Let The Right One In

Ever since Let The Right One In started the traveling the
festival circuit back in January, it’s been universally praised and receiving
awards at a rapid pace.  So when I had
the opportunity to catch it at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I jumped
at the chance.  How could you go wrong
with a Swedish film about a bullied boy named Oskar who falls in love with the new
girl next door, Eli, who just so happens to be a vampire?  I read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, so
I knew what to expect before hand.  After
reading it, I was left with the feeling that I had just experienced something
that could not be replicated on screen. 

And I was right.  Or
so I thought.

As I left the theater, I found myself wrestling with what I
had just seen.  Did I like it?  Could it be that the praise directed toward
the film was ill-advised?  Questions such
as these ran through my head, so I decided to let the film simmer in my mind
before coming to a final decision.  What
I did know, was that the child actors who portrayed Oskar and Eli were
absolutely stupendous.  Kare Hedebrant
beautifully captures the lost soul mentality in Oskar, a feeling we all felt at
some point in our lives.  Kare had the
very difficult task of making us like a character that makes the slow
transition from protagonist to eventual antagonist (although, that could be
argued as it’s not shown in full on screen). 
What’s more, he beautifully displays Oskar’s rapidly changing behavior
as he is forced to grow up faster than he wants to.  In the much meatier role of vampire Eli, Lina
Leandersson delivers one of the best child performances I’ve ever seen.  As the girl “who’s been twelve for a very
long time”, Lina exudes a wonderfully frightening and frail aura, perfectly
suited for Eli.  Her big, beautiful eyes
reveal the hunger within her, while also masking the anguish and pain she is
forced to deal with after every kill.     

While there are a number of secondary characters, it’s rare
when Oskar and Eli aren’t at the focal point of the story.  And therein lies my dilemma.  There is a subplot involving one of Eli’s
victims that I found to be monotonous, as it failed to serve any real purpose
to the story.  I am aware that it was
meant to conclude Oskar’s arc, as well as draw Oskar and Eli even closer
together.  It’s just that I feel that the
film fumbled with this storyline to the point that it almost flattened what
came before it and forced the third act to resort to gratuitous violence and unnecessarily
brutal behavior. 

After days of thinking about it, I realized that was my main
problem with the narrative, as it felt like this character belonged in another
movie.  It also didn’t help that I was
aware of their eventual demise, as it’s blatantly revealed in the trailer (a
bad marketing move, in my opinion).  Because
of this minor glitch in the narrative, it was as if all that developed before it

Furthermore, Oskar’s bullies were flat-out sociopaths in the
picture, while in the book they were given a little more motivation behind
their despicable actions.  I’m aware that
a novel and its adaptation can never be one in the same, but I just felt that
the bullies in the film came off as being callous and barbaric as opposed to
kids just trying to exert their alpha male status on poor Oskar. 

Then, the “Kubrick Effect” kicked in.  It’s the effect that I felt whenever I
watched a Kubrick film, in which I hated the film immediately after seeing it,
only to have it grow on me the more I thought about it.  For Let The Right One In, I find myself
thinking back to the story and how the narrative led to a crescendo of blood,
gore and raw emotion between two children and I realized how much I cared about
Oskar and Eli.  Furthermore, I realized
how it cleverly played with vampire conventions in order to tell a seemingly
innocent tale of bravery, love and trust. 

One aspect of the film I should stress, though, is the fact
that if you go in expecting the next great vampire story, you will be sorely
disappointed.  If you expect one of the
more interesting interpretations of growing up within a rapidly changing and
unforgiving world, then Let The Right One In might just surprise you.  Just don’t expect it to be the universally praised
masterpiece many are calling it.

As an aside, if you happen to see Let The Right One In in
theaters (and by all accounts, you should), I just hope you see it with a better
audience than I did.  This particular
Toronto After Dark audience was absolutely atrocious, laughing at the most
unnecessary moments (I never realized snow could be so funny), while talking
throughout vital scenes.  I understand that
sometimes things get lost in translation when it comes to foreign films, but I
was disgusted with the way the audience treated the film.  I can only hope that your audience will be
better than mine.

7 out of 10

Repo!  The Genetic Opera

Never have I been a fan of musicals.  To be honest, the only ones I love are The
Rocky Horror Picture Show
and Sweeney Todd, while I only admire others for
their particular form of unique entertainment. 

So when I heard that Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw
, was to direct a heavy metal musical, I wouldn’t exactly say I was
seething with absolute excitement.  Regardless,
I attended its one and only screening at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival
and after watching it with a full house of Gene Co. fans, I can’t praise it
enough.  Really.

While on paper, Repo! may appear to be a mess of a
musical, it works beautifully on screen, due to the fact that it has the balls
to push what we know about movie musicals to the absolute limit.  Set in the not-too-distant future, Repo!
tells the wonderfully Gothic tale of a society in which organ financing is the norm, ruled by a multi-million
dollar corporation named Gene Co.  The
downside is, if you can’t pay for your organs, you better be careful because
Gene Co. will send the Repo Man to reclaim what’s theirs.  And he will succeed in his quest by any
(grisly) means necessary. 

The cast is a veritable cornucopia of cult and B-level
actors in the form of Anthony Stewart Head (as the Repo Man), Alexa Vega, Paul
Sorvino, Bill Moseley, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton and Ogre (front man for
the band Skinny Puppy).  And yes, the
voices you hear on the soundtrack do indeed belong to the actors and I, for
one, was incredibly impressed by not only their musical talent, but the
flat-out raucous and unique nature of the metal and industrial sounds displayed
on screen.  From Sorvino’s show-stopping
operatic skills, to Brightman’s angelic voice to Head’s intense melodies, I
found myself drawn deeper and deeper into this wild and crazy story. 

As I mentioned before, the audacity of the film is one of its
strongest qualities.  Not only does it
mix opera, with metal, with industrial, with punk, with pop, but it fuses
classic horror, with modern horror, with melodrama, with suspense.  Within the first five minutes, if you’re not
buying into the story, it’s only going to get worse for you as it makes no
qualms with going to the absolute limit. 
The way in which the film combines dialogue with song takes some getting
used to, but the actors fully embrace their roles, which makes the songs much
more accessible.  As a matter of fact, the
soundtrack is readily available in music stores, so if you want a taste of the
type of music on display, give a listen to Zydrate Anatomy, a great metal
track with an irresistible, infectious and memorable beat that best personifies
the mood prevalent throughout Repo!.

The filmmakers took a chance with making Repo! and I can’t
emphasize enough how you have to see this film. 
It has the makings of being a modern day Rocky Horror, but only if the
right audience finds it.  And, if the
screening I attended was any indication, there is most definitely an audience
for this sort of picture.  With plenty of
awe-inspiring set pieces, copious amounts of gore (spinal cords, intestines,
hearts and heads aplenty) , fun performances (especially by Ogre and Paris Hilton,
of all people ) and wonderful music, Repo! 
The Genetic Opera
proves that sometimes something different is what the
audience needs. 

The film is being given a criminally limited release, so if
you can find it in your city, watch it and prove to Lionsgate that there is an
audience for Repo! .  For whatever
reason, they are afraid of the film’s cultish roots, which is confusing since
this is the same studio that released American Psycho, The Rules of
and House of 1000 Corpses years back amidst a flurry of controversy.  So prove to Lionsgate that they are wrong and
hopefully we won’t end up with a similar situation that faced Midnight Meat
this past summer.  This film
deserves to be seen by the largest audience possible.

8 out of 10