In the opinion of this reviewer, there are only a few really good vampire movies out there: Nosferatu (1922), Dracula starring the immortal Bela Lugosi (1931), Martin (1977), and the Vampire Hunter D films of 1985 and 2001 (please, no one mention the Twilight films ever in the same vain), but Let the Right One In may be one of the few others that can be included on this list. Most other horror films about vampires or ones that at least feature vampires tend to get caught up in the gore or the simple saber-toothed image of the vampire, sexy or grotesque, but all of the best vampire films focus on the human-inhuman conflict within the vampire. One might also add that there are not too many films that center on a female vampire, and this film not only does that but with a child vampire.
The idea of seeing a young 12-year old girl hunting people down and pouncing on them for their blood is quite disturbing. An even more disturbing idea comes when 12-year old human boy Oskar starts taking a liking to his strange next door neighbor. Another interesting thematic element inspired probably from George A. Romero's Martin is the inclusion of the serial killer. In Martin, most townspeople think they are simply dealing with a serial killer. In order for young Eli to survive without attacking a person herself, she employs the help of a human man who goes out and slashes people's throats to fill bottles with blood. The question later becomes: what is the relationship between this man and Eli, and why has she not attacked him all this time? In comparison to other vampire movies, Eli does not behave like the traditional vampire in the sense that she does not have superiority complex, have any noticeable fangs, or has grandiose intelligence beyond her years. She was attacked when she was quite young, so her mindset is still young even though she has probably lived for more than 100 years. A clue to her age comes when we as an audience are introduced to a Faberge-type egg that she believes is worth a lot of money, and THAT is all the knowledge she has on the trinket. Most kids do not really care to know about the history of certain things till they get to a certain age and all Eli cares about is trying to live the life of a normal kid despite her limitations. She can not go outside in the sunlight and she can not enter anyone's household unless she is given permission to do so. Without it, she spontaneously starts bleeding to death. This extra myth is apparently a common myth in vampire lore, but has not been included in any other cinematic interpretation of vampire lore that I have seen so far.
Director Tomas Alfredson does a great job of keeping most things centered on Oskar and Eli's cute little romance that we know is not meant to last forever. But like most kids, they only worry about the present. Oskar finds himself tormented by bullies and feels the best way to handle them is by causing them great harm; practicing with a knife on occasion. This is a situation that Oskar can easily grow out of, but this is just another example of how Oskar and Eli's relationship is totally based on the fact that they appear to be the same age and in the same mindset. She finds camaraderie in his predicament and they proceed to help each other. Young actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson do a great job carrying the entire film even when most of the film is filled with adults. Just one of many things that makes Let the Right One In remarkable for what can almost be considered a sick movie designed for kids. Find it hard to believe? The film does take on certain fairy tale elements including ignorant adults, magical treasures, terrifying bully-types, and the young journeyman protecting the princess. But is Eli really a princess?