Don’t Let the Wrong One In

Watching the adolescent vampire thriller Let Me in only brings into sharper focus the delicate balance that was achieved in the original Swedish version of the film, Let the Right One in. The young androgynous vampire in the English film is allowed to seethe, allowed to speak in a deep, masculine, demonic voice, allowed to bounce like a CGI pinball through a dark, bloody landscape.

The tone of this film echos the original, as does the plot, but there is something very different about the vampire and its relationship to the young boy. If the Swedish film held an arresting balance between avoidance vs. attraction, the U.S. tipped the scales toward avoidance. This American vampire is more of a beast–a monster–where the Swedish girl is more, just that: a girl (with compelling question marks in the air regarding her gender). A girl with complex desires and cravings that go quite a bit deeper than mere self preservation or the appetites of a monster.

Perhaps the differences between the two versions are subtler than I am making them out to be, but I believe they are there. If the original used 10 gallons of blood, the new one used…maybe 12. Sure, the new one used a spare landscape, soundscape, plotscape, and dialogue-scape that was annoyingly similar to the original, but when it didn’t… it really didn’t.

This story, told, and retold, is a horrifying one, of trapped innocence and innocence trapped, of innocence given away, and innocence slaughtered, a story of evil begetting evil, a story exploring the many layers between lust and desire, a story of both a loving relationship and a transactional arrangement designed for mutual benefit. This is a story of sacrifices offered and taken. Character motivations are all over the map, but I was more compelled to consider them in the Swedish film than I was in the American. The American version aims for the gut. The response I had to the original was more balanced between the mind and the gut, and even the heart.

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