Let The Right One In – Johan Soderqvist
Amidst the icy atmospherics swirl bittersweet themes which highlight the blood-warm, romantically charged heart of the story.
Published on July 26, 2012 | Filed under Audiodrome: Music in Film

Rarely has music for a horror film been so emotive or touching than Johan Söderqvist’s score for Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In. Of course, Let The Right One In is no ordinary horror film. Unravelling like a darkly beautiful and twisted fairytale it charts the burgeoning relationship between a lonely, anxious little boy and a little girl who turns out to be an ancient vampire in search of a new guardian. Equal parts touching and terrifying the story plays out against the backdrop of a snow-covered council estate in Sweden and possesses a suitably chilly atmosphere, warmed by the tentative romance at the heart of the story and the occasional stark dash of blood strewn on snow…

Paramount to sustaining its bewitching tone is Johan Söderqvist’s lush and frostily beautiful score. Born in 1966 in Täby, Sweden, Söderqvist attended the Royal College of Music in Stockholm before playing in several jazz and folk bands. Eventually the musician turned his attention to writing music for film and TV. Before scoring Let The Right One In he was perhaps best known for composing the scores for films by acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier, including Brothers, After the Wedding and Things We Lost In The Fire.

Amidst the icy atmospherics of his score for Let The Right One In swirl bittersweet and melancholy themes – performed by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra – that highlight the blood-warm, romantically charged heart of the story. Söderqvist deftly moves from chilling the spine one moment to thawing it out again with heart-aching and rich melodies full of light and hope; though no less tinged by a strange sadness. Many tracks unfurl as echoic and hazy soundscapes in which atmospheric use is made of electric guitar played with a bow and a bass waterphone*; the glassy eeriness of which resonates throughout proceedings. As mentioned, the composer grounds the music in the more emotional aspects of the story, not the horror; though when those darker moments come, they are no less effective due to their subdued, sinisterly suggestive nature as evidenced on Virginia Is Bitten and Virginia Wakes Up. Tracks such as Virginia In Flames and Lacke Dies also tease up the hairs on your neck with creepy bass waterphone samples, clattering strings and more typical horror-movie-soundtrack arrangements. Elsewhere the likes of Eli and Oskar – with its underlying cautiousness that bleeds into full-bloomed and heartrending string arrangements – and The Arrival – with its quivering woodwind, tentative piano, harp and ominous rumblings – slide an icy finger down the spine.

Eli’s Theme, Then We Are Together and Oscar Strikes Back are full blown, richly textured orchestral pieces the motifs of which are more pared down on the likes of The Father – an almost folky lament plucked on guitar, and Going Home, which begins with the same guitar motif before splintering into something much chillier and moodier. Hiding The Body, The Slaughter and Spotting A Victim bring us back into icy horror territory, with faint and echoic bass waterphone samples and ominous strings that threaten to build to a dark crescendo but merely tease, creating stifling suspense. Death of Håkan utilises an altered version of the piano motifs from Oskar in Love and Then We Are Together, underpinning the similarities between the two male characters and their relationships with Eli.

Rarely has a soundtrack evoked such connotations of coldness, flurrying snow and glistening ice than this delicate and frost-dewed tapestry of a score. My favourite track is perhaps Oskar In Love – a soft piano driven piece with shards of the glacial bass waterphone glinting through with a hint of something chillier, caressed by solemn strings evoking tender longingness. Enjoy.

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

*A waterphone is an atonal acoustic instrument made up of a stainless steel bowl with a cylindrical neck and bronze rods of different lengths and diameters situated around the bowl. The rods are played with a bow, or the bowl can be filled with water and a beater used on it to create an ethereal resonating sound akin to someone running their finger around the rim of a glass of water. Haunting stuff!

James is the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books) and a monograph on The Company of Wolves (part of Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series). He currently contributes to Exquisite Terror and Diabolique, and has also written for Film Ireland, Eye for Film, Little White Lies and The Quietus.
James Gracey

  • This was a very sweet, little movie that just so happened to have vampires involved, but involved in a very smart way that didn’t take away from it’s story. The only thing that did take away from this flick was the bad special effects, especially when it came to that scene with the cats. That was a goofy scene. Great review James.

    • James

      Thanks Dan. I also really appreciated the focus of the story on the relationship. Admittedly the scene with the cats had some ropey special effects, but I can overlook stuff like that in light of the engrossing story, emotional core and evocative atmosphere. 🙂

  • Pete_stich

    Very nice review.

    LTROI sits in my top 10 list of all time for its originality on a too well trodden subject. I think everything came together to make this a very special movie. Script, director, actors, soundtrack….

    It is a love story which happens to have a vampire in it.

    Eli’s theme still tears at my heartstrings.

    • James

      Pete you’re spot on: everything just came together to make this the special film it is. I also love how there is a darkly tragic undercurrent – we see Oskar’s fate in the character of Håkan. It might be a love story, but it is a most unsettling one if thought about too much.

  • Christine

    It’s amazing how evocative music can be. Simply reading the track titles transported me to a specific point in the film and elicited an immediate emotional reaction.
    Every time I read these I want to run and re-watch the film.
    Amazing as usual.

    • James

      This is one of the most evocative scores I can think of – right up there with Fire Walk With Me.

  • J. Murphy

    I picked this up about six months ago or so and it has become one of my wind down/bedtime staples. Completely gorgeous.