Yep, I know, I'm super late in the day with mine. But that's okay, cause you know vampires are late day people. hahaha. So, before I get into it, my regular readers know I do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there's no way around it today. So onward...*SPOILER ALERT*
movie: Let the Right One In
starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
plot: As young Oskar is bullied at school, he begins to connect with the strange new neighbour Eli, who has just moved in next door. She helps him to learn to fight back and gives him hope that things will improve. All set to a back drop where the neighbourhood is no longer safe, as a serial killer is on the loose. What Oskar is yet to learn, is that his new girlfriend is a vampire.
This is based on the 2004 book of the same name.
So the movie drops a ton of elements that are in the book. Half the book's plot and characters are missing. Which I'll get to in a moment.
This version of the story focuses on the bullying that is going on, and the innocent sexual awakening between the "young couple". The bullying has left Oskar self aware, but with little self esteem. We see him pouring over clippings about serial killers, and murders in the area. Partly as a foreshadow of his future, partly because we're suppose to get the idea that he's not completely "normal". He's filled with revenge fantasies, that he's not sure he'd ever be able to uphold.
While Oskar is playing out one of these revenge ideals, Eli sneaks up and silently watches. She sees in him a potential that he is unsure he has himself. This is all inter cut with scenes of an unknown man trying and failing at killing someone not far from the neighbourhood. Which we quickly find out is the "guardian" of Eli.
Eli is left alone after her guardian is caught and tries to cover it up by attempting to kill himself. This also goes wrong, and Eli is forced to feed off him. This in turn is the point, where the vampire theme really kicks in. As Eli then begins hunting nightly, no longer able to drink "bottled blood" that her guardian had been getting for her.
One of her victims survives, and while in hospital, is exposed. Literally. As she allows the daylight to kill her, setting her husband off on a rampage to "kill the thing that did this." He then tracks Eli to the apartment building and attempts to kill her, but Oskar stops him long enough for Eli to feed.
Oskar has one more run in with the bullies at the school swim lesson, and is nearly drowned, causing Eli to save him. Killing the bullies.
Alright now, in this version, we never learn how Eli became a vampire. What we do learn is Eli is not a girl. Technically speaking. She's a transgendered person. This is one of those subplots from the novel that got wiped under the sofa in this version of the story. This is hinted at through out, as she keeps saying to Oskar "What if I'm not a girl? Would you still like me?" the audience to this point, just thinks she's going on about not being human.
The relationship that the two enter into, is that of a "first crush" type of situation. As it's a friendship with little to no physical contact, but you can tell from Oskar's behaviour; that he's sexually attracted to her. There is one scene later on where they kiss, and we see Eli as a middle aged woman for a brief few seconds.
This relationship on the surface, appears to be that of equals. Eli is relating to Oskar as a child would. But, before long, it spirals down into a more Dracula/Renfield situation. As Oskar replaces Hakan; Eli's previous guardian.
This version of the story, is about self esteem, being true to you and not being afraid to love. It's also, as I stated earlier, about that innocence of first love.
what did I learn? Strength and love are not always separate entities.
The Book: In a small suburb, a neighbourhood is in chaos. Oskar, who is left alone too much, bullied constantly, has begun acting out. He's obsessed with murders, steals, sneaks out, disrespects his mother, and hangs out with the older kids. A few doors down, Tommy, one of the older kids he sometimes hangs out with, is a thief and stoner, who's mom is about to marry an extremely religious police officer; Staffan. Staffan is currently on a manhunt for a ritual killer, who has been draining people of their blood only blocks away from the neighbourhood. The same time the killings started, Eli and her dad Hakan, moved in next door to Oskar.
Eli and Oskar, develop a relationship; over a few weeks time frame. During which, Hakan becomes jealous, acting out on his own by hiring teenaged male prostitutes. After Hakan attempts but fails to kill a young male, and is captured, he disfigures himself. This leaves Eli alone and vulnerable. She's forced to hunt, for the first time in years, exposing herself as a vampire. Visiting him in the hospital, she feeds off of him, before allowing Hakan to throw himself from the hospital window. But doesn't die. The killings continue to worsen, leading the police to question everything.
Meanwhile, Oskar is dealing with everyday situations, which include the school bullies, who are making his life a holy terror daily. Eli, in an effort to help him, tells him about her past. We learn that in fact, that when she was human, she was not a girl but a boy. Eli had been sexually mutilated before becoming a vampire.
The two find they have no choice, but to runaway together, but first, they have to tie up loose ends.
Okay, so there are - and I never actually counted- about 20 characters in the cast of this novel. The original movie version only deals with about 6. We're brought into the lives of the entire neighbourhood. The kids, the police, the victims and their friends. One of the big subplots that is left out of the original movie, is that the character of Hakan, is a pedophile. This is why Eli picks him to begin with. She's able to control him, by manipulating him with the "promise of being together" that she never follows through on. This leads to an attempted rape scene much later in the novel, where Tommy the stoner character, ends up becoming a bit of a hero.
Though in the novel, we are given some of Eli's history, we're never told just how she becomes a vampire. We learn she was a boy while human who was mutilated by someone. But we're never told if the one who did so was a vampire as well, or just a psychopath? You are left to draw your own conclusions on this. But, as I've talked about before in other months, folklore states that a violent death be it by murder or suicide; one becomes a vampire. So, we could be led to believe that Eli became a vampire because of the way she died. She's also got the ability to shapeshift. Being able to change her form to resemble a bat-human hybrid. Eli is also a bit careless. I got the impression this was suppose to help bring the idea that she was a kid when turned.
The "good guys" in this are really up to interpretation. The outer appearance of some of the characters, such as the police officer who it turns out is extremely prejudiced, is almost too saccharine. And the theme of things not being what they appear is a main one in the novel. Another element that is left out of the original movie version, is Oskar's acting out. He steals, he has no regard for his broken family, and lies. He's more human, more understandable in the novel than in the movie version. The movie I felt, made him too much of a victim in an attempt to make him overly likable as the hero. The novel all around is grittier.
I didn't care for the characters of the older group. Most of who are middle aged alcoholics and become the vampires victims. The cowardly Gosta who is the witness to the crimes, and the obsessed crazy cat guy, just felt flat. But at the same time, he's the perfect vehicle to express the loneliness and isolation everyone is feeling. Which, given this is set 30 plus years ago, adds to the heaviness of the situation. There is a lot of talk about not having the right environment to grow up in playing on the fear of not being like everyone else. Being the "other". Most of the families are single parents, even the middle aged characters are either single parents themselves, or dealing with the death of their only parent. The idea of being orphaned runs heavy through this. Given this is set in 1981, it really plays well with the idea of things not "getting out there"; the way it would now a days. Everything is contained within the small neighbourhood. One of the best metaphors running in this, is the paranoia of the outsider theme. As it uses a subplot of the people's fear of the fact the Russians were seen just off their coastline. It's referred to whenever the characters find themselves too worked up over the killings, and need to talk about "in other news".
There is so much going on in this novel, from the characters being afraid to admit they just want relationships, to the idea of running away to better their situations, to being afraid of themselves. While reading this, I actually kept thinking of the 1983 slasher film Sleepaway Camp.
Two things about the book I really have to mention, one - the bathtub. In the book, Eli is sleeping in a tub filled with blood. This gets changed in both films, to her just covered up in a sleeping bag in the tub. Removing all connections it had to Elizabeth Bathroy. and two- the cats. The whole subplot of animals, specially cats, being able to tell when a supernatural creature was around, was brilliant. It does make it to the original movie, but not to the remake.
Remake : Let Me In
starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-Mcphee
Plot:After arresting a serial killer, who's disfigured himself, a detective finds himself on the trail of the man's identity, which leads him to uncover the real killer who is a vampire.
Right off, this is set in 1983, a two year difference from the original story. There is this great subtly shown with our lead character of Owen, standing first in his room looking from one set of windows to the other; as if at a crossroads. One direction points out to the normal life, as a couple are about to have sex, the other direction leads to the supernatural, as he sees Abby for the first time. This is quickly followed by the lead character standing outside at a literal crossroads in the street, looking first up at Abby's darkened apartment window, then at the couple as they walk up the parking lot on the opposite side. I honestly thought this was a brilliant way to show him exploring; as all 12 years olds seem to do, the balance between life and death. The fascination with the power we have over life and death.
This then, becomes pretty much scene for scene to the original film. But, I found it to be a darker texture, with more emphasis on the crime angle, as well as just the human nature of it. The little differences of removing some of the characters/combined a few, gave it more depth. I also thought the acting was better. Where the original version focused more on the innocence of the two leads, this lends to them being more rounded.
We also don't get let in - no pun intended- on the fact she's transgender/non-gender. There is a scene where Owen asks Abby to be his girl, and she tells him she's not a girl, she's nothing. That is the only hint we have towards the big plotline in the original novel.
It's rare for me to say this, but I liked the remake a lot more. I think having two powerhouse actors of Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas, added a lot to the weight of the characters. This version also reminded a lot of the remake of Fright Night from 2011.
I found they made the Jenkins character - Hakan in the original story- smarter in the remake. He still gets caught, but he's able to get out of the situations somewhat better than the other version.
Okay folks, I'm know there is a ton more in the metaphors and details that I'm failing to express, but I have to cut this here. Don't forget to check out Heather's take on this month's combo. Next month, there is half a combo. Don't laugh, the vampire movie will be Dark Crystal, and the book will be your choice. But I'll be back later in the week with the official announcement on that and the round up. I know I know, I haven't done a proper round up for these in a long while.