed self diagnosis rather than a film review. We get way too few films of note these days let alone anything that sticks into your memory after having watched it for more than..um…a day. As for Christian groups having a “field day”….? I am sure they will they continually label and misrepresent film and music and have been doing so as long as I can remember.I’d like to have a mind of my own rather than let them do my thinking for me about what consitutes “filth”.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com/ Luigi Bastardo

    Hmm, interesting. I was actually poking a bit of fun at the people that inevitably WILL return this to their local video outlet citing that it IS a “filthy” film. We had people like that all the time at the video store I used to manage — it drove me bonkers then, but now that sort of thing really tends to amuse me.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “I was actually poking a bit of fun at the people”

    didn’t come across that way

  • kemistree4

    I’m American and i dont appreciate being put into the same category as narrow minded people like you. The film was interesting regardless of where it was made.