Let The Right One In, immediately. November 17, 2008

What do you say?

What do you say walking out of a darkened theater after having seen the greatest piece of genre film in the last 20 years? What do you say to directing and cinematography so adept, you can see many fledgling filmmakers throwing in the towel, demoralized, assuming they can never attempt to be as good? 

What do you say about a film that is simultaneously among the most heartbreaking and terrifying you have ever seen?

Nothing, apparently. I was struck dumb.

The success of of Let The Right One In will hinge on the breathless hyperbole of those who have seen it, and will be endlessly called “that Scandinavian vampire flick” to anyone who will listen. Based on the bestselling (in Sweden) novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the Tomas Alfredson directed film has been a festival darling in its short run, garnering such honors as the Founders Award for Best Narrative at the Tribeca Film Festival. Such hype surrounded its release, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves had signed on to do another adaptation of the novel before the film even hit theaters.

Sweden forms the Hobbesian backdrop for this endlessly inventive horror flick, with somewhat disturbed Oskar meeting his next door neighbor Eli. With a stunning eye for contrast and a striking color palette, the movie takes a note from Hard Candy and has you sympathizing with the monster it centers on, and lets you feel the conflict of your sympathies.

The film explores violently frightening aspects of the fictional horror mainstay in a far more satisfying way than was explored by Joss Whedon or Bram Stoker. Let The Right One In just may be the new benchmark of horror, and its arguable it has made a claim to a reputation in the annals of film as a whole.

In school, we were never allowed to do book reports on horror novels. Stephen King, Anne Rice and H.P. Lovecraft were taboo, the Catholic school board none to keen on their content. I have a feeling if they were to experience the beauty Let The Right One In imbues utter horror, they might redouble their efforts to keep it away from us. 

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Asobi Seksu overcomes genre stereotypes, immigration laws to play in Vancouver November 16, 2008

My friend leans over to me and says “I’m scared”. We are standing in front of the stage at the Media Club. Asobi Seksu is set to take the stage shortly. It’s dimly lit as usual and we are sipping at pints of lager. There is a man sitting behind the drum kit tapping out beats and fixing the arrangement to his liking. The conversation around us is muted and casual. The crowd is mostly 20-something hipsters and 40-something Japanese ex-pats, and the piped-in music is mostly mellow. So I mostly can’t figure out why he would be scared.

“Because,” he says, “I think that drummer going to knock us flat.”


Chuck Klostermann once made a joke about rock critics complaining about how no one ever shows up to Comets On Fire concerts. I would lump Asobi Seksu into that same lamentable category, and their last full length album, Citrus, certainly merits more attention than they get. It’s their Blue Cathedral, their Blonde on Blonde, or their Slanted & Enchanted, to complete the idiom. 

This might have something to do with their prior inability to get past Canadian border security, but that is hardly an excuse.

Asobi Seksu (colloquial Japanese for “playful sex”), the brainchild of frontwoman/vocalist/keyboardist/closet drummer Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna, play to a certain kind of sound. Between crushing drum fills, glassy-eyed riffs and hooks and covers of The Crystals’ “And Then He Kissed Me”, it’s not hard not to see why they are often described as “shoegaze” rock, with all the My Bloody Valentine and Lush comparisons that inevitably accompany such designations. But with expert pop structures and an astonishingly unique level of emotion, Asobi Seksu carve out a niche that sets them apart from standard New York City indie fare.

Chikudate writes the lyrics in both Japanese and English, and whatever end of the translation spectrum you fall on, the result stays the same. Her lyrics wrap you up, sometimes seductively and sometimes with a platonic warmth that seems contrary to their Manhattan scenester cred.


The band took the stage and ripped through Citrus standouts “New Year”, “Thursday” and “Strawberries”, as well as older favorites such as “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me” and a new track entitled “Gliss”, all testaments to full bodied walls of broad guitar and tight, sharp drumming. They closed out the night with “Red Sea”, and the departure of drummer Larry Gorman to the green room let Chikudate beat on the drums for the rest of the outro, making her resemble a petite, Asian Vinnie Paul, with the headbanging and hair flips to match. It was a departure from the rest of the night, where I stood three feet away from this pixie making love to the microphone, pulling us in with an understated enthusiasm, her eyes closed in concentration and ecstasy.
When she did open them, there were no shoes involved. They were trained wholly on the adoring – if somewhat docile – crowd.

Or the back wall. It was hard to tell.

My friend ended up having to leave the front of the crowd. He was so wholly blown away, so utterly floored by a drummer that was as intimidating as expected and a band that was as talented as billed, he needed to get away from the dancing throngs to be able to concentrate on the epic unfolding in front of him.

“I had no idea.” he said. “I was totally unprepared for that amount of awesome.”

At the end of the set, the unique layout of the Media Club stage had Chikudate feeling her way along the wall for a way offstage. She couldn’t find the door.

After the performance I had just seen, I was unsure I would be able to either.

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