Let The Right One In (2009)
The average human adult has seen approximately 68 films about or including vampires. Although that statistic is completely made up, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true. But unless you’re the moustached, tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking, vampire obsessive who lectured at my university, you’re unlikely to have ever seen anything quite like Let The Right One In.
For starters, it goes against the conventional thinking that vampire films have to be horrors. While understandable, it’s a mode of thought as outdated as the idea that all animated films are just for kids.
Of course, vampire films and the whole vampire myth are all about sex, although Mark Kermode considered vampire teen romance Twilight to be all about angst. If you consider Let The Right One In to be Twilight with 12-year-olds, then it’s really all about puberty.
Blackeberg, Stockholm, 1982: Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a shy 12-year-old boy living in a block of flats with his mum. He looks like a cross between Thom Yorke and Steve Clark, the late guitarist in Def Leppard. He’s quiet and a bit weird which is why he is being bullied. When he meets his mysterious new ‘12-year-old’ neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson) one night they strike up an unlikely but very sweet and totally believable friendship.
Amazingly this story of two creepy adolescents sharing an unusual nocturnal friendship does not court controversy, since it’s so agonisingly beautiful. The film is shot through with powerful scenes of agonising sadness – Eli is interrupted mid-attack, leaving her female victim alive but inevitably changed. Hospitalised and desperately hungry, she knowingly asks her doctor to open the blinds in the middle of the day.
Director Tomas Alfredson and writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (adapting his own novel) sensibly don’t play too much with vampire mythology, instead delivering it as matter-of-fact reality. Apparently vampires actually can enter your house uninvited, but just watch what happens when they do.
Despite the carnage that she brings, it’s easy to sympathise with Eli. She relies on drained blood that her father retrieves from the people he hunts for her, in some probably unintentionally hilarious scenes of ineptitude. In the end, she is left to fend for herself and we are reminded that despite being a creature of the night, she is still just a child. As such, it is as much a film about growing up as about unquenchable hunger – Stand By Me meets Dracula. When Eli finally steps in to help Oskar with his bully problem, you realise how strong their bond is and you’ll want to spend forever in their company.
I decided to celebrate finally being up to date on this blog by having a week off watching films. Instead I read the September issue of Empire before it had even reached the shops (I subscribe) and watched the excellent if repetitive extras on disc two of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Eagle-eyed readers (if there are any out there) may have noticed that I’ve stopped using italics when refering to films. This is partly laziness and partly because none of the other good film magazines use italics so why should I?