I’m glad I waited until the next day to write this post about the Swedish vampire love-story Let the Right One In. Some films defy instant analysis, and need time to sink in.
This film, like a bite from the 12-year old Eli, leaves you shocked, stunned, and assaulted. Overnight you struggle to sleep, and when you wake the next morning all you are certain of is that you now have a craving that you can’t quite explain…
Oskar is a 12 year old boy, struggling with the twin horror staples of living in a single-parent family and being bullied at school. The poor bastard never really stood a chance. A girl who appears to be his age moves into his apartment block, and despite warning Oskar that they can’t be friends, they gradually form a bond over a jungle gym and Rubik’s Cube. Hey, it’s early 1980s Stockholm, it’s not like there’s much else for a scrawny young boy and a pale girl, who only appears at night, doesn’t feel the cold, and has dark red stains on her fingertips. Wait a minute…
Yes, this is a vampire story – but not as we know it. Eli (the young bloodsucker) isn’t cool or sexy. She doesn’t have fangs, or a cape. This is a depressing kitchen-sink drama of a vampire story. That said, the director Tomas Alfredson still shows a keen eye for vampire lore, and the conventions of a vampire movie.
At the start of the film, Eli has a guardian in the shape of an old man names Hakan. Now, how Eli hasn’t developed a vegetarian diet while waiting for this incompetent to bring blood home for her I don’t know. He does manage to successfully kill someone, and then proceeds to try and drain this poor chap’s blood from a tree in the middle of a forest. The problem is, people tend to walk their dogs in forests and Hakan has to flee the scene leaving the blood behind. A second attempt to obtain blood is equally flawed – plus he hangs around outside school gym windows, and drags uncovered dead bodies through the same woods. No wonder Eli has to take matters into her own hand. You do wonder where the local police are in all this as well.
Anyway, the crux of the story is the growing friendship between Eli and Oskar, and Oskar’s growth into a someone who will stand up to his bullies – the leader of whom struts about with the leather jacket and attitude of someone twice his age who was brought up on gangster films. These truly are star-crossed lovers, and the choices they have to make are gut-wrenching at times.
Horror is often derided as one of the poor generic cousins of cinema. However, Let the Right One In is not a movie, it is a cinematic work of art. Beautifully shot, and with a pace that allows the plot to develop without needing to hold your hand. And, and it’s one of the creepiest films I have seen in a long time.