I’m just a vampire for your love

(Sorry, I am listening to T. Rex right now.)

Seriously, which of these looks more awesome?

Twilight and the Swedish film Let the Right One In could be summarized in the exact same manner.  A lonely outcast, reeling from the effects of their parents’ divorce, and, specifically, their mother’s self-involvement, befriends a beautiful, fascinating stranger.  This stranger seems to be their age, but exists in a different universe than their own constrained teenage lifestyle.  Our human protagonist starts to fall in love, and the stranger is drawn as well.  The stranger uses his or her capacity for violence to aid the protagonist, and grows increasingly protective.  The protagonist, in turn, gives the stranger a taste of “normal” life that has before then been unknown and forbidden.  When their bond is already cemented, the protagonist discovers (surprise!) that this beautiful stranger is a vampire.  Instead of running away screaming, the protagonist stands by their vamp.  They are drawn deeper into the vampire’s violent world, until a life-changing act of violence causes the protagonist to realize that they want to be exactly like their blood-sucking paramour.  The vampire does not allow the protagonist to do this, however, so both stories end in an odd romantic/creepy surrender.
I have not seen the film version of Twilight, so I won’t argue that Let the Right One In makes better use of its claustrophobic setting or portrays its violence more unflinchingly, though I’m guessing both are true.  But Right One is a more effective version of the story above for one reason in particular: it refuses to ignore or push aside the vampire’s status as predator.  Twilight creates a violent, obsessive character and then asks the audience to believe he confines that power to killing mountain lions and protecting one unremarkable teenage girl.  Let the Right One’s vampire, on the other hand, expresses her love through acts of protective violence because her entire nature is violence.  There is no easy out, no deer to kill instead of people.  She is a predator, and while the audience I saw the film with cheered when Eli ripped her true love’s bullies to pieces, ultimately the film makes it clear that she is preying on Oskar as much as she does on any of the villagers.  Her love transforms him into a predator, too, and this is useful to her. Earlier in the film, the older man who did her killing for her dies; at the end of the film, it’s clear that Oskar has become his replacement.

As much as Bella claims she is “doomed” for Edward, the narrative of Twilight is one of misunderstood, redemptive love.  Edward’s controlling behavior is “concern,” his obsession “romantic” his actions “brave.”   He does them for Bella’s sake, so they must be good.  Let the Right One In does not whitewash Eli’s behavior, and their love, while freeing, is not redemptive in the least.  So, avoid the 24-hour-lines and save Twilight for some sad evening, five years from now, on TBS.  Let the Right One In is worthy of your $12* to see it on the big screen.

*NY money.  Perhaps you live somewhere where it’s still only $10?  JEALOUS.


  1. says

    Yes, I can go see the better movie for under ten dollars… ONLY IF it were showing within a four hour drive radius to where I live!

    Lower cost of my theatre tickets are deeply overrated.

    Often, when I want to go see a movie, I just play a game called “Movie Roulette” where I see whatever is showing next, because I know that absolutely nothing will be any good on my area theatre screens except in the rarest glitches in Hollywood crapola manufacture.

    Last movie I saw when the mood struck? Max Payne: Chiseled Jaw and Gun Noise with No Recognizable Plot, THE MOVIE!

    Sadly, it was the best thing showing.

  2. Meghan McCarron says

    JM — bummer city on living in the middle of nowhere! I recently lived somewhere that could be described not so much as the middle of nowhere as the edge of somewhere. A little art house opened up in a town about half an hour away, which made my life immeasurably better.

    Bill — hope you like it!

  3. says

    I’m actually not interested in seeing Twilight at all, but Let the Right One In–very much so. (and night time movie prices here in Austin are eight bucks and change; plus we still have matinee prices)

  4. Meghan McCarron says

    Jessica — I know the Drafthouse, actually! A friend of mine had a documentary premiere at SXSW last year and it screened there! What a great theater — love the pre-show clips, too.

  5. Lane says

    Just want to reinforce the idea that you should see Let the Right One In. I saw it here at a local film festival (for free! Hooray for friends with free passes!), and it is by far the best movie I’ve seen all year. Who knows, with enough time it could make my list of all time favorites. And I hate vampires.

  6. says

    I need to get a job in Austin where I can hang out with all the other cool Texas SF authors, like Jessica Reisman, and go see movies at the Alamo Drafthouse.

  7. says

    I even braved the Angelika Theater to see it! To describe “Let the Right One In” to friends I’ve called it a hybrid of the novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow and the movie “My Girl,” with buckets of blood and vampires. While it’s obviously a vampire story, I like that it’s very careful never to call Eli a vampire in the film. And the two principal children — both non-actors prior to the movie — are supernaturally incredible.

    I’m kinda over the Anne Rice bodice-ripping romantic bent of vampires and vampire culture, one that Twilight now brings to younger climes. Based on the “Next Big Harry Potter” It-status it’s garnered, I’m less likely to see a frame of Twilight until I’m visiting my folks over the holidays next year and it’s on HBO when I walk into the den.

    The book “Let the Right One In” is remarkable. I’ve been touting this author and this movie since I read it. The movie captures the spine and heart and soul of the book (the author’s own adaptation); even though he has to excise some story arcs and be less deliberate, he hits all the beats that make the novel’s atmosphere and characters resonate.

    His next novel = zombies. Can’t wait!

  8. says

    J.M.–If you ever find yourself here in Austin, check out the Alamo’s midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. They’re hard core.

    Oh, and bring a chain mail or something to protect yourself from random projectiles.

  9. Meghan McCarron says

    Tiffany — I , too, saw it at the Angelica, in the dreaded trains-rumbling theater. Man, that theater is lame. But the rumble at least adds something to certain moments in a horror movie.

  10. Christian says

    Another way to summerize this is to say: one move is american, the other is not. Guess who has got a penchant for stupid melodrama…

  11. says

    Dead on. I saw both. I knew which I would prefer. I was right. I saw both of these films, and days later, I’m still thinking about Let the Right One In, wishing I had someone to discuss it with. Meanwhile, I wish I had been at home reading something intelligent in the two hours I wasted at Twilight, amidst the ocean of squealing teenage girls…

  12. says

    Let The Right One In is indeed amazingly beautiful and completely engrossing. I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

    One thing I’d say is that Oskar is not necessarily Hakan’s replacement. In the novel that it’s based on, he is picked up as an aged tramp by Eli, from the gutter. (I haven’t read this, but saw the author mention it in an interview.) I completely agree that it does come across that he has become the replacement, though. There’s a kind of melancholy implication that he is doomed to become as unloved by Eli as Hakan was by the time he was old, which doesn’t entirely fit in with the theme of the film (which is, I suppose, why I am glad to know there is a difference between Hakan and Oskar in the book).

    Anyway, yes… great, great film. Brilliant.