Bonds of Blood: Two Adaptations of a Vampire Story

(Last Updated On May 31, 2022)

* * * Spoiler Alert * * *

For some reason, one of our readers took me to task for reviewing the film, Le tout nouveau testament. One of the titles he suggested I review instead was Let Me In (2010), a British-American film directed by Matt Reeves. In the mean time, a good friend of mine told me about a film he had just watched called Let the Right One In (2008), a Swedish film written and directed by John Ajvide Lundqvist. When Pip informed me they were based on the same story, I was curious why there were two similar films produced in such close succession.

I had hoped to find a clue in some interview, but Matt Reeves’ explanation was not forthcoming. He knew that the Swedish film was about to be released. Did he not think there would be a dubbed English version in due course? The main motivation of the story revolves around a 12-year-old boy being bullied and hoping—but being too afraid—to get his revenge. In a roundtable interview, Reeves explains:

Sure. Well, I was bullied. And I grew up at that time, and my parents went through a very painful divorce. And I identified with that sense of being incredibly confused and the sense of humiliation and the sense of isolation. There’s tremendous shame with being bullied. I think there’s a level at which you think that there’s a reason that you’re being singled out, that you’re being chosen. As a kid, I was always mistaken for a girl. -Reprinted by Michael Leader, November 4, 2010

A telling difference in the two versions of the film was that Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) was called “piggy” (such an insult does not suggest fatness as it does in America) while Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) was called a “little girl” and in the latter film the violence of the bullying was more explicitly violent and humiliating.

Apart from a teaser in Reeves’ version which the filmmaker must have felt was necessary to interest an American audience in the movie, the two films follow the story almost word for word. The story begins in the early 1980s with an older man and a young girl—also appearing to be 12 years old—moving in next door to a boy who lives with his divorcing mother. In Reeves’ version, the mother is especially religious. Those observing this scene are supposed to assume the man is her father with the peculiar fact that the girl is walking around with bare feet even though it is outside.

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (1)

In Lundqvist’s novel and film, the girl is called Eli (pronounced “Ellie” and played by Lina Leandersson) and in Reeves’, it is Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz). They first meet when the boy is sitting in the courtyard. She appears behind him and immediately tells him that they cannot be friends. He is playing with a Rubik’s Cube and invites her to try it. He comments that she smells funny, apparently a trait of vampires who need to feed. Due to some bad luck, her caregiver was not able to secure her some blood and she has to fend for herself this night. He gives her the puzzle to play with and later finds it sitting in the courtyard, mystified that she solved it so easily.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (1)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (2)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (2)

Despite the girl’s admonition, a bond does seem to form. Her caregiver has noticed this and strenuously advises her not to see the boy anymore.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (3)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (3)

Since the two live next door to each other, a kind of Morse Code is created so they can communicate through the wall. Still unaware of the girl’s true nature, the boy offers her some candy. At first, she declines, but she wants the boy to like her and tries one piece. It does not agree with her and she is momentarily sick.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (4)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (4)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (5)

The Swedish film is more subtle in its presentation which is why I favor it slightly. In fact, the revelation of what is happening is all implied and depends on our own understanding of vampire lore. Lundqvist’s version does not even mention the word vampire throughout the film. No stranger to violence, the girl advises the boy that he needs to hit back hard, even though he is outnumbered. All the while, he fantasizes in the privacy of his bedroom that he confronts his aggressors with a knife.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (5)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (6)

On a field trip, the bullies once again threaten him and tell him he will end up in the frozen pond. To defend himself, he finds a stick. When confronted, he explains that it he will use it to hit back. Given his track record, the other boys do not believe him and he suddenly lashes out and strikes the leader on the side of his head, giving him a serious injury. The adults unaware of the context of this attack come very close to suspending him. Upon his return home, he explains to Eli/Abby what he has done and she says she is proud of him. After another night of feeding, the girl appears on Oskar/Owen’s windowsill and asks to be let in. The boy is half asleep, but she explains that she must be invited in—another vampire trait which the boy does not immediately catch on to. She disrobes and gets into bed with him. She still has blood on her face so she tells him not to look. He comments that she is ice cold and wonders why she is naked. She asks if he finds that gross but he does not object. He decides to ask if she wants to go steady but she does not really understand. She finally agrees based on the promise that there will be no basic change in their relationship and it is a way to get him to like her.

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (7)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (6)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (8)

In the Reeves interview, it was explained that the decision to change the title in the English version of Lundqvists’ novel was because the publisher though the American audience would not be sophisticated enough to understand the metaphor of the original title. New editions have since changed the title back to Let the Right One In. Of course, the correct title offers a greater depth of meaning. Not only does it refer to the requirement that vampires be invited in, but also refers to the risks of inviting a new person into one’s intimate personal life.

Meanwhile, the caregiver has made a serious mistake and his capture is imminent. To avoid being identified, he spills acid all over his face, a shocking clue to the his devotion to the vampire girl. Was his advice to the girl more about keeping her out of trouble or was it a form of jealousy? Eli/Abby learns he is in the hospital under top security. She finds out his room location and visits him from the windowsill. Because of his injuries, he cannot speak and invite her in. In one last act of love, he extends his own neck out the window so he may offer her one last meal.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (7)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (9)

This turn of events has brought her closer to the boy and she decides she must risk revealing what she is. He hesitantly accepts her but not until she makes a most extraordinary leap of faith. She visits his home and asks to be invited in. He teases her about this ritual and asks if there is some barrier preventing her from entering. She walks in without the invitation and shortly begins convulsing in pain, blood seeping out. The boy rushes over and urgently tells her she is welcome to come in.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (8)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (10)

He lets her take a shower to get cleaned up and offers her one of his mother’s dresses. Now Oskar/Owen begins to assume the role of helping the girl get food. In both films, a man investigating the peculiar happenings of the town is lured into the girl’s home and ambushed. The boy is shocked by the viciousness of the attack and walks out in distress. She comes out afterward and tries to show her gratitude with a little affection.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (9)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (11)

Eli/Abby, not being able to stay in any one place too long, informs the boy that she must leave soon. In the mean time, the older brother of the lead bully is planning revenge and manages to draw the coach away from the swimming pool where Oskar/Owen is working out. He is told that if he can stay underwater for three minutes, he will be spared, if not, he will have his eyes gouged out. We then see him underwater with the brother’s hand firmly grasping his hair while he does his best. Suddenly, there is a lot of commotion and we see bloody severed body parts. The boy emerges to see that he has been rescued by the vampire girl.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (10)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (12)

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (11)

In the final scene, the boy is sitting on a train accompanied by a large trunk on the way to a new hunting ground, the two communicating with each other with the knocks and scratches established earlier in the film.

John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let the Right One In (2008) (12)

Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lundqvist – Let Me In (2010) (13)

I know I am not the first to make this observation, but the whole development of the vampire idea had as much to do with the terrors of sexuality as with that of violent murder and the metaphor of consumption. This plays very well in this film since there is ongoing tension about the ambiguity of the relationship. Presumably when one is infected, one keeps one’s appearance forever thus Eli/Abby is both a little girl and yet very old. But despite her long life, she still has some naivete regarding matters of love since she would not have had much occasion to practice and learn. There is also a strong accent on the morality of a vampire’s violent lifestyle versus the hateful bullying that children can inflict. A society might frown on a vampire feeding on its citizens, but is it really any worse than the psychological trauma and humiliation that bullied young people suffer? So it is ironic that Oskar/Owen should find affection not from the warm-blooded denizens of his neighborhood, but from the icy embrace of a vampire who understands and appreciates him.

10 thoughts on “Bonds of Blood: Two Adaptations of a Vampire Story

  1. Probably 2011 I saw Let me In (LMI) in the cinema and not much later Let The Right One In (LTROI) and I read the novel by Lindqvist. Somewhere I had in mind to write a post about it, but I will make it a comment upon Ron’s post and Pip’s comments. Sometimes subjects cross one another, even in the universe of girls that Pigtails “paint”. It has anyways been an opportunity to go into this story again and maybe do a post later about ‘the vampire girl throughout the ages’, or something like that. Would not that be a good idea? After hopefully having watched a new upcoming tv-series based on Lindqvist’s novel and maybe a theatre adaptation.

    First of all I would like to add that John Ajvide Lindqvist did not direct LTROI and did not write the screenplay of LMI. Lindqvist wrote LTROI’s screenplay. LMI’s director Matt Reeves wrote also its screenplay. LTROI was directed by Tomas Alfredson, who saw a movie in the novel. It seems to be that Lindqvist and both the directors Alfredson and Reeves had experiences at school like Oskar, the boy from LMTROI, like Owen, the boy from LMI and naturally I do not mean meeting a vampire. Here are links for Lindqvist, for Alfredson and for Reeves.

    I read on the internet a lot of discussion about whether it was appropriate or not to have done an American remake was made and about subtitles and other comparisons in general. Many, many “anti-soundbites” (for instance here and here).
    However, Reeves claims it is a genuine inspiration. It most probably is considering, in my eyes, its quality. And, yes, the job was offered to Reeves. One may prefer “the original”, but LMI is ‘original’ in its own way—giving it an American context. Hollywood may still be bigger than Bollywood and the rest, there are still Americas to be cinematographed. Reeves has, for example, let it play in some town in New Mexico where Owen, the boy, says to Abby, the ‘girl’, “Why did you move to here? Nobody moves to here!”. In addition, Reeves has let it play in Reagan’s time with a TV clip of Reagan discussing the claim as the ex-USSR was ‘The Empire of Evil’. The mother is pretty Christian perhaps contributing to his parents’ divorce. After Owen meets the ‘vampire in the girl’, he cries out on the phone to his absent father, “does Evil exist?”. The father, irritated, assumes this is due to the influence of the mother.

    All the internet utterances that say they will not watch this ‘remake’ seem to me to be prejudiced. However, in America there seems to be more a culture and a structure for American remakes of good ‘foreign’ movies, than for example a Swedish or Italian remake of American Spaghetti Westerns like Once Upon A Time In The West or Dutch remakes of series like House of Cards. Already in 2007, the year before LTROI came out, preproduction of LMI began. Direction was first offered to Alfredson, but he declined. It was only then that Reeves began with it. Yes, I also prefer the European variant. I would say, LTROI is one of those future or already present classics that still, as mentioned, will ask for more adaptations. Maybe even in other arts than storytelling.

    All good and well, discussion about remakes, as a genuine inspiration or for commercial reasons, or because of subtitles, or for kinds of American taste, or certain taboos that can still be dealt with in a novel but less or almost no longer in a movie. The three main topics I here would like to comment upon are the following:
    First, what Pip brought forth––namely Eli’s gender.
    Second, what Ron questioned-–-amely Eli’s motives to connect with Oskar, especially after Håkans death.
    Third, Håkan-–namely being overtly a pedophile in the novel.

    I reread the novel and these so-called central scenes several times and read an English translation of a short sequel story by Lindqvist, Let The Old Dreams Die (LTODD), which shed light on Ron’s questioning and perhaps indirectly about Eli’s gender in her/his relationship to Oskar. But first a few thoughts on the movie’s Håkan, the novel’s Håkan and the father/guardian in LMI.

    The ‘father’s’ name in LMI is not mentioned. The same personage in Crossroads is named Thomas, so that name is often taken for him. Crossroads is a comic, is a prequel to LMI. In LMI there is one quick but clear suggestion about the origin and nature of his relationship to Abby. Owen got a glimpse of two old photographs, in black and white. One of Abby, seemingly of years ago, but as old more or less as in the present. “Twelve years old, more or less, but twelve for a long time.” as Abby tells Owen (and Eli tells Oscar). And the other photo, of a boy, around the same age, wearing glasses, like Thomas. So this suggests that Abby and Thomas began their specific relationship when they were both still kids, where one had been a kid ‘for a long time’. The scene can also be interpreted as a prediction for Owen, or at least the story telling thus, that Owen would grown up, come of age, and become Abby’s next caregiver—a suggestion as caretaker, or/and as a kind friendship or love. However, there is no sign of any sex as in the novel nor in the American version of what could be called pedophilia.

    Neither really in the European, Swedish version. In both movies Håkan/Thomas asks Eli/Abby not to see Oskar/Owen any more––at least not that evening. In both there is a short soft touch of the ‘father’s’ face by ‘the daughter’. But in LTROI there is not any clear suggestion of the origin and nature of the relationship of Eli and Håkan. He helps her to get blood by killing people for her (while his favorite drink seems to be milk). In the novel however, one can read about perhaps the strangest pedophile, or rather a pedo-lookalike relationship. The child is actually much older than the apparent pedophile (and a vampire!). Thereby is the movie’s Håkan really more a caregiver? He really seems to care for Eli.
    Håkan and Eli in the novel seem to relate to each other on an economic or opportunistic basis to one another, though Håkan speaks of Eli as ‘his love’. Maybe he sees it like that but probably knows better, considering Eli’s approach. Maybe, maybe, Oskar is Eli’s first love (maybe even over that ‘very long time’) but about that later. Håkan is a pedophile on the run from the police and angry citizens, picked up by Eli to help her in exchange for, now and then, some ‘kindness’, more ‘then’ than ‘now’.
    One thing about gender here. Håkan seems to be attracted to boys. That Eli is castrated, seemingly to look like a girl, doesn’t seem to matter for Håkan’s taste.
    All in all, a most improbable mix of elements. A vampire-child (who was (more than) forced to reconsider his/her gender appearance), and a pedophile on the run and a bullied boy, both in a kind of love-affair with the vampire-child, meet one another in modern Sweden, in a welfare-state kind of desolated suburban part of Stockholm. More probable though than an aristocratic vampire-count in Transylvania. Or, what would be more ‘probable’ in fiction?

    Rereading in LTROI the scene in which Eli was castrated, I felt the need to reread it in a meticulous manner. Its language I’ve found-–-though more than most strikingly tough, violent, sadistic-–-beautifully suggestive of what has happened to Eli, according to her memories. Suggestive, for it comes to the reader by Oskar, as a remembrance, as if Oskar was Eli, for a while, after Eli’s suggestion to Oskar to “be me for a while”. This happens two times, after (s)he kisses him. So, is this kind of telepathy or memory by clairvoyance another quality of vampires (and dependent upon a kiss?). However, the scene is short but would be worth a prequel, about how Elias became Eli, a vampire. So, around 200 years before the present time of Eli and Oskar, Eli was still Elias, still a boy, chosen out of a group of boys for torture, chosen by chance by an aristocratically dressed man, with a wig, and an assistant. May I add to this, too melodramatically maybe: ‘Alea iacta est’, but without a Rubicon to return upon? In the story is only a Rubik’s cube with only the vampire to succeed.

    The boy was strapped with ropes with his belly exposed to a table, with a rope in the mouth and not only cut but bitten—bloody. The first time I reread it I read over the suggestion of a ‘vampiration’. This is all to it. No exact where, no exact when. Let alone why. The boy, a beautiful boy, 11 years old, lived with his parents and elder brother and sister in a village near a castle. They were poor serfs of the castle lord. All the boys between 8 and 12 in the village are summoned with one or two of their parents to go to the castle, stand there the whole day. When evening falls the boy is chosen out of all the boys by chance. He is brought to some kind of space behind a door. The castle lord might have looked like, or behaved like the classical aristocratic vampire, of which Dracula seems to be the ultimate representatation. Maybe the man even read The Vampire by John William Polidori, for which Lord Byron stood model at the time. Anyway, Eli, or Elias, seems to never have been like the archetypal vampire whatsoever. She remained him-/herself after it, maybe partly determined by position and class, although (s)he was able to get a lot of money and jewelry. Though that can have been a matter of the same.

    And how did Elias become Eli? Lindqvist changed she into he, Eli into Elias after the reader read what happened. The story doesn’t tell how Eli herself became Eli. Not only for the reader, in the first place for Oskar things changed. Or not really? His ‘girlfriend’ was apparently once a boy. Like Eli had said to him before ‘the coming out’, claiming, “I am not a girl”. But it did not really seem to matter even after he knew. Is that because he likes or loves Eli/Elias? Because he is still young, having his first love-affair? A longing for that or for a friend? Or for his bond with his saviour from the bullies? Or, he/she still looks like a girl? According to the novel he was once a beautiful boy.

    And then the vampire-child self. Did he become a (kind of) girl because of physical and psychological influence of his fate of castration? Or is that too much of an explanation? Can it be connected to the fact that being twelve means being in puberty or in Eli(as)’ case maybe only at the (everlasting) beginning of it? At his metamorphosis she was still small, thin, not blossoming and weighing only about 25 kilograms. Maybe, in a way looking like a girl, seen for that by others, and maybe it didn’t really matter to Eli. Maybe it was handy to present herself (to her victims for example) as a so-called weak creature, as a girl. However, Lindqvist wrote only this, but didn’t tell much about the gender development of his heroine, though Oskar was told “I am not a girl”. She is not a girl, maybe telling, she is not a normal mortal human being anymore, she is a vampire, or at least, she needs blood as food. She was a boy and she becomes he, Eli becomes Elias in the telling later on (again?). Maybe this is just it. Lindqvist tells a story about the lovely outskirts-–-kind of lovely when being told from a distance. About a bullied boy with a preference for stories about murder, maybe because as a reaction, and/or who might become a murderer himself. About a pedophile on the run (though that’s “normal” nowadays). About a mixed group, but a group of older people, probably bachelors, possible unemployed, at least one alcoholic, who meet often in a Chinese restaurant. And about a vampire girl who was once a noncastrated boy. That is just it. Psychology would not have to spoil a story. But it is not told, only slightly showed. Just like most everyday and/or mysterious stories are not explained with psychology. So also this everyday mystery story.

    Isn’t it a shame that this part about gender isn’t filmed? According to Lindqvist the basics of the novel was the love story. He concentrated upon that in the screenplay. Or were pedophilia and even castration felt to be too far afield even for European cinema? A vampire child is one thing, but admittedly, a castrated one that meets up with a pedophile, that’s rather weird, isn’t it? But a workable logic for this wonderful story! It should be refilmed with this element—the whole story.

    In LMI there is one deleted scene, that was not even, at least not on my DVD, part of the deleted scenes, in which Abby suggests Owen to be here for a while, being badly, very badly ill treated that could look like what happened to the novel’s Eli.

    It reads though, considering LMI to be without any suggestion of castration, as a straightway rape. Maybe this scene is left out of LMI not so much for its crudeity and roughness. Maybe it strays too far from the storyline, wherein there is no suggestion of rape either. Or, it is her ‘vampirization’. Or, it is a rape to those who would watch it without knowing the background of the novel and the other movie.
    Or, both. In a comment on this scene on YouTube one Michael Renwick suggests this:

    In the deleted clip Abby was bitten on the shoulder by her uncle who was living as a secret vampire. It is believed that her uncle had a secret sexual infatuation with her and that night was going to take her purity from her. As seen in the deleted clip Abby put up a fight and started screaming so her uncle bit and infected her instead. You can clearly see the scar on Abby’s shoulder when she comes out of the shower and it looks a nasty scar her shoulder must have been ripped to shreds by the evil bastard. I totally agree this clip should have been left in because it shows the trauma she suffered and the mental scars she probably still has. I don’t think that Abby has shown that part of her memory to anyone but Owen and its just another way for her to let him in, as vampires show gestures a lot to express their feelings.
    I think the fact that Owen eventually invited her and accepted her knowing she is a vampire finally proved to Abby that Owen does really love her and at that point Abby fully on fell in love with Owen.

    I would really not know on what this uncle is based. Nothing in LMI suggests any of it, neither the interviews nor commentaries I have read. However, Renwicks suggestion of both could be the right one. At least the vampirization, made up out of the ‘story logic’.
    In LTROI the movie, in the same scene Eli suggesting Oskar to be her for a while, there is only Eli turning into being very old, for a moment. Not any sadistic imagery. Though there is elsewhere in the movie this glimpse of the cut-away genitals.

    It is fine as it is. Like in the novel not everything should be explained, let alone psychologised; nothing in the movie would have to be explained except what the beholder observes via Oskar.

    Regarding Ron’s comment, and my continuing reading about it on other sites, I had no thought at all about it that Eli/Abby might have been very practical, rather pragmatic, let alone opportunistic in befriending Oskar/Owen. Yes, she needs more or less someone to help her. But, a boy?!? Why a boy? An adult man (or woman) would be more handy in the everyday world of grownups. Håkan/Thomas has the role as her/his father and can, for example, more easily rent a house. I supposed and I still suppose that it is just that (s)he likes a mate (or maybe more specific a boy) her/his own age, although (s)he says in the beginning of both movies and the novel, out of the blue, that they cannot be friends. I suppose for the safety of her adult helper and of herself, and maybe also that of her/his new neighbour boy. Or doesn’t she want to mix with people who do not know about her nature? She doesn’t want to mix with people because she doesn’t want to have to drink the blood of people she knows? In general she dislikes strongly taking lives for their, for her necessary blood! But seemingly not strong enough to withdraw herself from drinking, with all the consequences for his/her second nature, in which (s)he became a vampire.

    In the novel and both the movies there is this scene in which the two children are in some kind of (secret) basement under their apartment building, kind of shabby but cozy furnished, wherein Oskar/Owen cuts himself for some blood to offer Eli/Abby, inviting her to do the same, for a blood bond. She becomes upset, licks a bit of the boy’s blood dripped on the floor and screams to him to go away. He doesnot understand. Then she flees. This is the beginning of Oskar/Owen’s realization that his new (girl)friend has a rather peculiar diet and some other remarkable qualities.

    In the short sequel story, Let The Old Dreams Die (LTODD), at a railway station, after they ran away by train, they then make their blood bond! Would Eli do that if (s)he only needs someone who helps her, knowing thereby this exchange of blood changes Oskar into a vampire as well? This modern or postmodern Gothic story—a vampire in today’s society; Transylvania being far away ends as in a fairy tale: the two young vampires living happily ever after.
    Unless something happens to them. Maybe by hunters, like the police woman Karin, who went after them, after the murders in the swimming pool, and her lover, the railway guard Stefan, who saw the two exchanging blood. Years later, 2008, she with cancer, receives––for she had never let rest her research, not even after retirement––a picture from Barcelona.
    Now the reader may link first to YouTube for a spoiler or read on. In the picture there are the two children, with Oskar as old as he was in 1983. Karin and Stefan then fly to Barcelona, as quickly as possible, to hunt for the two vampires. At least, that could be one idea about it by the conclusion of this clip. Only later I read, in a comment on this clip, an intriguing interpretation, of this short story’s end, or in a way a long one without an end:

    The older couple were going to seek them out in Barcelona to ask for the infection, because they were in love but one of them was fatally ill. The woman may have chased Oskar and Eli for years as an unsolved case but she seemed ready to let that go, hence the phrase “Let the old dreams die, we’re dreaming new ones.” I thought that if they found the younger pair then they could act as new guardians and form a kind of surrogate family.

    So, Karin and Stefan want to become vampires as well, in order not to die, and remain together.

    Aside, what would a modern, democratic society do with vampires? Punish them as other murderers? But what would they eat? Would vampire children be treated like juvenile criminals?

    All in all, I see no reason to think that Eli/Abby manipulates Oskar/Owen to become her helper, her murderer for food. Yes, it seems to be a main general need to have a helper. However, where the novel and movies end open, the short story shows a blood bond. Would Eli be that cynical, for a caregiver, who is also still a child and not a normal human being anymore, who, as a grown up could really be of help to her? Anyway, like the gender, (s)he just seems to want a (boy)friend and Lindqvist writes that Eli becomes more childish in her/his eyes, until Oskar came into their lives, Håkan now seemingly worried and jealous. This aspect of the story remains open to think and dream about—a story that will not die.

    I had in mind to finish this comment with a recollection of my impressions of the story before I reread it and researched about and around it. And I wanted to describe Eli’s qualities as a kind of “anthropological vampirology”. But that is something more for a post on vampire girls in general, comparing Eli at least with Claudia, played by Kirsten Dunst, in Interview with the Vampire. If anyone knows more vampire girls, please let me know and if you meet a real one, only let her in if she asks for it.

    PS Later on, I came upon a book with the same title as the movie, as the novel. This LTROI by Anne Billson, a film critic, journalist, photographer, is a short but deep study of 114 pages mainly about the movie. Billson is clearly a connoisseur of horror, having written novels in that genre herself. I think I might use this book later for another writing. But for now I can recommend it to everyone who would like to go deeper into the story, within the context of vampire novels and vampire movies of the last two centuries. Reading it was a kind of walk through my memories. But I feel almost uneasy, with a smile, in the way Billson broadened my view on LTROI. Here and there she also writes about the novel but LMI is only mentioned. She mentions LTODD essentially, mentioning Oskar’s metamorphosis into a vampire.

    By the way, the short sequel story can be seen as a rejection of one of the interpretations of the movie as well as the novel, that Billson brings forward. A remarkable but unsatisfying end that I had not thought of myself, that Eli was only in Oskar’s imagination, including his rescue from the very well possible drowning in the swimming pool. But that logic, also in fiction, would not make sense, considering the last scene of novel and movies in the train—or was that then also a last fantasy while drowning? And in LTODD Stefan watches the two children exchanging blood in the railway station. And the short story ends in 2008 in Barcelona.

    And for Billson the story is a genuine love story. For example by bringing forward that the two vampire-children would still need an adult caretaker in this modern world. If Oskar hadnot made his final blood bond, Eli would have had to wait years before Oskar could help her with practical adult things. If ever, being undoubtedly hunted for, after the serial killing in the swimming pool. Håkan was also on the run; maybe it is still possible to live in secret in modernity, even in this internet world, for LTODD ends in 2008 with the vampires in Barcelona. But then I might take the story too realistically. One of the starting points of Lindqvist was in wondering how a vampire girl would live in today’s world.

    Billson also questions whether Oskar’s bullies deserved to die. She calls Eli consequently a serial killer, though with our sympathy. Billson, p. 113: ‘…did they really deserve to die? No matter; Eli doled out rough justice and rescued her friend, just as we’d hoped she would’.

    Maybe there is even a deeper answer to this in a next citation of her. Billson also questions how two vampire children can remain free or even survive in a world where there is not really a place for them in nature, considering the reactions of cats towards Eli and mainly Virginia who was changed into a vampire after an attack by Eli. Though Lindqvist does not use the term ‘undead’ with Eli, she is no longer a part of like nature like human beings are.

    For Billson the story is in balance. She answers to the question:

    But then Let The Right One In is the rare sort of horror film that goes on giving long after the final credits have rolled. And it’s just not a horror film but also a love story and a romantic fantasy, but a romantic fantasy that is grounded firmly in everyday reality. And that’s one of the most miraculous achievements of the film – that it is in itself yin and yang, light and dark, male and female, romantic and realist – an amalgam of opposites which come together in one perfect whole, like Oskar and Eli.

    One should not reason too much about fiction, about art. One should stick to the fiction itself and its clear interpretation, like Billson does and not fictionalise reality itself. Then one could not really write about it any more. As foe me, I would not follow Eli like Håkan and Oskar did; but (s)he can come in.

    PS – Eli(as). (S)he cannot go into any supermarket whatsoever to get her blood; for human blood is not in any supermarket—at least not like milk, bananas, sugar or animal meat. Unless, looking at it another way, the whole wide world is a supermarket. But (s)he also has to be hidden within it. Is there really a world beyond the supermarket?

    • PPS Eli(as). (S)he cannot go into any supermarket what so ever, to get her blood, for human blood is not in any supermarket – at least not like milk, bananas, sugar or animal meat. Unless, in another way, the whole wide world has become a supermarket. Hers/his as well. But (s)he also has to hide in it. Is there still a world beyond the supermarket? There was the world to live in, in the first place. There is still.
      I wrote down the thoughts here above to put in the comment later on, maybe, but found no real place for it and add it now as a PPS, as a kind of conclusion about Eli’s fate. However, finally it can be shared with Oscar.

  2. It is explicit in the original book as a flashback that “Eli” was a boy that had been mutilated by other vampires as a punishment / initiation.

  3. Great article, Ron, though you did neglect to mention the main difference between the two films, and the reason why I think the American version was made.


    In Let the Right One In there are constant hints that Eli did not begin life as a girl. The first is the character’s name. ‘Eli’ is pronounced like a girl’s name, but it’s spelled like the boy’s name Eli (Ee’-ly). The second clue is that Eli kind of has a boyish face. The third is when the two kids are lying in bed. Eli says to Oskar, when he asks her to be his girlfriend, “I’m not a girl.” Of course, the viewer, knowing what they know, takes this to mean that she is trying to tell him that she’s a vampire, and there’s an element of that, but there’s also a deeper hint here at Eli’s history as a boy. The biggest clue, however, is when we get a quick glimpse of Eli’s body after her shower. You have to look fast, but there’s evidence that Eli has no genitalia, and that the gap left by its removal has been sewn up.

    This, of course, adds a whole new dimension to Eli and Oskar’s relationship, including the aspect of the bullies questioning Oskar’s masculinity/sexuality. One I think many American viewers weren’t ready for, or which simply escaped them. Hence, I feel the main reason the American version was made (I mean, aside from Hollywood’s usual need to capitalize on good foreign source material) was that little aspect of Eli being a eunuch as well as a vampire. It adds a resonance to the story that doesn’t really exist in the American remake. It is never revealed definitively that Eli was a boy so it’s open to interpretation, but it’s an important point nonetheless.

    The American version pretty much avoids all of that outright. First, the vampire is given the decidedly more feminine name of Abby (could be short for Abbott, but it’s unlikely), cast a more feminine-looking actress and never shows what’s between her legs. If I remember, she still says to him in bed, “I’m not a girl,” but that’s about the only clue you get to the character maybe being a eunuch rather than a true girl, and it’s really not enough to point you in that direction.

    I prefer the European version too, this being one of the main reasons. Europeans generally don’t shy away from getting into sexual weirdness, including things that blur gender distinctions. Americans tend to be more squeamish about that stuff, and that’s quite evident in a comparison of these two films.

    • There is a lot that could be said about these films and I have to draw the line somewhere and just get the damn thing posted. That is the value of our readers who can offer fascinating tidbits that I did not discover in my own research. That being said, I must admit to not considering the possibility of Eli being a eunuch. I also did not think to take that close a look at the actress’ anatomy, altered or otherwise. Now that I think of it, there was another small clue when Oskar asked her name and when she asked for his, he at first repeats hers as if he did not hear it right. It is as if she said it a little funny that sounds a little like the masculine version to the Swedish ear. I think it would be nice to hear from someone who has read the novel where things like this might be easier to put together. If this had been Lundqvist’s intent, then the novel could bear this out easily.

      I don’t about the Swedes being more sexually perverse, but I would like to think that their artists are more tolerant and thoughtful. I imagine kids there still get teased and tormented in the schoolyard. If not, where would Lundqvist have gotten the material from; there would have to be a personal component involved.

      • Ha, yeah, I get that. There are plenty of times when I could’ve explored a subject more deeply but decided to just put the thing out there. And there may be others where I explored it exhaustively and it came across as anemic. It’s a balancing act. In this case, though, I think it’s a fascinating dimension that gives the story even greater power. It alienates the main characters even more from society, and there is rich symbolism in the idea.

        Another thing is that Eli’s keeper in the Swedish version (Håkan) is intended to be a pedophile. It is what bonds him to Eli. I guess the book is more overt about this too, though I haven’t read it. That’s another aspect that is downplayed in the American version (though, to be sure, it’s pretty subtle in the Swedish film too).

        Let Me In Wiki (Abby/Eli)

        • The motivation of the caregiver adds just another dimension as you say and yet, isn’t the audience supposed to like the protagonists in the end? The writer/director is really asking us to accept a lot, perhaps too much for an American audience at this point in time. I rather thought that Håkan was an interesting mystery and that perhaps we were witnessing history repeating itself. Were we witnessing what has become Eli’s MO? If so, that would add another layer of unpleasant cynicism to Eli’s character; it makes us question how sincere she was in the film. The pedophile angle is also ambiguous because, like Oskar, we don’t know when they first got together and if that is not mind-bending enough, Eli is really supposed to be much older and puts the label of predator unequivocally back in her lap.

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