The adult pedigree of vampire movies comes from Scandinavia of all places. Let The Right One In (Swedish with English subtitles) would have a powerful physical look even if it had nothing to do with vampires. When it’s done, you might find yourself haunted by the blood-dripping in snow, by the pets attack on a cat lady, or by the death at the climax that contains an awesome shot with the camera underwater and then above water. Conversely, the movie has a sensitive core: Friendless and bullied 12-year old Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) finally makes a friend with a girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), only she happens to be a vampire who cannot make daily appearances. She is only accomplished by a man who pretends to be her “father” but his self-loathing might have him wondering if this is an escape from the vampire lifestyle. As probable for vampire stories, there is no easy exit for them. For Eli, the boy Oskar is a reprieve from the endless cycle.
Oskar asks Eli, “Are you really my age?” Her reply, “Yes. But I’ve been this age for a very long time.” Who wants to kill and eat blood for an eternity as well as clean up the mess every time by burning the remaining corpse? Eli and her father are new to the Stockholm suburb, one that is eerily inhabited by either lonely types or angry types. For them, they are naturally reclusive. It is implied they spend a couple of months in one town before foraging onto another town to prey. It’s survival. The law, of course, is undermanned in such towns as these and easy to evade.
Oskar goes to a school with many angry boys that pick on him. At home, he has a caring but absent-minded mother (played by Karin Bergquist) who is nice and all but one of those mums that doesn’t understand the kids of today. She is easily gullible when it comes to Oskar’s lies about where his scars come from. But Oskar finally gets some courage courtesy of Eli who tells him to strike back. And so he does, in a particularly stunning scene, with a hockey stick. This only incites the bullies to come back in a more brutal way. They don’t know unfortunately that the kid they’re messing with has a vampire for a friend.
How longing Oskar is though, for Eli is more than just a friend but really a girlfriend to him. His first girlfriend. Eli doesn’t see it that way though and forbids such attached labels. He also, the sweet kid he is, wants to find a way to help Eli, anything so it would be like the first gesture of love in his life. Sweet he is, but the movie is not. But it is darkly enthralling.
115 Minutes. Rated R.
HORROR / VAMPIRE FLICK / WINTER DESPAIR
Film Cousins: “The Hunger” (1983); “The Lost Boys” (1987); “Near Dark” (1987); “Thirst” (2009, South Korea).