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A Chilling Coming of Age

image by Veronica V. Jones

Let the Right One In, If You Dare

Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar in 'Let the Right One In.'
Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar
Lina Leandersson as Eli in 'Let the Right One In.'
Lina Leandersson as Eli
Eli's bloody hand resting on a doorway frame.

The classic vampire film relies on a few well-worn tropes: a seductive, powerful villain, a noble, principled hero, and a clear sense of right and wrong. These roles are occasionally reversed, where the undead hero struggles with brutish humans.

Neither of these situations adequately define the chance collision of violently introverted Oskar and mysteriously vulnerable Eli in the Tomas Alfredson cinematic adaption of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In.

Set in a small Swedish town in the 1980’s, we follow Oskar’s small, quiet life as a bullied student and single child of a failing marriage. When he meets a strange, standoffish girl named Eli outside his apartment, a halting, awkward friendship blossoms. As several grisly murders set the community on edge, the two children’s relationship becomes stronger, and more complex.

It would be easy for the unknowing to dismiss Let the Right One In as a somber European preteen Twilight, and while the premise is not entirely dissimilar, these cinematic still waters run far more deep than teen angst and escapism. It is an intimate, almost claustrophobic tale of the innocence and brutality of youth, and the forces that drive lost souls together in times of mutual need.

This dark, stark tale slowly builds like a midwinter snow drift, and casts a slightly disinterested eye at one young man’s coming of age, and his encounters with an oddly vulnerable, eternally innocent monster. Is it love, or something less? Only time will tell.

Written by in May of 2009. Last edited January 2023.

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