Literature: Let the Right One In
Låt den rätte komma in
(Let The Right One In
) is a 2004 horror novel by Swedish
author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who adapted his story for the 2008 film version. It's the story of Oskar, a 12-year-old boy who is being bullied at school. One night, he meets Eli, a girl who just moved in next door with her dad. However, Eli isn't affected by the cold and hates daylight, and it's quickly shown that her "dad" kills people and drains their blood to feed her. As Oskar befriends Eli and more people go missing, suspicions are raised.Let The Right One In
is most notable for being simultaneously heartwarming and horrifying. Although it has few outright scares, it can be a deeply disturbing movie, as the main characters' relationship invokes both young love and a temptation into darkness.
An English-language remake directed by Matt Reeves (of Cloverfield
fame) and starring Chloe Moretz
) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road
) was produced by the Hammer
and released in October 2010 under the title Let Me In
. Reeves used Lindqvist's original screenplay as the basis for his version, but Americanized most of the character names, replacing "Eli" with "Abby", and "Oskar" with "Owen."
These works provide examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Oskar is an overweight child, and there's more description of Eli being filthy and mangy.
- Adaptation Distillation: The Swedish version distills it down to just the boy and the vampire, with a minor subplot about the strained relationship of an older couple, all other elements solely serving to move the A plot forward. The American version distills it further, so that barely any characters other than the boy and the vampire even register, and one new character is created to fulfill the function of one of the demoted characters at the climax.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Eli's hair is dark and Abby's is blonde. Oskar's is blond and Owen's is dark.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the Swedish film we see Eli's castration scar with no further context than earlier comments of "I'm not a girl." While some viewers who haven't read the book have been able to infer what it meant, others were confused.
- The Alcoholic: Oskar's dad, adding to the guy's overall misery.
- Alien Geometries: In one scene Lacke complains that someone must have used faulty rulers or something when constructing the council estates they live in, that the angles of the houses aren't right.
- A short story by JAL reveals that this is caused by a monster.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Much was made of the scene where Oskar's dad's friend coming over in slippers to have a drink (see Ambiguously Gay). In Sweden, social drinking like this is more common.
- Ambiguously Gay: A lot of people thought Oskar's dad was gay in the Swedish film due the scene where his friend comes over for drinks and Oskar acts uncomfortable. Word of God is that the father wasn't gay and that Oskar's discomfort had to do with the father neglecting him so he could get drunk with his friend.
- Apologetic Attacker: Håkan in the book.
- Anti-Villain: Lacke, and how.
- Battle Discretion Shot: The climax of both films where Eli slaughters all of the bullies. See Gory Discretion Shot.
- Berserk Button: Don't mess with a vampire's best friend. The bullies at the end learn the hard way.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Staffan (a character in the novel) is pretty clearly implied to have anger issues.
- Big Bad: Conny in Let The Right One In, Kenny in Let Me In.
- Bigger Bad: In Let The Right One In in Eli's origin story it turns out that a pedophile vampire reigned over Eli's village. He abducted Eli and several other children from their families, before sexually torturing them and possibly turning them.
- In a deleted scene in Let Me In it's revealed Abby's uncle was a vampire who turned her after apparently raping her.
- Big Damn Heroes: Just as Oskar's in the process of drowning, Eli shows up to tear apart the guy holding him under the water. Yeah, it's that kind of story.
- Big Damn Kiss: Oskar and Eli... with Lacke's blood dripping from Eli's mouth.
- Bloodless Carnage: Relatively, in the Swedish film version at least, with Gory Discretion Shots or long-range/obscured views preferred – so the horrifying slaughter is conveyed with surprisingly almost no blood to be seen, considering how much is let. The Hollywood remake didn't hold back nearly as much, though.
- Blondes Are Evil: Abby isn't evil but...
- A Boy and His X: A boy and his murderous vampire.
- Boy Meets Ghoul
- Chastity Couple: According to the director, Oskar and Eli are meant to be this, due to their age and Eli's lack of genitalia.
- Chekhov's Gun Trophy: In the novel, Staffan's gun trophy is later used to bludgeon Håkan.
- Chekhov's Skill: The Morse code ending to both films.
- Children Are Innocent: Even two of the bullies are fairly sympathetic (and one of them even stays alive in the end).
- Averted in the novel, in that while Oskar stabs trees with a knife to take out his anger, shoplifts and has an obsession with serial killers, and sets fire to the school, the bullies do horrible things such as threaten to throw him on railway tracks (in plain view of the public!) and drown him, and that other guy is a glue sniffing, shop lifting, porn magazine reader.
- Hellishly averted during that book-only scene in the public library.
- Coming-of-Age Story: Oddly heartwarming. Kind of.
- Corpsing: A minor case in the Swedish Film when Eli and Oskar first meet. The actors trip over each other's lines towards the end of the scene and Eli visibly stifles a laugh. It was at the end of a very long shot with a minor stunt so ended up getting left in, but luckily it made some sense in context anyway* .
- Crazy Cat Lady: Gösta. In the book, he has more than two dozen cats locked in his apartment. Since none of them have been neutered and no fresh genetic material has entered the roost in quite a while... well, you won't have to use your imagination, because the book enjoys elaborating on the consequences.
- Creepy Child: Eli consistently through the film.
- Oskar was pretty damn creepy all the way through, and got less creepy as the plot progressed (he lost his obsession with serial killers for one thing, and stopped pissing himself).
- Cultural Translation: The remake.
- Deader Than Dead: Håkan survives quite a bit before finally dying. He pours hydrochloric acid over his face, later tries to pull out his air tube, has some of his blood drained by Eli, falls out a window from a few stories up and lands rather... messily. When he finally does get
killed pulpified, he's still twitching a little after over 270 hits with the base from a trophy.
- Though in the movie, the fall from the hospital window is the end of him.
- Demoted to Extra: Håkan and the alcoholics have significantly reduced roles in the film adaptation. They are removed entirely from the American version.
- Disproportionate Retribution: What Jimmy does to Oskar. You smacked my little brother? Now I'm going to drown you in the pool and cut your eye out if you come up. Then there's what Eli subsequently does to the bullies...
- In Let Me In they try to kill Owen for splitting Kenny's ear, in self defense no less.
- The Dog Bites Back: Oskar.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Jimmy, the older brother of Conny in both versions, who is more sadistic and eager to kill Oskar.
- Driven to Suicide: We are told this is what happens to most vampires. We're shown it with Virginia and Håkan, though the latter isn't quite successful. (In the films, Håkam doesn't become a vampire.)
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Eli.
- Enemy to All Living Things:
- One possible interpretation of the reaction of the cats to Eli and other vampires.
- Oskar describes the feeling upon seeing Eli's "bloodthirsty" face as the same natural fear everyone has of fire or sharp objects.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In both versions Oskar is thrown into the pool by Conny's Ax-Crazy older brother Jimmy. Oskar is then told that if he can't hold his breath underwater for three minutes, his eyes will be gouged out. Even the lackeys are repulsed by this idea.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Cats detect and viciously attack vampires on sight.
- Fan Disservice: Eli's scarred crotch. Physically twelve years old, and "she" didn't start off as a girl and isn't really one now either. Strangely, Oskar doesn't seem quite so disturbed at this discovery as we're likely to be...
- The Faceless: Used in the English-language film to signify this is principally a tale about childhood (more or less), with adult characters mostly peripheral and often fleeting. Owen's island-like status is emphasized by his absent father only making one scene by telephone, and his mother – a fairly constant presence in the book – appears numerous times yet is never once seen properly on camera: she varies from being a distant figure, a ghostly reflection or obscured by a door, to fully visible yet thrown way out of focus or seen only from the neck down; even a passport-type photo glimpsed in her wallet is crumpled to the point of indistinguishability.
- The Film of the Book
- First Kiss: Oskar's first, anyway...
- Fourth Date Marriage: Kind of. Oskar hugs Eli and says he likes her the fifth time they meet; the sixth time, the pair cuddle in bed and Oskar asks her to be his girlfriend. Then they run away together after the eleventh meeting. True, they're twelve, but they are meant to be soul mates.
- Freudian Excuse: It's implied that the reason why Kenny bullies Owen more harshly than the others is because he himself is being bullied by his big brother. His brother even calls him a "little girl" which is what Kenny has been calling Owen.
- Gang Of Bullies
- Gilligan Cut: Eli tries eating a piece of candy. Cut to Eli upchucking it behind a building.
- The Glomp: Oskar's first hug nearly knocks over the unsuspecting Eli.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The Swedish film tends to use these, or virtually no blood at all, though the remake lingers rather more on the gore. Arguably the most talked about scene in both films is their pool endings, which play out nearly the same: the main bully's brother, Jimmy, as well as the rest of the bullies, show up at the pool and start a fire to lure the teacher outside while Oskar stays in the pool. Jimmy forces Oskarinto a sadistic game: stay underwater for three minutes, or he will gouge out one of his eyes. After being held underwater for about a minute, a crash through the pool's window signals that Eli has come to the rescue. We only witness the rescue underwater from Oskar/Owen's perspective, but the screaming above the water, as well as the downpour of blood and body parts tells us all we need to know.
- Hair Contrast Duo
- Harmful to Minors
- Hellish Pupils: Vampires sometimes have slit pupils.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jocke and Lacke. "I have nothing left now he's gone" says Lacke after Jocke's death, even though his girlfriend, whom he loves, is sitting next to him.
- I Do Not Drink Wine: Eli declines when Oskar offers her/him some candy, and when Oskar asks, "Don't you eat candy?" answers, "I can't." (Book version only; in the movie versions, Eli eats the candy to please Oskar, and then becomes violently ill.)
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Even with the super-strength, being a vampire SUCKS.
- Implacable Man: Zombie Håkan in the novel
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Håkan. He isn't awfully good at what he does and gets no respect for it. A strange example as his incompetence seems to make him creepier.
- Intertwined Fingers: Eli does this with Oskar in the scene where they cuddle in bed together and he asks her to be his girlfriend.
- Kids Are Cruel: The bullies. And then far, far more, in the bullies' punishment.
- Lampshade Hanging: In the book, a policeman muses on the religious symbolism of the name Eli. The other policeman responds "Should I include that in the report?"
- Little Miss Badass: Eli's vampire powers let her easily take down men twice her size.
- Lost in Translation: A mild sort. In the original Swedish text, scenes from Eli's and Håkan's perspective avoid any gender pronouns when describing Eli until The Reveal that she is in fact a boy. In the English translation, Eli is referred to as "she".
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: In the Swedish film at least Oskar is somewhat effeminate in comparison to the more androgynous Eli (who is, of course, really an emasculated boy).
- Mood Whiplash: And how!
- Nightmare Face: Averted with Eli... and played deadly straight with Abby.
- Non-human Lover Reveal: In an odd puppy-love sort of way. Maybe.
- Not Growing Up Sucks: Eli is a 200-year-old vampire stuck physically, and to an extent mentally, as a 12-year-old after being 'turned' at about that age.
- Not Using the V Word: Eli is somewhat in denial about being a vampire, preferring to think of it as having an illness. The book does go into the biological specifics of what goes on inside a vampire's body once infected, but being infected with vampirism still unavoidably makes you a vampire.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Considering how much you might hate the bullies by the end of the story, it almost seems a shame for their comeuppance to happen off-screen. In the book we don't even see it from Oscar's point of view; we cut from Eli arriving to the policeman mulling over the witness statements he's heard.
- Our Vampires Are Different: These vampires aren't actually undead - at least in the film, it's made clear you have to survive the attack to turn into a vampire. Killing your victim is the nicer option. To be specific, along with the common death-by-sunlight, paleness, blood-drinking attributes, these vampires hibernate, cannot enter a house without getting permission, occasionally have cat-like eyes that glow in the dark, can "think" claws on their hands and feet, and wings and fangs, transfer memories via kiss, and have a second brain growing on their hearts which serves as a second conscious warning them of what to be afraid of and driving them to drink blood.
- Pedo Hunt: Håkan is a pedophile who has become a vagrant after being fired from his teaching job after his possession of child pornography was discovered. He's portrayed more sympathetically than one might expect as feels guilt over his urges; part of his attraction to Eli is that he doesn't feel like a child molester around her since she's technically much older than he is.
- Prequel: The comic Let Me In: Crossroads, which John Ajvide Lindqvist did not want made (he unknowingly sold the comic rights).
- Protagonist Centred Morality: We're clearly meant to root for Eli and Oskar, despite the fact that the former spends the movie murdering perfectly innocent people, and the latter is perfectly okay with her doing so because she's nice to him.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: The story is one for Oskar, possibly. He's obsessed with serial killers, thinks about hurting or even killing his bullies, has no problem with it when Eli does kill the bullies, and after the ending, well, he'll probably have to help her find food somehow...
- Puppy Love: Sort of; a very dark example.
- Queer Romance: Does Håkan's odd relationship with Eli count? As for Oskar, he talks about "going steady" with Eli, though when Eli asks exactly what difference that will make between them, Oskar doesn't seem to think there will be any. None of this applies in Let Me In, in any case.
- The Remake:
- Foreign Remake: Let Me In is an American remake of the film version of Let The Right One In.
- The Renfield: Eli starts out with an older 'guardian' who tries to protect her by draining blood out of victims. By the end of the movie, Oskar has possibly become this (depending on your interpretation). Let The Old Dreams Die was written because the author didn't like this interpretation. It shows Oscar and Eli mixing their blood, making him a vampire as well
- Scenery Porn: The lingering shots of Blackeberg in the middle of winter manage to be both beautiful and gloomy at the same time. Most of the outdoor scenes were shot in Luleå in the north of Sweden, instead of Blackeberg, since during the filming of the movie, Stockholm and southern Sweden had experianced a lot of snowless winters. In recent years following the making of the film, the winters have been notoriously cold and snowy. Stockholm has been hit by blizzards so bad that all trains stopped and traffic could not move.
- Suicide By Sunlight: One of Eli's victims does this to herself.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Eli kills people to survive. Oskar wants to kill the bullies for torturing him.
- Likewise, Håkan in the book kills for Eli but hates doing it (in the films he is more dispassionate about it). He attempts to compensate for his crimes by giving away his money to help people.
- Tears of Blood: See the main picture.
- Teens Are Monsters: There's only one featured teenage character, and he's probably the least sympathetic person in the film. In the book, Tommy is a strange case. While he spends his free time getting high off glue, stealing stuff, chewing tobacco, and reading porn, he does treat Oskar nicely, as opposed to the bullies. He even tells Oskar to stay away from porn. But tobacco's okay, for some reason..
- Trailers Always Spoil: The American trailer shows Virginia's death.
- Tomato Surprise: Eli is a boy.
- Too Dumb to Live: Lacke tries to kill Eli with a kitchen knife...that he drops before she even wakes up.
- Or how about turning his back on a vampire without finishing the job?
- In the book it is stated that he couldn't bring himself to kill a child.
- Trial Balloon Question: Twofold. Eli asks Oskar if he would still like her if she weren't a girl. He says sure he would. What Eli really means is he is neither female nor human.
- Undead Child: Subverted. Eli insists she isn't technically undead.
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Eli's genitals are completely missing. In the novel, the vampire who bit him also chopped off all his male parts, making him... well, it's hard to say. It's not clear whether Eli really thinks that makes him a "her" or is just comfortable with pretending to be a girl. All this is made much clearer in the book.
- Vampire Bites Suck: Unlike most vampire stories, victims keep struggling and resisting even while getting chewed on.
- Vampire Invitation: It's in the title. As Eli demonstrates in response to Oskar's query, if they don't get one... things get pretty messy.
- Viral Transformation: Vampirism is transmitted through the bite, and though it gives the person a Horror Hunger for blood it doesn't make them fundamentally evil. That said, it's bad enough most people are driven to suicide shortly after turning for fear of turning into murderers.
- The Virus: Vampirism is repeatedly referred to in the context of 'being infected'.
- Voice of the Legion: Eli's voice gets a bit of an echo after her true side starts showing up.
- Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere
- Weakened by the Light: Vampires and sunlight.
- White Hair, Black Heart: Oskar in the Swedish film is about as stereotypically Swedish as you can get. Physically speaking, of course.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Inverted by Eli, who despite having lived for over 200 years, is somewhat mentally limited by being physically 12.
- Window Love: Lots of this. When we first meet Oskar, and again after Eli leaves, he presses his hand against his window, perhaps an expression of his isolation and longing for connection. When Eli watches Oskar through the window as he does his after-school session in the swimming pool, she presses her hand against the window for the same reason; in this scene she's also, says Word of God, trying to look like a normal kid by wearing heavy winter clothes although she doesn't feel the cold. Finally, when Oskar comes over to Eli's apartment and asks if she's a vampire, she backs away from him behind a glass-paned door and they press their hands together on opposite sides of the pane, she moving her bare hands around, first one and then the other, and he following with his gloved hands. Right after this, she opens the door to let him through. Also, when Eli comes to Håkan's hospital room and is sitting outside on the window ledge unable to come in she presses her hand to the window.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Eli, a vampire who is trapped not just physically in a 12 year old body but apparently emotionally as well, forced to kill to survive, whose only friend is an equally screwed up boy.
- Your Vampires Suck: Averted. There are virtually no references to any vampire tropes not used in the movie. In many ways, this helps to create a greater sense of realism. The characters are smart enough to know that what works in the movies won't work in real life, and that discussing things in terms of what movies they are or aren't like is totally pointless.