Directed by Tomas Alfredson, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (the film is based on his novel); starring Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar, Lina Leandersson as Eli, Per Ragnar as Håkan, Henrik Dahl as Erik, Peter Carlberg as Lacke, Mikael Rahm as Jocke, and Ika Nord as Virginia.
In the 2008 vampire tale Let the Right One In, we are introduced to a twist in classic vampire lore. We discover a man and his young child. Yet that isn’t really the case. The man is in love with the child and seems that he has been for a long time. How can that be right? She’s twelve and he’s in his 40’s or 50’s. Well, that is the case. He has been caring for this lovely girl for many years. He grows older and she stays the same. She is our vampire. Yet she doesn’t go out and do the killing. That’s what the older man does for her. He kills people, drains them and brings back their blood for her to drink. This causes them to move around a lot. Eli (Lina Leandersson) and her keeper move to a new apartment complex. Here she befriends Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), an awkward young man that gets tormented at school and dreams of revenge. Shortly after moving in, Eli’s keeper gets caught attempting to collect for her. This makes Oskar so much more important. Her keeper was not just someone that took care of her but he kept her company too.
In Let the Right One In we are treated to some classic elements of Vampire Lore (or mythology.) We see Eli only at night, she can’t come out in the daylight. She doesn’t eat and she has a protector, Håkan. Eli has the characteristic pale skin of traditional vampires and thankfully, she doesn’t sparkle! One thing that has been left out of a great deal of vampire films since Dracula (1931) and I am glad was reintroduced, a vampire must be invited into the home. In this film one of the elements that we see that generally shows up in other horror films is the need for revenge. Oskar is in need of revenge when the film opens. Whether it is revenge on camp counselors for a drowning death (Friday the 13th films), or revenge on the parents that got justice on a serial child killer (Nightmare on Elm Street films) by burning him where he lived.
Let the Right One In doesn’t follow the convention of other films in the genre. In my opinion vampire films should have their own genre all together. It doesn’t focus specifically on Eli as a vampire. It focuses on Oskar, his life, Eli and his relationship with her. Eli is almost like a supporting character. It also introduces the idea of a child vampire. We have seen children before (Interview with the Vampire (1994)) but they have been portrayed as impulsive, unpredictable and whiny. Eli is anything but. She is childlike at times and is calculating. The way she manipulates Håkan into doing her dirty work is anything but impulsive or unpredictable. This film revisits the classical only in the inclusion of Eli requiring the invitation into Oskar’s home. We do, however, see the consequences when Oskar refuses to invite her in.
According to Tudor, this movie is considered Supernatural/Autonomous. Our vampire is external. However, if we bring in the character of Oskar, I believe his torment gives Eli the perfect opportunity to move in and be his “savior”. The cultural impact of this film is a renewal in the mystery of vampire, the renewal of the first vampire lore. I don’t think that there is any other real impact. Perhaps though it scares the pants off you when we discover that Eli is in fact capable of murder.