Who is more monstrous: a vampire or a bully?
Both of them seek out potential victims in order to feel strong, and both of them can infect their victims and breed more monsters. In the abstract, the only difference between them is that one of them isn’t real.
That’s not the case in Let the Right One In, a Swedish horror film from 2008 that should be considered a new classic in the genre. Adapted from a Swedish novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, director Tomas Alfredson makes the keen decision to deliberately underplay the source material’s horror elements, which highlights the parallels between modern horror and human relationships, particularly adolescent bullying.
Oskar is a lonely boy in grade school. He’s intelligent and curious. He’s also viciously bullied by a group of boys. At night Oskar practices using a knife and how to sound tough. While practicing outside his Swedish project, he meets Eli, who’s just moved into the flat next door.
Eli doesn’t wear a coat and tells Oskar she’s forgotten how to feel cold. She sounds much older than she appears and lives with a caretaker who helps her find victims. Victims? Oh yeah, she actually is much older than she appears because she’s a vampire.
The relationships between Oskar and his bullies, Eli and her caretaker and how they all conflict exposes how the relationships between people can create victims hidden in plain sight, where the wounds are internal and are suffered over great periods of time. As Oskar and Eli’s friendship grows, she encourages him in his violent urges to fight back, all the while Eli’s caretaker struggles to state her hunger and keep themselves secret.
Unfortunately, violence almost always escalates into horror and tragedy. As more bodies are found in Blackeberg, Sweden and Oskar’s conflicts build to a conclusion it becomes harder to tell which of the films characters is a victim, a monster, or both.
Let the Right One In is moody, dark, and somehow sweet at the same time. If you’re looking for some introspective horror to watch during the Halloween season then watch this.
And make sure to check out our other must-see Halloween picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.