I had all but given up on vampires once the Twilight phenomenon ate the brains of women and children everywhere. All of a sudden vampires were moody teens throwing temper tantrums, sparkling in the sunlight, and spending thousands of years trapped in an adolescent state of high school dating (“saga” is right…).
But a little Swedish movie, and a surprisingly good American remake, once again gave me hope for our fanged friends.
Let’s just get this out of the way: vampires aren’t supposed to sparkle. They’re not supposed to be “vegetarians.” They’re not supposed to play baseball and date constipated high school girls. They’re supposed to rip high school girls limb from limb.
This is where Let the Right One In (2008) and the remake, Let Me In (2010), get it right. And they really get it right. Eli/Abby, the vampire who moves in next door to lonely and bullied Oskar/Owen, is creepier than you ever thought a 12-year-old girl could be. She tears the flesh from her victims to get to their blood and walks around in the snow barefoot.
In both of these iterations of the modern vampire, said vampire ends up dating the protagonist. In Edward and Bella’s case, there is much vomit-inducing melodrama. In Eli/Abby and Oskar/Owen’s case, there is a sweet connection forged between two outsiders, and the vampire is at once extremely dangerous, frightening, and a loyal friend.
The rules of vampire lore are explored in this movie, rather than ignored altogether (um… Twilight?). Vampires must ask before they enter a home; if they enter without permission, they begin to convulse as blood leaks out of every crevice of their skin. They can also crawl up and down the sides of buildings like spiders, a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And if they happen to get caught in the sun, they will become a giant ball of flame.
Film purists might be annoyed that I’m putting Let the Right One In and Let Me In on an equal footing here, but I think the remake is as good as the original. They are both brilliant movies and are so similar in some ways that it’s difficult to separate them. The American remake doesn’t even feel like an American movie; it completely captures the eerie isolation presented in the original, and the child actors do an equally good job with their material.
The pool scene (in both versions) stands as one of the best vampire scenes I’ve seen… maybe because you don’t actually see it; the way it’s shot leaves so much to the imagination while providing a unique viewer perspective. And it’s creepy as hell.
These movies will never be as popular as drivel like Twilight, but quality and quantity never do seem to go together anyway, do they? While the silliness of the aforementioned saga will die away once the fad has passed, movies like Let the Right One In will stand the test of time as creative classics of the vampire genre.
Do yourself a favor and watch either the original or the remake of Let the Right One In. You won’t be disappointed.