There are some films that come into your life like a cool summer breeze. They are warm and wonderful and they make you feel alive ever so briefly. And then they are gone. And the memory of it follows soon after.
Then there are films that haunt you like a ghostly winter chill. Always tugging at the dark recesses of your soul. Something about them makes you want to stop and think about what it all meant, or read about it, or shut it out while you cower under the blankets in the middle of the night. Praying it will all go away.
Let the Right One In is a prime example of the latter.
On the surface it can be called a "coming of age" film or a "romance" or a "vampire" film, but it manages to transcend all of those genres. It truly is one of the more unique films I have seen in quite a long time.
The basic premise revolves around the budding friendship between a 12 year-old classic underdog and bully-bait named Oskar and his new neighbor. A young girl his own age named Eli. She is, to put it mildly, different. There is an instant and sad attraction between the two. He spends much of his time alone, pretending to battle his bully demons with a knife. She only comes out at night, dispensing wisdom far beyond her years on how he should deal with his problems. A bond is formed as only 12 year-olds can form them.
But, as she states more than once, Eli isn't a girl. She is a vampire. Living with her handler (who acts as a sort of father figure) in an apartment building like an exchange student with an aversion to sunlight. The dreariness of the situation is a living, breathing thing to the viewer. Especially as the film is set in the cold and dark winter of Scandinavia. Everything about the film is bleak. The weather, Oskar's school, the apartment complex, his torment at the hands of the sadistic bullies, poor Eli's existence...everything. Ingmar Bergman would have been proud of the overall aesthetic of this film. It was that bleak.
The filmmaker* also took some liberties with the mythos surrounding vampires. One that I found fascinating was his take on the vampire invitation. Believe me when I say that you have never seen something like this in a vampire film before. And since it involves an innocent looking young girl it makes it even creepier. Another shock was a scene that might normally raise a chuckle in a coming of age film. Oskar gets a glimpse of young Eli changing her clothes and what might have been a titillating moment for an inquisitive young boy on his way to manhood instead becomes a dark glimpse of Eli's deeper secret. Something truly too awful to contemplate.
Even if you don't enjoy a good vampire flick I would still recommend this one to just about anyone. Watch it in the original Swedish with English subtitles. The main characters aren't very chatty so it shouldn't be too much of an issue for those of you who hate subtitles. It's bleak, it's dark, it's triumphant (in a way), it's thought provoking. And it succeeds in haunting you. Which is exactly what I look for in a film. Especially a vampire film.
*I don't know if this was his choice or if it came from the author of the book. From reading the message boards there are some significant differences between the two although most reviewers seem to enjoy both.
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the vampire kids are doing it.