Battle of the Vamps

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…).

1) Sparkle 2) Brood 3) Apply more hair gel

But a little Swedish movie, and a surprisingly good American remake, once again gave me hope for our fanged friends.

1) Feast upon your entrails 2) Bleed profusely 3) Spontaneously combust

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.

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7 thoughts on “Battle of the Vamps

    • I loved Chloe Moritz in Kick Ass and didn’t realize til after I watched Let Me In that that’s why she seemed so familiar. She’s a good little actress, which is rare to find. I’d love to see her in more movies being a child badass.

  1. Joanna, I couldn’t agree with you more. Since the other three members of my family do not partake of horror movies, I end up not watching them either. However, early this past year I threw on the headphones, downloaded Let Me In and was blown away!! I knew about the original book and film, but I thought this thing was brilliant. Just as you rightly put it, the filmmakers left something for the imagination. I thought the tumbling car crash scene was epic. I also would love to make one other point: horror doesn’t have to be vulgar or disgusting; sometimes it is simply a collection of incredible moments. When she embraced the boy, him clean but her covered in blood…? Amazing.
    I loved, loved, loved that film. Just as you wrote – it restored my faith in the genre, too.

  2. You couldn’t be more right. Haven’t seen the remake yet, but Let The Right One In is choice. That pool scene was swimmingly superlative. Really drove the steak into me heart. Glad you posted this.

  3. I liked the Swedish version better, but I saw it first, so that probably has something to do with it.
    Also, foreign language and subtitles make it easier to overlook child acting.

    The American version was slightly more “American-y”, with more burn-splosions and blood-splosions.
    Plus, it cuts out the “peek at the bizarre genital mutilations” scene, which was really a shocking moment in the Swedish version.

    Have you read the book? I’ve only read the opening section that you can download for free. The book makes Oskar/Owen into a much more detestable, brown-nosing, pants-wetting, nose-bleeding bully target. It’s hard not to punch him yourself when you read it.

    • Yes, I did notice that they decided to tame it down in the American version by ignoring the mutilated genitals, and ampled up the violence a little. Hehe you’re probably right about the foreign language changing our perspective on child acting, didn’t even think of that. I haven’t read the book, but wow, that’s interesting that he’s not such a sympathetic character. Now I’m curious… I may have to pick it up. Thanks!

      • Genital Mutilation
        SPOILER
        ****************************
        In the book, Eli was actually a castrated boy before becoming a vampire. Bwah?!?
        That helps to explain the “I’m not a girl” lines.
        It also upgrades the guy s/he lives with at the beginning from pedo-necro-philiac to HOMO-pedo-necro-philiac, which, as the Catholic Church will tell you, is just wrong.
        ****************************

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