A Proper Vampire Story: Let the Right One In
It is not easy to write a good story about vampires, horror-themed or not. The myth is old, and many writers have taken a try at everything from recreating, to deconstructing the original tale of the Nosferatu. But regardless of what modernization and new-age fads befall a hype, there is still something substantially wonderful about seeing a story that respects the old school of thought. Vampires are truly mysterious creatures, bound by an entirely different set of laws than the rest of humanity, as such, the lives they live are alien-like –especially when compared to that of a mortal. This is our review of Let the Right One In.
The Basic Plot
Oskar lives with his mother but also occasionally spends time with his estranged father. On one visit, his father gets too drunk and Oskar is forced to entertain himself, which leads him meeting a young girl named Eli at the park. Eli currently lives with a strange old man named Hakan. Unknown to Oskar, Hakan is responsible for hunting down prey and collecting blood for Eli to drink, because as it turns out, she’s a vampire. But when Hakan gets into a bit of trouble and is unable to get blood for Eli, Oskar get caught up with Eli’s vampiric needs.
All the Basic Trappings
The movie gets a good pace going right from the start since you don’t have to figure out who is who. Protagonist Oskar is your typical child underdog complete with school bullies and separated parents, getting up to speed on his more-or-less miserable life takes all but a few minutes of screentime to establish. This allows the movie to quickly move on to the lifestyle of Hakan and Eli –Hakan hunts, Eli feeds. It is a strange combination to see, since vampires are often depicted as apex predators who hunt their own food. But Eli is more than capable of acquiring sustenance alone, and the depiction of bond between her and Hakan is shown for a very different storytelling reason.
Oskar, much like a real person, wishes to exact revenge on the bullies who torture him –with most of his fixations bordering on the macabre. The movie even shows him collecting news clippings of violent crimes, which seem to inspire him even further. This ability to not only tolerate but desire violence becomes a key part of his character and how he manages to quickly form a bond with Eli.
Eli is not your typical vampire. Not tall, not well dressed, not particularly intimidating either. But she has this rawness that can only be associated with the irony of having a youthful body yet undeniably long lifespan. The fact that Hakan is the younger of the two should no longer be surprising for any vampire fan. What is surprising, however, is that when Oskar and Eli fully acknowledge a relationship with each, but before becoming privy to the fact that Eli is vampire, does a strange little secret get sprung: Eli is not a girl.
Many Elements: One Composition
What we love most about Let the Right One In is that it manage to pull together many little storytelling threads into one strong and cohesive narrative line. There’s Hakar’s struggles trying to provide for Eli, Oskar’s bullies, the witnesses to Eli’s attacks in the neighborhood, and even a whole little bit on a woman who Eli accidentally turns into a vampire. There’s a lot of details and important things happening, and each one is as interesting and curious as the other. The impressive part is the way that the film manages to tell all of these stories, complete them, and provide the viewers with a substantially satisfying ending that provides both closure and content.
Speaking of the ending, it seems a little hopeful at first viewing –Eli is safe inside a coffin while Oskar watches over her while onboard a train that will take them to parts unknown. But the underlying fact is that Oskar is the new Hakan. This pretty much explains the level of devotion and loyalty that Hakan exhibits in the film –and the culmination of his servitude to Eli is one of self-sacrifice for her, further cementing their connection to each other. And topping this all off is the fact that Oskar himself appears to be keenly aware and prepared for all of this.
If you have only seen the Hollywood remake (Let Me In), and you have a solid love for the vampire genre or good horror movies, then seeing “Lat Den Ratte Komma In” (the original Swedish title) in its original form should be something you cannot miss out on. It is far more the superior version of the two (the Americanized film tones down much of the controversial insights that were the very core of the original movie’s narrative). As for the book, there’s even more things there (especially about Hakan’s character) that have been made vague even in the original movie adaptation.