Tag Archives: Let The Right One In

Maika Monroe: It Follows

29 Mar

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This weekend’s breakout movie hit is IT FOLLOWS, a slasher movie that begs, borrows and steals from many different genre classics that is surprisingly more than the some of its stolen parts. But more than anything that makes IT FOLLOWS work is its star, Maika Monroe. And boy does the director know it because a fair portion of the movie rests on this rising young star’s face in close-up. So much so that you not only know the movie lives or dies by its lead-actresses understated performance, but that the movie-makers are relying on the character’s point-of-view more than any other narrative device to suck you into this new twist on the seemingly inexhaustible zombie movie.

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Maika is perfectly cast in the role of the beleaguered heroine. Like so many horror movie scream queens before her, evil itself is going to pay for her having sex. The twist here is that once she has sex and is being stalked by evil (conveniently passed on by her lover to her) she has to have sex AGAIN to pass it on to the next person. I won’t spoil the twist to this ultra-simple device because that would be to take away from the enjoyment of seeing how Maika’s character is going to get away – or not – from her apparent fate in this moody, gloomy, often existential exercise in ultra-low (read: no) budget horror fare that is going to make a ton of money one it’s limited theatrical run is over and it haunts cable forever.

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Now here’s the good part: IT FOLLOWS works on a couple different levels because the filmmaker’s know their genre and know their audience. There is, in this order, the ever-popular loss of innocence, existential malaise of teenage ensemble cast followed by teenage angst like you wouldn’t believe, general fear of the unknown and, last but not least, distrust of anybody over 30. The genius is that the filmmaker’s STEAL from some unexpected, classic psychological thriller sources dating back to the 60’s – Michelangelo Antonioni’s BLOW UP (1966) being my favorite. In fact, they use the classic BLOW UP as a template for exuding dread – many, many moody POV shots of rustling trees, lakes and nature in all its glorious indifference to our collective human fate that for a minute I thought I was watching (or wanting, at least) to be watching the counter-culture classic.

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Now here’s the bad part: IT FOLLOWS is so self-aware of who their target audience is (tweens into early teens and maybe a sprinkling of college-age) that it misses the opportunity to become a true genre classic because of that narrow focus. I get it, of course. Not many people my age seem to go out to movies anymore, let alone will blow good money on a movie marketed at teenagers with the requisite scream-shots that have become so cliched after BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY have blazed a path for films shot on digital video with next to no production value. But there again, I think the filmmaker’s (either consciously or unconsciously) have sold themselves short. They obviously know their craft and have the sense to steal from the best, albeit with a twist here and their to merit the hype and attention their getting. What sucks to me is that they didn’t take it one more level up, and by that I mean do what LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) filmmaker’s did and make this a story for the ages – all the ages.

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But back to the best part about IT FOLLOWS and that is it’s breakout star, Maika Monroe. She’s young, beautiful and virtuous in an age that is cynical, a generation that is predisposed to nihilism over optimism, and seem to know something that generations before her didn’t know until they got into their 40’s: that the burden of everyday life for some is incredibly hard and will never be understood by the majority. And therein lies the rub for both Maika’s character and the success or failure of IT FOLLOWS as an enduring classic in the psychological-horror genre that predominates our culture today. America, at least a strong minority, understand that things are not getting better but getting worse. Depression, paranoia and affliction (of whatever variety) plague our youngest citizens and the future, while forever uncertain, seems to become finite at a much younger age than to any generation before it. Not only does the dread of growing up and becoming a zombie (i.e. an adult with adult responsibilities) present clear and present danger in this movie (as it did in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) it’s as if the characters are being preyed upon by time itself. Slow, creeping, inevitable time eating away your youth as it heads straight for you. And that’s the one, definitive universal theme at the end of the movie that took me by surprise and made IT FOLLOWS worth watching.

Because what’s worse than growing old (here considered an affliction) in this modern world? The filmmaker’s know. It’s growing old alone.

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Lina Leandersson: Let Her In

29 Oct

Lina Leandersson is an old soul walking around in a young body. She is the Swedish breakout star of 2008’s super-creepy LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. This vampire story is by far (and I mean, by far) the best vampire story of all of them. Twilight can’t hold a candle to LTROI. This is because the story is, in essence, a darkly-affecting romance in the order of cinematic magnitude of Casablanca – if Casablanca had vampires, of course. There is a love triangle: Two men love one very young/very old vampire. She appears helpless but isn’t. She is tortured. A sacrifice is made by her lover at the end. See the resemblance? The structure exists in both movies but the difference is that while Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris, Lina and her lover will always (and I mean always) have each other.

Of course, the romance is a tragedy. But aren’t all good love stories in their heart – ghost stories? Doesn’t love at first site require us to recognize in another what is missing in our deepest selves, and therefore so heartwrenching both when we possess it and lose it? This is what Let The Right One In is all about. We can’t control who we love and the act of letting them in can often destroy us, but we do it anyway. Confused? Well, watch this movie and you’ll either agree with me or think I’m insane. But people who do get it (especially the ending) REALLY get it and love this movie like one of their own children. And the biggest reason people who GET IT love this movie is Lina Leandersson. Simply because her performance is transformative.

This is Lina’s first film. She was hand-picked by the director and producer from over 8,000 auditions. What’s even more amazing is the on-screen chemistry that she creates within everyone she comes in contact with. It’s even more amazing when you consider that she was 12 years old when they shot the movie playing a 400-year old vampire and she pulls it off handily. So well in fact, that the American remake LET ME IN with Chloe Mertz comes off as a cheap remake of a classic and will be forgotten immediately. I was so inspired by the Swedish import (dubbed in english) that I went out and bought the translated book. Mind you, the book has moments of brilliance and the movie could not have been made without it – but the adaptation to the screen (the screenplay was by the same author) is a textbook case in how to adapt a classic story from book to screen and in the process make it better. Only THE SHINING comes close to the same successfully-adapted story.

Still not convinced? Here’s two examples of this movie’s brilliance: 1) You’ll notice in the movie that adults (except with one very big exception) are not paying any attention to the children in this movie. Adults are oblivious to what is going on right in front of their eyes and therefore, by definition, missing out on what is important in life. 2) The movie expresses the love theme on the basis that you fall in love with people who possess the ability to communicate that love – or mirror if you will – how you yourself wish to be loved. At least in the beginning. This is seduction. This is what a vampire does to prey on its victims. But when the vampire in question is in fact your true love – then boy are you one lucky/unlucky guy. And that gets to the heart of the ending of this transformative movie. We are all alone. We all need to be loved. The sacrifice we make to open ourselves up to that love risk letting the wrong one in. All love therefore is a risk. The risk of love and loss. And that’s why I LOVE the ending of this movie. Let me know if you agree with me.

Oh, and Let the Right One In is also a kick-ass scary movie. Happy Halloween!