Let the Right One In (2008) Review

25 01 2012

Copyright 2008 EFTI

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

I’m not really a very fervent fan of the vampire genre.  I feel these days that it is overused in everything from movies to novels to tv shows; it’s hard to trace when this vampire mania originally started, but it has definitely gotten out of control and is appearing everywhere ad nauseum.  Heck, I’m not even a fan and have seen two vampire themed movies in the past week!  That aside, however, this one did something unique with the subject matter and for that, I really enjoyed the film.

Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a dreary apartment complex in Sweden.  In school he is bullied by a small “gang” of children lead by a little snot named Conny (Patrik Rydmark).  In his spare time, he has dreams of the revenge he hopes to one day get on his oppressors.  In the meantime, however, he weakly takes their daily taunts and physical abuse.  A strange man and his supposed daughter move in to the apartment next to Oskar, and around this time various murders begin happening around the city.  Because one of the murders was a child, Oskar’s mother restricts his playtime to the courtyard in front of their apartment building, and it is here one night he meets the girl next door, a pale, strange acting child named Eli (Lina Leandersson).  The two soon become fast friends and, though Oskar knows something is different about Eli, he still accepts her just as she accepts him for his shortcomings.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson on a very low budget in today’s terms for a feature film ($4,000,000), the movie carries quite an eery quality to it throughout. The cinematography and direction, mixed with the stark cold atmosphere naturally provided by the filming location, gives a very disjointed feel to the film.  Being a horror film, this almost unnerving mood fits the story perfectly.  Also, though it never says, I think the film is supposed to take place in the 1980s; either that, or Sweden is way behind technologically from the United States, as all the cars, clothing and housing had a dated feel to them.

The two young actors, Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson do a tremendous job in their roles.  Leandersson, especially, will likely have a long and varied career ahead of her.  Her subtleties in facial expression and body language to put across that she was really a 200-year-old vampire trapped in a 12-year-old girl’s body, was handled better than many adult actors could have achieved.  I also really enjoyed the maturity of the relationship between the characters of Oskar and Eli.  Even though they carried a certain amount of the innocence and naiveté of childhood, their relationship with each other was very much like that of a burgeoning relationship between two adults in the way they spoke to each other and interacted.

In short, this film was a unique and interesting take on the now over played theme of vampirism.  The acting, direction and story came together beautifully to present a film that holds up as a good coming of age drama, as much as it is a horror film.  If the cliches of the horror genre usually annoy you or become tiresome, then this is a smart, clever alternative that makes for a much better viewing experience.


The Devil’s Backbone (2001) Review

12 04 2011

Copyright 2001 El Deseo S.A.

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Pan’s Labyrinth was one of my favorite films of the year when it came out in 2006 and, since then, I have also enjoyed both installments of the Hellboy franchise.  These films, along with the one in review, were all directed by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.  I put this film in my queue on Netflix a while back because it was a del Toro film, but at that time, didn’t realize that this film is supposedly considered the “brother” film to his later release Pan’s Labyrinth. The two films do share many similarities.  The story centers around a young protagonist during a time of civil unrest, both contain elements of fantasy/horror and both have cinematography that uses a rich contrasting color palette of deep blues and blazing oranges.

A young boy dies at the beginning of the film and is drowned in a reservoir in the kitchen basement of an orphanage, though we don’t see how he died.  After the head credits, another boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), is brought to the orphanage by several rebels who are currently fighting in the Spanish Civil War because his father died in the war.  Being a new kid, Carlos is picked on and has to prove himself amongst the other children.  However, the ghost of the young boy who died at the beginning, also makes appearances to him and tries to warn him of impending danger to all at the orphanage.  Without giving too much away, the remainder of the film unravels what happened to the young ghost boy and what dangers Carlos and the others must avert to stay alive.

This film, like Pan’s Labyrinth, has an epic feel to it, though it is not overtly long.  It is visually stunning and has a very high production value.  Also, del Toro seems to be very adept at handling child actors, as the majority adolescent cast in this film are all superb, as was the young girl in Pan’s Labyrinth.  In addition, since he came from a visual effects background, the visual effects in the film are also very well done.  More importantly, however, is that the story itself is very intriguing and the high production values just help further illicit the beauty and horror of the story itself.

If you really enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth, then I highly reccomend this film.  If you haven’t seen either of these films, then I highly suggest that you try one or the other to see if it is a style fitting you.  Unfortunately, del Toro hasn’t directed a film since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. After seeing another effort like this from him, I hope he won’t stay away from behind the camera much longer, though we do have Peter Jackon’s The Hobbit that was co-penned by del Toro to look forward to soon.

The Thing (1982) Review

5 04 2011

Copyright 1982 Universal Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★

John Carpenter is a master at low budget horror and science fiction films.  Before watching this, I had seen Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. and, of course, Halloween. With most of these films, I have been surprised at the level of enjoyment I’ve experience watching them, being that I don’t necessarily consider myself a huge fan of the genres.

The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawk’s 1951 The Thing from Another World, which itself was based on a novella by John W. Campbell Jr. called Who Goes There? This version takes place at an American research station in Antartica, where the inhabitants are currently waiting out the harsh winter.  They are alerted when a sled dog comes running to their station from across the snow-filled, empty plains; the dog is being chased by two gunmen in a Norwegian helicopter.  They kill the Norwegians for firing at their base and take in this strange dog.  The dog, in classic sci-fi nature, turns out to be an incarnation of a strange extraterrestrial life-form.

It’s a classic science-fiction tale, you have a group of guys who are fighting a strange alien life form in hopes of saving the world.  However, this film is exceptionally well done for the genre.  The tension between the characters, who don’t know which of them is still human and which has been afflicted, keeps the suspense high during the entire film.  Furthermore, Rob Bottin’s special effects in this film are top notch.  This was before the era of CGI, so all the amazing effects are done using makeup, prosthetics and camera tricks.  Sure, there are a couple shots that look a little hokey, but all in all, the effects in this film really sell.

The all male cast is headed up by Carpenter favorite, Kurt Russell, who plays the usual rogue-like character that he seems to excel at.  There’s also a lot of familiar faces in the supporting cast who, you may not know by name, but definitely would know the face.  Supporting characters include Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Keith David and Richard Dysart.  All the cast do a fine job.  These aren’t Oscar worthy performances by any means, but for the story, it’s a perfect group of actors for what was needed.

For those of you who like happy endings and upbeat stories, this is not a film for you.  If, however, you like a thrilling science-fiction film that presents the bleak realities of a possible apocalyptic disaster, then they don’t get much better than this.  This is the type of film Carpenter was born to make.  Upon it’s release in 1982, this film didn’t do very well at the box office and that’s a real shame, because I think it’s a fine example for this genre.

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