Let the Right One In is a modern vampire tale done right. The setting is a snowy Swedish town. It feels as it looks, cold and lonely. Right away, we are shown a situation that draws in our curiosity and sympathy: twelve year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), alone in his room with a knife, fantasizing about getting revenge on his bullies. With only that, we are hooked, and the vampires and murders haven’t even started.
When they do, we are sucked in even more. We watch an older man, Håkan (Per Ragnar), draw in his unsuspecting victim by asking him what time it is. The poor kid seems to have gotten the lesson on stranger danger, but he get too close. Soon he is hanging upside over the pure white snow as Håkan lets his blood drip down and drain into a funnel.
Enter our vampire, Eli (Lina Leandersson). Oskar meets her outside his apartment complex. He has no friends and is immediately smitten by this mysterious girl. Could this be yet another vampire love story filled with adolescent angst? It sort of is, but in such a great way.
After Oskar meets Eli, he seems to gain confidence against his bullies. The three boys are menacing, even though they are still half grown, like Oskar. In a scene that leaves Oskar with a scar across his face, we finally understand how dangerous they can be. But when Oskar stands up against them, the consequences later are more than he, or us, expected.
Oskar’s problems are quiet and domestic compared to Eli’s. She is more concerned with where her next meal will come from. Either Håkan brings her back fresh blood, or she has to go out and kill for herself, a risky and messy chore. And that innocent group of drinking buddies keep getting picked off by Eli.
Like I said, this is a vampire movie done right. Though Eli is a little girl, she is a classic vampire. She bites necks, can only drink blood, gets sick after trying candy and can’t go out during the daylight. Best of all, one of her victims doesn’t die and we get to see what happens to a new vampire around cats and exposed to daylight (a beautifully horrific scene!).
This is the sort of film that unfolds perfectly. Things are not revealed right away, but slowly, methodically. The focus is on the relationship between Oskar and Eli, not on the blood, gore and horror. However, I think that is a good thing. This isn’t a horror movie filled with jump moments, but some moments are plenty gruesome and disturbing. And while Eli is no Count Dracula, but simply a girl doing what she needs to in order to survive, I found the bullies just as scary as Eli, but not nearly as powerful.
Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is a great film, and I’m so glad I finally got around to seeing it. I want to thank my dear reader, Anthony Lee Collins, again for suggesting it (twice!) for my horror movie marathon. And I want to suggest it to anyone who wants to see a good modern vampire story. Have faith, vampires are not over, there is more out there than Twilight!
“What happens if I don’t? What happens if you walk in anyway?”