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Let The Right One In: New Vampire Film Reviewed
Josh Saco , April 10th, 2009 11:16

Can coming-of-age vampire film Let the Right One In rescue the blood-sucking genre? Josh Saco sinks his teeth in . . . .

Vampires, I think we can all agree, have a long, tumultuous history when it comes to cinema: from the heady heights of Nosferatu and Dracula to the dire depths of Twilight and Lesbian Vampire Killers. The vampire sub-genre is fraught with horrendous, throwaway, pound store crap — films that hopefully will never even make the next upgrade in home cinema advancement technology. Over the past 90 years vampires have become jokes, laughed at and dumbed down, so that our poor Count wouldn't even show his face at his local.

A few saving graces have popped up over the years. Near Dark faded behind the success of Lost Boys, but was far superior. 30 Days of Night took a long-overlooked solution to the whole "can't hang out in the sun" dilemma and amped the 'grisly' factor up to 12. Fighting back against years of Eddie Murphy, late Hammer ponce and Buffy tat, these vampires were a resilient breed of monster, worthy of nightmares and peeking in closets, monsters with depth and life (or death) still to be discovered.

Let the Right One In takes the genre to a new level. It's a a genuinely sweet and touching film, based on author John Ajvide Lindqvist's younger years. The screenplay is written with awareness and sensitivity as he recounts his own pre-teen love affair between two lonely children. The film's only glaring deviation from reality is that one of them happens to be a vampire. But in the world of a 12-year-old boy, what could be better than a having a vampire as your best friend?

Oskar is your classic latch-key kid. Left to entertain himself, he collects clippings from the paper, vents his anger at being picked on by stabbing at trees, and looks forward to the few moments on the weekend that he can spend time with his father. Eli has been "12 . . . for a long time" and, with only the increasingly inept Håkan for company, there's not much in Eli's world and no one to share it with. Theirs is a relationship of supply and demand. Håkan hunts for the 12-year-old vampire, but age has caught up with him and he is no longer as efficient as he once was. He eventually realises he has outlived his usefulness and succumbs to the snow.

Oskar soon falls in love with Eli, who gives him the strength and support he needs to stand up to his vicious bullies, but who also helps to open up the boy’s darker side. A tender approach is taken to what might be considered a questionable relationship between the two characters. But this is not a horror film; it’s a love story and a coming of age story, complete with the pain and discoveries of youth.

The grace, the elegance, the cat-like prowess; all the typical trappings of the cinema vampire are gone. Eli is a lonely person and a vicious killer, using age and appearance as an advantage to lure prey, before unleashing a ferocious attack. This isn’t the first time vampires have been portrayed as children. We’ve had Homer in Near Dark — a horribly angry and reactionary child. We’ve had Claudia in Interview With The Vampire, who was every bit the tantrum-prone princess, making us realise for the first time how frightening it might be to spend eternity as a child. Eli came to terms with it long ago. But that doesn't fend off the loneliness, or save you from the choice of cursing the ones you care about or losing them over and over again. Not an easy life. Not the life the Children of the Night dream of as they dance the nights away in platform shoes and leather skirts. All the magic of vampires is thrown away, and they exist in our world — in our reality, with feelings and emotions.

Likened to The Orphanage and Pan's Labyrinth, Let the Right One In casts a wider net than your typical vampire film might. Since its original screenings it's received continuous accolades, and was soon lined up in the sights of the remake army. Having bought the rights, Hammer Films and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves are now preparing to sink their fangs into the story for a new audience, using an English-speaking cast. Is this a good idea? I guess time will tell.