The new Swedish Vampire film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), from director Tomas Alfredson and based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is one of the most remarkable films I have seen in recent years. Using all the classic and archetypal Vampire / Vampyre tropes (sunlight kills them, wooden stakes can kill them, they need to consume human blood to survive, they can turn into bats and fly, they live for long periods / are essentially invulnerable to dying of old age, and, most importantly here, they need to be invited in – the film completely reinvigorates the genre. For a start, our Vampire is a twelve-year-old girl. Secondly, she is alone (not new in regards to Dracula but in contrast to the “pack of Vampires” asthetic of The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Interview With the Vampire, True Blood, Thirty Days of Night et al). Most importantly, she is the daughter of a mere mortal, who must, to keep her alive, feed her: he must provide her with human blood.
This last aspect is of fundamental importance to the film and gives it a lot of its emotional resonance. Most Vampires in movie history are self-sufficient: realising the need to feed, they find victims, feast on their blood, and thus continue to survive. They recognise killing – or creating new Vampires (as a “blooded victim” who does not die becomes, themselves, a Vampire) – as a means to the end of survival, and have made their peace with that. But in the case of this particular twelve-year-old Vampire, her father provides her food – as any parent provides their offspring with a school lunch. The difference in this case is that this girl’s father can’t cut her a sandwich – he needs to slice her a throat. He would prefer her to maintain her innocence – to be provided for – than to let her seek blood on her own (something she is more than capable of).
The intrinsic problem here is that Dad is commiting terrible – indeed despicable – illegal acts to maintain his daughter’s life, and is thus a deeply troubled soul. His fatherly instincts are in direct opposition to his duties as a responsible member of society. He should not kill – but he does, to feed his daughter. When this internal crisis reaches a crescendo, his daughter is forced into self-sufficiency, and her instincts, versus her own, deeply private, sense of morality, become a major theme of the film. Free from parental care (and thus, responsibility), she comes of age fast: knowing her powers, she uses them; knowing her weaknesses, she succombs to them; knowing her desires, she acts on them.
Completely unsurprisingly, an English-language remake has already gone into pre-production as a US / UK co-production. Forgive me for being a cynic, but there is a style to this film, and at least three moments of unbelievable emotional intensity, that I simply do not believe will make it into the new version. Do yourself a favour: see the original the moment it enters the cinema. It is totally original, and it is a modern masterpiece. It will be released in Australian cinemas in March 2009.