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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.18.08] movie review horror



Greetings all… Dr Nathan here at the Toronto After Dark TADfest, which opened last night – Oct 17 – at Toronto’s funky Bloor Cinema. For the next week I’ll be cruising the cult edge on your behalf, reporting in on at least five new flicks and trying to get inside the general zeitgeist of the festival, which includes a Zombie Walk through parts of the city’s downtown…

So, let’s get to it. Where are my autopsy notes? Oh yeah: the opening night cinematic lineup – The Facts In The Case Of Mr Hollow, and Let The Right One In drew the festival’s first-ever sold out opening night audience, and both were very warmly received by the somewhat boisterous collection of Canadian cultists in attendance.


Quick ratings:

The Facts In The Case Of Mr Hollow: 9/10

Let the Right One In: 7/10

I don’t think The Facts In The Case Of Mr Hollow has been discussed on Quiet Earth [editor's note: it has here], so let me introduce you to this somewhat experimental film. Directed by fellow Torontonians Rodrigo Gudiño and Vincent Marcone, The Facts In The Case Of Mr Hollow is a six-minute short cleverly envisaged as an old photograph. Gudiño and Marcone recreate the photo as a huge diorama, and the camera basically zooms in and out on the photo’s elements (a caretaker, man, woman with baby, old car, dead body, minister, man with a gun, trees full of ravens), each time revealing another aspect of a plot. Like in JG Ballard’s classic experimental short story, The Index, the audience is simply shown a number of visual “facts”, and amazingly, each zoom into detail also reveals a slight passage of time. Cool.

Soon it becomes apparent that a violent death has occurred, and while you might think the point of the camera moves is to ascertain the killer, it’s only at the very end that the true menace is revealed. Much to the audience’s delight.

A superbly designed short, with very good music, fantastic camera moves and a truly imaginative premise, The Facts In The Case Of Mr Hollow is a stunning visual experience not to be missed. So, don’t.

And while I note Let The Right One In has already been reviewed here (great job, cyberhal), I’d like to add a couple drops of blood to the bucket. Yes, it appears to be a sensitive coming-of-age story of a 12-year-old ultra-cute Swedish lad named Oskar who meets up with and falls for Eli, a 12-year-old female vampire, but behind all the youthful angst & ennui lies a very dark theme indeed: this is an example of how vampires recruit their lifelong “attendants”. This thought occurred to me as I pondered the meaning of the film’s title – who is getting “in”, who lets that person enter, and why does that person have to be the “right one”? In this lifeless winter landscape of outsiders and insiders, it soon becomes apparent that Eli is the right one, and Oskar thinks he’s the man opening the door (and window) to her. Of course, the concept of Acceptance implied in the title could also work the other way round. Oskar is certainly the right one for Eli to allow into her secret world.

You have to love the irony. First of all, appearances can be deceiving. Little Eli, the vampire, looks 12 and cutesy. But as she says, she’s been “12 for a very long time”. She arrives with an old man, a father figure, who basically tries to keep her in fresh blood but who botches his two attempts and has a memorable exit. Eli, now left to her own devices, starts in on the locals but realizes she needs someone to help her stay safe from prying eyes while she sleeps away the daylight hours. Enter the hormonally-challenged Oskar, dazed and confused, whom she slowly draws into her net until he relates to her as a love object – she’s the only one who doesn’t make his life miserable. Ultimately he saves her from a suspicious local, earning her trust, and then she saves him at the end in an unforgettable, audience-pleasing revenge scene. The film ends with Oskar and Eli leaving this deathly Dodge on a fast train, with Oskar in a seat and Eli safe from the sunlight in a big cardboard box beside him… or is that a kid’s fort?

Like cyberhal, I too was amused by the amount of vampire lore included in this glacial-paced story. Supernatural strength, the ability to fly, bad smell, bloody fingernails, cold body, an aversion to cats, death by sunlight – all are included except the gothic aversion to religious symbolism, which, thankfully, is not present. But as I said earlier, I think the new ground covered here is unique – the changing of the vampire’s guard. One can surmise that many years from now the no-longer-young Oskar will be well rehearsed in the role vacated by Eli’s first “servant”.

And like cyberhal I appreciated the film’s beautiful photography, its emotional soundtrack, and understated sense of foreboding. I’m not quite so stuck on the actors – Oskar is more beautiful than the girl, and seems incapable of showing us any range of emotion save happiness – and Eli doesn’t quite give us an indication of her real age and intellect, save a short, gratuitous crotch shot which reveals her public hair – much to Oskar’s amazement.

What I found most amazing, though, is this film’s updating of the standard vampire mythos in order to explore and comment on a number of contemporary social youth issues. In this story adults are idiots, parents are distant and self-absorbed, kids are sadistic bullies, and the lonely Oskar has no one to help him make the transition from pre-teen to adult. Eli, representing the world where one can be both child and adult, offers Oskar a solution based on his emotional needs, and ultimately it is his acceptance of the feral Eli which may offer up this film’s most horrifying concept.

Cyberhal totally recommends this film, and I’m not going to argue the point, except to warn you there’s probably more explicit violence in the bully scenes between Oskar and his tormentors than there are in the vampiric scenes, which almost always take place off-camera. There is, thankfully, lots of blood – mostly around Eli’s mouth – and few will forget the anxiety-relieving final scene when Oskar discovers having a vampire girlfriend isn’t so bad after all. For now.

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

I have a theory that Eli is in fact neither male nor female anymore, as over the years she's had to change her sex to recruit servants. Keen eyed observers may have noticed a scene which points to this.

Her being 12 and somewhat androgynous allows for this. She's able to represent whatever her beholder desires (though I don't mean in a sexual way).

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agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

Meant to say... the "gratuitous crotch shot" you mention is the shot I'm also referring to. Unless I saw it wrong, I'm fairly certain it wasn't pubic hair but rather stitching that's revealed.

I've got the film here at home so maybe I'll do a double check; make sure I wasn't seeing things.

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Cyberhal (12 years ago) Reply

Interesting takes Dr N. I've just been to see Let the Right One in again, at Screamfest today. Now I read your ideas, and Agents, it makes me wonder this: how about if the Old Man used to be the 12 year old boyfriend of Eli 20 years ago!! how about if they used to be like Oscar and Eli are now. I have deeply disturbed myself with this thought. I read this as a love conquers all story, but if you think about the ageless vampire/companion thing, hmm.

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cyberhal (12 years ago) Reply

to support this theory: the way Old Man asks her not to see Oscar, and the way she caresses Old Man's cheek. Not conclusive evidence, but

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Dr Nathan (12 years ago) Reply

cyberhal -- your comment about the old man being Oskar 50 years earlier is exactly the point I was trying to make... agent orange may discover more when he pauses his dvd on the crotch shot, but for people in the theatre it was too difficult to tell, as the image is only up for a second or two, tops... at first you think it's daughter/dad, but their relationship soon degenerates into the unhappy master/bumbling servant variety... in many ways, Oskar is a similar submissive

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rek (12 years ago) Reply

I saw Let the Right One In at TAD and I also thought the pubic hair was actually stitches, but I didn't see a reason for that at the time. She played up the androgyny angle verbally too, asking if Oskar would still want to go steady if she wasn't a girl, and then outright said she wasn't.

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Shaun (12 years ago) Reply

I've ordered the book, and have reviewed the film several times. There is a change in Eli's appearance when she tranforms on 2 occassions, once when Oskar spills his blood, and 2nd when she asks him to 'be me". Credits show that there is an "Eli Aldrad" an 'older Eli' played by Susanne Ruben. Of course we know Eli is older, but it's interesting that she ages looking like somewhat like a women (or - maybe not?) I agree the crotch shot shows stitches indicating an operation in that area... The old man seems likely a past relation grown up, and she seems to be grooming Oskar for the role. I plan to read the book hoping for some answers, I'm not even sure she cares about Oskar other than to utilize him as her helper - who can tell interpersonal relations with someone who lives off other people's blood. Great Great film - character study.

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Shaun (12 years ago) Reply

Eli in the book is short for Elias, and it seems He is a boy. Oskar figures this out. Eli has had 'it' removed but I haven't found out the cause or reason, but eli - Elias is a boy for sure.

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goo- (12 years ago) Reply

i was wandering about the crotch shot as well, and also, is oskars father is a homosexual? what was up with the other guy hanging out with his dad? but i was wandering if since eli is a vampire then maybe being a vampire has caused "it" to be a sexless being, it was hard to tell if those were actually stiches or not, i dont know if there is any folklore about a vampire becoming sexless, kinda like how angels are supposed to be sexless, but was just wandering if anyone else thought of that?

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goo- (12 years ago) Reply

i would also like to know what was up with the egg and the rings?

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PooperOne (12 years ago) Reply

Well well well ... HEAVY SPOILERS follow : Eli(as) is a neutered boy (by the man who immediately after the castration proceeded to vampirize him); the manservant is a pedophile (there's a whole subplot about pedophilia cut out from the movie) who's been recruited by Eli a short time before the events depicted in the movie. And about the open ending John Lindqvist says that is a choice of the director, he's written a "much happier" one he will publish in a few years. SPOILERS END Go read this : http://www.aintitcool.com/?q=node/38839 and have fun :)

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Yelhsa (12 years ago) Reply

My theory on the crotch bit is different. As it has already been said the film is full of vampire lore. More than one version of the vampire myth state that the vampire loses the ability to procreate like human beings (but it can create other vampires) also there have been people connecting vampire myth to the egyptian myth of Osiris. One version of the myth is that osiris' son horus finds his father's dead body and rips into pieces which then get collected by Isis (wife of Osiris) except she doesn't find his phallus. So this is considered a source from where vampire lore could have originated (Osiris is also the god or resurrection).
What i thought was that the fact that Eli doesn't have (or doesn't seem to have) a sexual organ is another detail of vampire lore that was put in the film.
I want to get the book as soon as possible, i imagine it's really worth reading.
Sorry for the long comment ^^

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Amelia (6 years ago) Reply

Eli is a castrated boy. The point of the story is the relationship between the two kids. Read the book.


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