discourses on vampire physiology: let the right one in


See this movie.

. . . Just saw Let the Right One In, a Swedish vampire/romance/coming-of-age flick that has been cropping up on many a movie critic’s Top 10 of ’08 list. And no, it ain’t “the Norse Twilight.”

Short synopsis: Oskar is a shy, bullied 12-year-old until his new neighbors, ostensibly a father and daughter, move in. The girl, Eli, is a vampire. She and Oskar enter into one of those excruciatingly tentative (and familiar) adolescent romances. Meanwhile, the bodies pile up.

Evil wasn’t surprised he liked the movie—several critics he trusts gave it sterling reviews—though it threw a monkey wrench into one of his oft-repeated complaints: namely, that he is sick unto death of seeing vampire romances, “revisionist” vampire stories, vampirism as an infection and/or metaphor for HIV. Where, he cries, have the good ol’ bad ol’ vampires gone? The ones who are just . . . evil?

(Caveat: the thing what spawned this whole vampire revisionism trend, I Am Legend—the book—comes highly recommended by the Evil. Now that’s revisionism done right.)

But then along comes this little Swedish movie, and Evil has to explain himself to himself. Because he really liked Let the Right One In. And here’s why . . .

Even the most casual observer of vampire pop culture has seen Interview With the Vampire, so everyone is familiar by now with the trope of the immortal moppet, an adult mind locked in a child’s body.

But not in this flick. Eli the vampire is 12. She’s firm on that, though she will admit that she’s been 12 “for a long time.” Eli is an old-school vampire . . . but she’s still insistently 12, which makes her relationship with Oskar ring true. She’s a kid seeking companionship from another kid, not a world-weary immortal. She makes mistakes, acts on her impulses—essentially, she is stuck in that “awkward age” forever.

That makes sense to the Evil on a physiological level. Scienticians are becoming more and more aware of how the brain develops—especially as regards the adolescent mind’s ability to make rational decisions and weigh the consequences of one’s actions. (Here’s an example of that as it relates to sentencing juvenile criminals.)

If you accept the logic that, once bitten, you retain your bevamped appearance forever, then it only stands to reason that you also retain your essential body chemistry. No matter how long she has lived, how much she has seen, Eli’s mind, hormones, and emotional state would remain that of a 12-year-old for eternity . . . which, to the Evil’s way of thinking, is a far more beautifully horrorific idea than the eternal adult trapped in the child’s body.

Of COURSE you should be cringing by now. Evil knows that he always does when a nerdling begins dragging some phantasmical scenario into the scientastic mud. (“Those Star Trek teleporters are theoretically implausible!” . . . uggh.) But that’s not what he’s doing here, honest—he’s just noting the way in which Let the Right One In stayed with him long after he exited the theater.

And don’t worry—the movie doesn’t inflict on the viewer any of this kind of blather. As noted, Eli is a vampire true and doesn’t spend half the movie moping about or bemoaning the curse of immortality. It’s just a nice, creepily sweet story that made the Evil appreciate a new-fangled vampire movie done right. That’s right: it can be done.

See it when you get the chance.


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