This 2008 Swedish vampire film, directed by Thomas Alfredson and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, propels the vampire genre light-years ahead of the recent Twilightcraze. Lindqvist also wrote the novel upon which this movie is based. Performances from the film’s young leads, Kare Hedebrant as the outcast Oskar and Lina Leandersson as the vampire Eli, imbue Let the Right One In with a sense of palpable sadness and alienation.
Let the Right One In, although described by some critics as an exploration of young love between Oskar and Eli, really strikes at the heart of what it means to be a vampire. Young adult vampire material, including the Twilight series, focuses on vampirism as something exotic, erotic, and romantic. The vampire becomes a figure of romantic fixation, the mortal and the vampire together becoming star-crossed lovers. Many times these vampires are beautiful or handsome to the nth degree, and exude sexual longing. Not quite so in Let the Right One In. Oskar, mercifully and brutally teased and abused by his classmates, has no one. His parents are divorced, with his mother mostly absent and the one visit the viewer sees him have with his father shows the gap between them as well. Eli, when she moves in to his apartment complex and begins to interact with him cautiously, becomes his everything. Yet Eli’s views concerning Oskar are never quite so clear. She needs him, but why she does strikes at the fundamental problem of the human/vampire grand romance. A vampire is always and ever a predator, a soulless being existing in the realm between living and dead who must prey upon the human for survival.
Oskar enters Eli’s life at just the right time, or in a darker interpretation, Eli begins to manipulate Oskar to her own ends at just the right time. Although she claims to be twelve, she confesses to Oskar when pressed that while she is twelve, she has been so for “a long time.” This is not the story of two young adolescents struggling to find their identities as they fall in love with one another. Eli is not twelve years old. Although she never reveals her true age, the implication is that she is at least a couple of hundred years old (a fact more explicit in the novel). Eli senses Oskar’s vulnerability and latches on to it. Simply, she needs him. At the start of the film, she has another mortal man living with her. He procures blood for her through murdering hapless victims, but he seems slower now, less competent at doing so. Midway through the movie, Hakan is brutally and casually released from Eli’s service in a scene which underscores Eli’s willingness to use mortals to keep herself alive.
The title of the film at its most basic level refers to the idea that a vampire must be invited into a room, a piece of vampire mythology used on several occasions here. Yet it is more subtle than that. Eli must find a replacement for Hakan, the “right one” at that. Pointedly, she must befriend and perhaps bewitch someone who can be persuaded to kill for her. Oskar, lonely and alone, also searches for the “right one” to bring into his life. For him, Eli becomes the only one capable of filling his needs, even when he understands that she is a vampire.
The film is beautifully shot and set against a frigid winter landscape. The special effects are used to great effect here. There is a scene where Eli clambers up the side of a building, but this is not the emphasis of the shot. Instead, the lens focuses on someone else entirely, with the viewer catching a quick glimpse of Eli in the background. The only special effects which appear out of place appear in what can best be described as the “wonky cat sequence.” Once you watch the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
In all, an excellent vampire film.