Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is the kind of kid that, if pushed far enough, might show up for school one day with a backpack full of firepower. In Tomas Alfredson's coming-of-age/horror hybrid Let the Right One In, the scrawny 12-year-old has already taken to carrying a small hunting knife, and he's introduced practicing offensive moves and taunting words in his bedroom mirror, words that turn out to mimic the bullying he's subjected to every day.
The signs of his mounting anger are spied by a mysterious new neighbor in the apartment complex outside Stockholm where Oskar lives in with his divorced mother. Eli (Lina Leandersson) moved in late one night with a man who appears to be her father, and when she introduces herself to Oskar in the frigid complex playground, she's not wearing a coat.
The snow that covers this and every other outdoor setting amplifies the strange silence that overtakes most of the film, as Oskar and Eli get to know one another and both move ambivalently into a relationship of mutual need: his for affection, hers for human blood and help obtaining it. And the prevailing stillness makes the film's sporadic moments of violence all the more shocking.
It's not difficult to see where the story's heading, but Alfredson's combination of formal precision, heartfelt adolescent emotion and genre satisfaction makes the journey unique and memorable.
"Let the Right One In"
Opens Friday at AMC Lennox