I am deciding to review both of these movies together for their many vast similarities, some of which I was aware of before watching them back to back. Both of these films are modern vampire flicks (and I don’t mean they sparkle in the sunlight) that give an interesting take an old tropes and horror standards.
“Let the Right One In” is about a young bullied boy who makes friends with a young girl who just moved in next door only to find out that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is about an Iranian youth trying to work hard and make a better life for himself, he meets a girl who (yet again) ends up being more than she seems. Before deciding to watch these movies back to back all I knew about them was that they were both modern takes on the vampire horror genre and had both received pretty positive reviews.
“Let the Right One In”, the one I was looking forward to less, ended up far exceeding my expectations. The cinematography works in tandem with the minimalist but powerful soundtrack to create both incredibly tense scenes and scenes that convey the deepening bond between our main characters of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli(Lina Leandersson). I was surprisingly touched by the bond that formed between the two of them as the movie progresses and how much I looked forward to the next scene with the two of them together. Their on screen chemistry was perfect, capturing the innocence of a 12 year old finding his first love combined with the loneliness of a near ancient being happy to be accepted. Whomever cast the young actors for this film deserves some sort of award. I have seen more than my fair share of films with full grown actors who don’t have a fraction of the talent that either of them had. There are scenes where Kare is practicing how he is going to confront his bullies and he even manages to get the nuance of a young kid acting something out, an actor acting like he is acting… if that makes sense. My complaints with this film are almost non existent. There is some bad CG during a scene involving a “horde” of cats but that can be largely ignored. No my biggest problem is that the last scene seems superfluous. While it is just as well shot as the rest of the film it pulled away from the impact of the final scene. This unfortunate little problem is the only reason I am giving this a 9.5/10 instead of a solid 10.
On the other hand we have “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. This has been sitting in my netflix queue practically since I started this 366 movie challenge, having simply been waiting for the right time to watch it. I had heard only good things about it and when I started the film had nothing but excitement for what was to come. Sadly, it failed to live up to my expectations. Perhaps a little of my disappointment can be chocked up to those very same expectations not being met but honestly this film failed in more ways than one. It’s tone was all over the place at times. For example, cutting from the main vampiress (Sheila Vand) luring a punk misogynistic pimp to a bloody demise, to not more than 15 minutes later showing this same actress riding a skateboard down the street with a smile on her face. This tonal shift is explained later through other character actions but the for me it was too little to late. On top of this the whole film seemed to list about in a drunken manner, moving from scene to scene but not really knowing where it wanted to go or why it was wherever it ended up being. Worst of all it uses one of the most annoying tropes in the whole of the horror genre, a character being followed and just as they turn around their stalker has magically disappeared with no adequate explanation. In contrast, “Let the Right One In” played on this trope wonderfully. In one scene a nurse chases the young vampire out into the cold only to find that she has vanished, a wide shot of the hospital as she heads back inside though shows her climbing the side of the building.
On the positive side I can say it did carry with it an especially powerful message and sense of style. The movie does make remarkable use of the fact that it was shot in black and white. The scenes that do work tended to be the one where the style was allowed to seep in the most, the cold feeling of the soundtrack complimented by the cold imagery. All of this though can only go so far to combat the boring story. The surest sign that I am disliking a film is when I find myself constantly checking how much time is left before its over, and I did that more times than I can remember towards the end of the film. I can’t give this more than a 5.5/10 no matter how much I wanted to love it. It does strike me as a film that seems like it could go down better on a second viewing but it honestly left me with no interest in ever revisiting it.
“Let the Right One In” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” seem to have somewhat similar goals and premises on the outset. But while “Let the Right One In” clearly knows how it wants to set its tone, clearly knows how to pace its plot out and clearly knows how to keep its audience engaged “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” seems to do anything but, relying on style entirely over its substance. With a little digging I found out that it was actually originally a short film and this to me makes a lot more sense for the story they wanted to tell. If you pared down “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” to its 5-7 essential and powerful scenes you would have a pretty good short film on your hands. As it stands I would suggest skipping it and going to watch “Let the Right One In”.
Both available on Netflix Instant streaming