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Let The Right One In

Epidemic or massy hysteria, vast swathes of this the country are obsessed with vampires. I have only recently become aware of this phenomenon, and largely by accidental interaction with the fan base of the Twilight series. In general, people know I am a fan of Horror films, and so generally people ask me my opinion. So, Have you seen the film Twilight yet? became a frequent occurrence. Oddly, the question was frequently followed up by Just remember, its not as good as the books. To date, I have not yet read the books, but I have seen the film. The main protagonist of the film is a sixteen-year old girl named Bella. Her parents have recently divorced, and she has relocated from Arizona to Washington State with her father, the new town sheriff. In High School, she meets a tall, dark, and handsome seventeen-year old vampire named Edward. He is drawn to her scent, but resists eating her because his clan only drinks animal blood. She doesnt respond at first, but recants soon after Edward saves her from being gang-raped in a dark alley by local thugs. Most critics have reviewed the Twilight series as your basic coming-of-age love story. However, almost no one questions the fact that Edward is not the same age as Bella. He is only pretending to be seventeen; he, is in fact, over one hundred years old. In a telling scene he points to famed row of fifty plus graduation caps. He is not attending High School to learn history or mathematics. He is there for the teenage girls, suggesting that he is a pedophile. His paradoxical nature is a perfect foil to this disguise. Audiences are told that he is old, but cant get past his youthful physique. This realization came to me after screening another more explicit vampire film from Sweden called Let The Right One In. Every Friday from 10:00 11:00 AM, Larry Mantel reviews films for National Public

Radio. I was surprised when he devoted an entire half hour to the movie Twilight. Something rather odd began to happen during the call-in portion of his program. People stopped asking questions about Twilight, and began to inquire about another vampire film called Let The Right One In. A film Larry had not seen. I remember one caller saying, Argh, youre reviewing the wrong film! He was not alone, as other callers pointed out. Let The Right One In is a Swedish film released in 2009 but set in the 1980s. The star of the film is named Oskar; an awkward twelve-year boy who is constantly being bullied by three of his classmates. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his mother in a small two-bedroom apartment. A twelve-year old girl named Eli moves next door, along with an older man we assume to be her father. As it turns out, however, she is a vampire and he is her human caretaker. He kills for her because she is squeamish about the task, but not enough to refuse the blood. Oskar and Eli meet in a courtyard near a jungle gym. He is stabbing a tree with a knife pretending they are his tormentors. She asks him what he is doing, and he replies Nothing. After a bit of light banter between the two Eli mysteriously exclaims, I cant be your friend. Clearly stung, Oskar replies, What makes you think Id want to be your friend? And, of course, that is precisely what ends up happening, suggesting that friendship was Elis intended goal. Underscoring the fact she had been deploying reverse psychology at their initial meeting. They meet again the following night. Oskar is playing with a Rubiks cube. Eli appears behind him and stares at it. What is it? she asks. Oskar is confused by her ignorance, but nevertheless explains how it works. The next morning he finds the now solved Rubiks cube on the jungle gym. He is clearly both delighted and highly impressed. Audiences might now begin to suspect Elis intentions. In two consecutive meetings with Oskar she has demonstrated

psychological subterfuge. She firsts states a negative in order to achieve a positive. Then denies knowledge of the cube yet solves it overnight. Oskars feelings for Eli quickly become romantic, and he asks her to go steady. Eli replies matter-of-factly, Oskar, Im not a girl. He, like the audience, is completely baffled. It has already been established that Eli lies to endear herself to Oskar, but now the opposite effect seems desired. Furthermore, Eli makes the statement a total of two times in film, if audiences failed to grasp its significance in the first iteration. Squeal like a pig! is the voiceover that begins the film. Later on it is disclosed that Oskars tormentors refer to him as a pig they torture with sadistic delight. Especially by the lead bully named Conny, who instigates the attacks. This reference comes from the film Deliverance in which Ned Beatty is brutally gang raped by rural rednecks that make him squeal like a pig in furtherance of his abject degradation. Oskar is an effeminate personality in Let The Right One In, both in dress and demeanor. Begging the question about the motive for Connys hatred for Oskar. Is he sublimating his unconscious sexual attraction by recourse to violence? If so, might it also be the case that Oskar is gay and also sublimating sexuality into violence? At the very least, it might help explain his awkward and reclusive nature, including his fixation on knives and penetration. When Eli states that she is not a girl, might that be a clue she has glimpsed his true sexual orientation? That would be consistent with her manipulation earlier in the film. What is Elis ultimate goal with Oskar? A clue might be found in her relationship with Hakan. Hakan appears to be in his late fifties, initially suggesting a paternal relation to Eli. This perception, however, is constantly undermined within the film itself. In general, Hakans role is to provide Eli with blood, a goal that is constantly thwarted by his incompetence. After his first

murder he strings up the victim in the middle of a busy park. He cuts his throat and drains his blood in a plastic canteen. Halfway through the process he is discovered by a large white poodle, and just off screen are the nearby sounds of the owners. Hakan panics and flees the scene, forgetting the blood in his haste. When he arrives at the apartment empty-handed he is berated by a very hungry Eli. In the second instance he is actually apprehended by the police. Again demonstrating a preference for young men, Hakan goes to a High School gymnasium where he observes a basketball game. In the next scene Hakan is in the locker room with an unconscious boy strung up by a railing. He approaches with a knife but the lights suddenly go out. The boys friends bang on the window. Knowing he is trapped, Hakan pours acid on his face to hide his identity. Eli hears of his capture over the radio and visits him in the hospital. She climbs up to his room on the 5th floor, but he cant let her in because of damage to the vocal chords. He opens the window and she biters his neck and drinks his blood. He falls to pavement still alive and gasps his last breath. At this point, any romantic allusions the audience might harbor evaporate. Eli is revealed to be a monster on a deep emotional level. For her, Hakan had only a utility value. Once that was gone, so was their relationship. This does not bode well for Oskar, who is being groomed as Hakans replacement. Again, this film demonstrates an uncanny ability to flip audience expectation. The film suggests that the relationship between Eli and Hakan had once been romantic, but appearances in this film are almost always deceiving. Eli appears as a young pubescent girl, but she is paradoxically a vampire and thus immortal. She is, in fact, older than Hakan. If Oskar serves as an example, Eli prefers pubescent boys. She probably befriended Hakan in his youth,

and kept him around because he was once good at his job. When it was clear he could no longer perform that function, she promptly kills him. Hakan is a serial killer who murders only young men, suggesting that he might also be a pedophile. In reality, however, it is far more likely that he was once Elis victim. In a telling scene, audiences glimpse Elis naked groin with a horizontal suture instead of genitalia. This image confirms Elis earlier statement that she wasnt a girl. Eli was, in fact, once a boy and someone has castrated him. In a general sense, castration typically refers to the removal only of the testicles. In Elis case, it might also be thought in terms of genital mutilation. Again, gender and age appearances set up at the beginning of the film are suddenly reversed. Another powerful reversal involves aging and regeneration. Eli knocks and Oskars door, but when he opens she hesitates to enter. A vampire cannot enter a residence without verbal permission. She tells Oskar, You have to invite me in. Oskar interprets it as a game, and declines the invitation. He taunts verbally with a clucking sound, while beckoning her in with his finger. Eli crosses the threshold and squares off against Oskar. She begins to shudder and the camera reverses to her back. A puddle of blood is forming on her right shoulder. Then there is an extreme close-up on her hair, blood is gushing from the pores. Cut to a close-up on her face, blood pours from her eyes. Oskar is dumbfounded and shrieks, You can come in! Eli immediately regains her composure. Oskar finally asks, Who are you? Elis response is, The same as you. That is to say, you are also a killer like me. She tells him to squeal like a pig, goading him into verbally admitting his thirst for revenge. He gleans her goal and states, I dont kill people. Her response is chilling, No, but youd like to. She mounts his lap and states, Oskar, be me a little. He closes his eyes and performs the request. The camera reverses to a two-shot. Oskars

head out of focus in the foreground; Elis eyes and head in focus. They cut to an older double of Eli with grey hair, wrinkles, and crows feet. Is this the real Eli? Oskars eyes are closed, only we know the truth. Audiences are given a powerful coming-of-age romance without any love. Hakans fate ultimately reveals Elis parasitical nature. Oskar is too immature to understand the duplicity of his advances. Additionally, it is fairly clear that Elis interest in Okar is purely utilitarian. Eli sensed Oskar as a potential serial killer, and almost immediately begins to fan those flames. He nurtures Oskars unconscious rage, suggesting directly that he hit back harder than he can imagine. Thus, Eli takes control of Oskars self -image, and pushes him from victim to victimizer. When Oskar strikes Ronny with the red stick, audiences should recall that it was the same stick Hakan had used at the beginning of the film to hide the body of Joke. Whom Eli had to kill personally in the face of Hakas growing impotence as a murderer. This device spells out the connection between Haka and Oscar, and foreshadows Oskars ultimate future as a tool to satiate Elis hunger. At a pivotal point in the film Eli is discovered by ?NAME? who also has convinced himself about the correctness of killing. She lies in the bathtub in a deep sleep, completely vulnerable. He has a knife taken from the kitchen sink, and clearly has the upper hand. Oskar arrives to challenge him with his own knife. In the confusion Eli awakes and latches onto his back and sucks his blood out until he dies. With her face smeared in blood, she walks over to Oskar and embraces him from behind and thanks him. Eli then turns to face Oskay directly and states, I have to leave. She then kisses him on the lips finally sealing their relationship in blood; and subconsciously suggesting that her affection is contingent upon his departure. Psychological manipulation is a recurring theme of Let The Right One In. Elis influence

over Oskar is a mirror to the films control over its audience. Eli asks Oskar to begin visualizing violence directed at Ronny; and at the same time the film has already de-sensitized audiences to that same goal. Audiences want Oskar to strike Ronny, and then relish in his pain and suffering just like Oskar is doing on screen. How many people watching that scene wished Oskar had gone further? Eli says to Oskar, you know you want to kill them. This, of course, is the problematic voice in our own minds. Eli has taken control over both Oskar and ourselves, and we are well on the way to becoming serial killers. Eli is a shape-shifter who uses the form of a twelve-year old girl because it is the most effective disguise. In one scene Oskar cuts his palm with a knife to initiate Eli into a blood oath ceremony. He holds out his dripping palm and his blood falls to the floor. Eli resists at first, but than breaks down and starts liking the bloody droplets like an animal. Indeed, it is a direct parallel to the poodle that also licks blood from the ground directly after the first murder in the park. While lapping the blood Eli makes a strangely feline and deeply unsettling purring sound. A scene intensified by the extremely large proboscis that emerges from Elis mouth to paw at the blood droplets. Again the film suggests that Elis true nature is more feral than human. The film finally demonstrates that, like Eli, we are also shape-shifters. Eli is an avatar for our own unconscious fears and desires

Vocabulary for Let The Right One In


1) Vampire: in European folklore, a dead person believed to rise each night from the grave and suck blood from the living for sustenance. 2) Dracula: the fictional vampire in the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker. 3) Revenant: a dead person believed to have come back as a ghost. 4) Undead: in fiction, especially vampire stories, people or other beings who are technically dead by still exist, move, and interact with the living in a physical form. 5) Folklore: traditional stories and explanations passed down in a community or country. 6) Superstition: an irrational but usually deep-seated belief in the magical effects of a

particular action or ritual, especially in the likelihood that good or bad luck will result from performing it. 7) Urban Legend: a bizarre and untrue story that circulates in a society through being presented to people as something that actually happened, usually to a friend or relative of somebody the speaker knows. 8) Mass Hysteria: an emotionally unstable state brought about by a traumatic experience in a large group of people. 9) Cadaver: a dead body, especially one that is to be dissected. 10) Necrophilia: sexual feelings for or sexual acts with dead bodies. 11) Pedophilia: sexual desire felt by an adult for children, or the crime of sex with a child. 12) Parasite: a plant or animal that lives on or in another, usually larger, host organism in a way that harms or is of no advantage to the host. 13) Death: the ending of all vital functions or processes in an organism or cell. 14) Burial: the act or ceremony of putting a dead body into the ground or into the sea. 15) Grave: a hole dug in the ground for a dead persons body, or the place where a dead persons body is buried. 16) Tomb: a grave or other place for burying a dead person. 17) Sarcophagus: an ancient stone or marble coffin often decorated with sculpture and inscriptions. 18) Blood: the red fluid that is pumped from the heart and circulates around the bodies of humans and other vertebrates. 19) Addiction: a state of physiological or psychological dependence on a drug liable to have a damaging effect. 20) Obsession: an idea or feeling that completely occupies the mind. 21) Wish Fulfillment: in psychoanalytic theory, the process by which unconscious desires are realized in the imagination, mainly through dreams and fantasies 22) Neurosis: a mild psychiatric disorder characterized by anxiety, depression, and hypochondria. 23) Hypochondria: an abnormal, usually long-term preoccupation with health and bodily sensations, accompanied by a deluded conviction of having a serious disease without objective evidence. 24) Rationalization: in psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism whereby people attempt to hide their true motivations and emotions by providing reasonable or self-justifying explanations for irrational or unacceptable behavior. 25) Defense Mechanism: any means of avoiding emotional distress, destructive impulses, or a threat to self-esteem, especially by the suppression of unwanted thoughts or memories. 26) Sublimation: in psychoanalytic theory, the channeling of impulses or energies regarded as unacceptable, especially sexual desires, toward activities regarded as more socially acceptable, often creative activities. 27) Mortality: the state of being certain to die eventually. 28) Immortal: able to have eternal life or existence. 29) Manifest Content: in dream analysis, the overt meaning of a dream remembered by the dreamer on waking that requires analysis to interpret its latent content or real meaning. 30) Latent Content: the content of a dream that is hidden or repressed, and is represented in symbols: 31) Symbol: something that stands for or represents something else, especially an object

representing an abstraction. 32) Morbid: showing a strong interest in unpleasant or gloomy subjects such as death, murder, or accidents. 33) Sadomasochism: the gaining of sexual gratification by alternately or simultaneously enduring pain and causing pain to somebody else, or the acts that produce such gratification. 34) Masochism: sexual gratification achieved by humiliation and the acceptance of physical and verbal abuse. 35) Domination: control, power, or authority over others or another. 36) Submission: a willingness to yield or surrender to somebody, or the act of doing so. 37) Androgyny: a state of having both masculine and feminine traits. 38) Castration: the act of removing the testicles.