Saturday, 12 November 2016

Tomas Alfredson's "Let The Right One In" – Little Miss Vampire

The glut of vampire movies in the past few years has passed me by.  As with actual vampires, I've heard they're out there but I've never felt the urge to seek them out.  But here comes one on the BBC’s 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films list, so I sat down to watch it, driven to my television like a vampire to its bed at daybreak.


One thing Tomas Aldredson's film, Let The Right One In, is not is scary.  There is none of the cushion hiding, stomach clenching terror of Hitchcock's Psycho, for example, despite a fair number of sudden vampire attacks.  And it doesn't have the full-blown sexual elements of many vampire films either.  There is a love story between the vampire, Eli (Lina Leandersson) and a twelve-year-old boy, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) but they never get much sexier than 'going steady'.

Oskar is bulled at school by a classmate called Connie.  Connie has two henchmen who he seems to bully almost as much as Oskar, which is a nice little touch.  As a result of the bullying, Oskar stabs trees with a hunting knife in an impotent rage, and collects a psycho's scrapbook of newspaper clippings about murders, which soon start to include local murders when Little Miss Vampire moves next door with her middle-aged helper, Håkan (Per Ragnar).  Håkan turns out to be the world's most inept renfield, stringing up local victims with no care whatsoever for being discovered in the act of draining their blood.  Unsurprisingly, he is disturbed by passers-by every time and is soon bumped off.  Apparently, Håkan has a more developed role in the novel on which this film is based, but in the film he's a waste of space.

Review continues below...

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Oskar's parents are separated and his father (as well as apparently most of the other local men) is an alcoholic.  It's a nice touch to show this most prosaic of human weaknesses as a direct analogy with the vampire's exotic lust for another liquid, blood.

Given it's not scary or sexy and given that most people agree vampires don't exist, you might be wondering what the heck is the point of this film.  In some respects it is a coming of age film, with Oskar going through puberty, doing weight lifting to build up his body and confronting his bullies.  In this way, Eli can be seen as a personification of Oskar's lust for blood in revenge for his bullying as well as for his nascent sexuality.  There is a moment when Eli sneaks a glimpse at Eli's crotch while she is undressing and we see a scar in place of genitalia of either sex.  Given that Oskar has never seen a naked girl, it would make sense that his imagination projects a big question mark there if we interpret Eli as a kind of phantom stand-in for his murderous rage.  Eli also has a habit of flitting across impossible gaps across buildings through high-up windows, and of appearing from nowhere (as at the swimming pool at the end), which also supports the idea that she's not really there.  Plodding old Håkan is the fly in this metaphorical ointment, of course.

It's worth watching for the claustrophobia of the community, the beautiful snow-bound photography and the sweet and dangerous relationship that develops between Eli and Oskar.

Just one thing though – will vampires *please* wipe their freaking mouths after a blood meal.  Gross.

Personal Score: 5/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on the BBC's Top 21st Century films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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