A Vampire Flick with Emotional Teeth
I am a fan of vampires. I have been for a very long time; ever since I was 11 years old, enjoying one of the first evenings when my parents saw fit to trust me at home alone. “I can watch whatever I want on television,” I thought, grabbing some Pringles and Dr. Pepper and settling in on the family couch in our wood paneled living room. I switched on the newly arrived Showtime Cable Entertainment Network, and scared the hell out of myself watching the movie version of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot.”
It’s actually a pretty bad movie, but that didn’t matter. I remember with alarming accuracy the teen-aged vampire hovering outside the protagonist’s second story window, his teeth long and curved, more like a beast than a demon, his long finger-nails grating like needles on a chalkboard along his poor victim’s window. He looked simultaneously desperate and vulnerable. A hungry predator, himself being hunted, he needed blood like a teen needs attention, like my 3 year old daughter craves cuddling when she has a fever. There was something profound going on in this lousy movie, which didn’t mean I wasn’t frightened all night, but did mean that I have never shaken the potentially complex construct of the vampire myth from my imagination.
I have written about vampires in academic literature and in the lay press. As my wife will lament, a vampire flick has to be pretty bad for me to not have a good time.
So, imagine my delight, my curiosity, my thirst, when reviews like this from the New York Times started chasing around an obscure Swedish movie this summer called “Let the Right One In”:
“[Director Tomas Alfredson’s] movie smoothly and seemingly without effort works through a canny amalgamation of cool and hot, diffidence and passion…”
The movie received all sorts of critical acclaim. Alfredson won the coveted Tribeca Film Festival’s “Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature.” The folks in Tribeca described the movie as a “mesmerizing exploration of loneliness and alienation through masterful reexamination of the vampire myth.”
Hmmm. I could see Twilight (girl has forlorn love with boy who happens to be a vampire, he is cold to the touch, has no reflection in mirror, and ultimately can’t decide whether he wants her for her blood or her passion…yawn. Been there. Bring your grandmother.)
Or, I could, I did, and I urge you all as well to go see “Let the Right one In.” Roughly, the story involves a latency-aged friendship between a picked-on skinny kid, friendless in the endless night of Northern Sweden during winter, and his almost-romantic interest with a half wild vampire girl who protects him and loves him with equal vigor. Given her need to feed, there is enough gore to satisfy whatever cravings vampire fans bring to the theater, but the chills come with simple lines, spoken amidst constant snow, white powder interrupted by just a drop of blood quickly buried by the ceaseless blizzards.
“How old are you?” the boy asks his new friend, the reality of what she is dawning on him like a dream.
“I’m 12,” she notes, “But I’ve been 12 for a very long time.”
I was hooked as the movie started, but that line pulled me in. Go see it or rent it. It’ll make you thirsty.
(This post was originally published on Steve’s blog at Psychology Today.)