Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Let the Right One In

(Låt den rätte komma in, Sweden, 2008)

Say you’re a twelve-year-old boy in frigid Sweden, and you’re falling for a weird twelve-year-old girl who has just moved in next door … only she has been twelve for a long time, as she puts it. She can also climb a seven-story building as fast as she could run on flat ground, snap a man’s neck like a dry twig, and can’t enter a room unless you invite her in. In short, she is a vampire.

I know, I know, I swear off vampire and zombie films about once a year, but every once in a while one comes along that is actually different, such as Zombieland. This one is like that. I tried to watch it before (there is a previous short review on this website) but will not watch films that are dubbed. I found a DVD with several audio options, including Swedish dialogue and English sub-titles. And I’m glad I did.

Oskar is one of those boys who, for some reason, attract bullies like sugar draws flies. He is sweet and beautiful, but there is rage buried inside him, which Eli, the vampire, encourages to come out. But in the end he needs some help, which she provides in one of the most startling scenes I can recall. It takes place at an indoor pool and is both understated and yet gruesome. In fact, most of the violence takes place at a distance, or even off-camera. There is no gloating in the violence, no loving examination of torn flesh or spurting blood as you always get in vampire movies. The film upsets the norms in every way. Being a vampire is incredibly cool … and yet it is hard. It probably always was hard (just how old is she? We never find out), but in our modern world it’s even tougher. She is incredibly appealing, and incredibly lonely. I’d have fallen in love with her, too.

The children are played by Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, who got the parts after a year-long casting search involving thousands of kids. They chose well. She in particular won several awards, and plans to continue acting. I’ll watch her next film.