Caution: Major Spoilers for Let the Right One In ahead!
The Swedish horror film Let the Right One In is a multi-faceted vampire story that revolves around romance, bullying, and growing. It is a beautiful film. It is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and brilliantly paced.
But I take issue with the ending.
The penultimate scene of the film depicts vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson) rescuing Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) from his bullies. It is one of the most masterfully shot scenes in the movie, the majority of the action occurring off screen as Oskar struggles to breath underwater. Truly magnificent. When Eli has finished her carnage, the two kids (ahem, sorry, one kid and one ageless vampire) exchange a loving smile.
Then, in the final scene of the film, Oskar is riding a train, seemingly alone. But, he hears a series of taps. The camera pulls back and we see a box with an Eli inside. She taps in Morse code “kiss” (according to Wikipedia, so for all I know it could be “piss,” but let’s just assume Wikipedia is correct). He taps back “puss” (apparently meaning “little kiss” in Swedish).
This is where the movie ends. Cute, right? A lovely, happily-ever-after, fairy tale ending. The bullied kid gets to escape his troubles and gets the girl. The love story arc has reached its happy conclusion.
Except, there is nothing happy about this ending.
Eli told Oskar earlier in the film she was leaving him for a reason. That reason is fairly simple: she’s a vampire. Vampires need to drink blood to survive (and apparently in the lore of this film, the requirement is confined to human blood).
Remember Hakan. Poor troubled Hakan will do anything to protect Eli and keep her secret hidden. He will also do anything to feed her literal bloodlust. Hakan murders people and drains their blood so that Eli may survive.
That is, until he gets caught. Just before being found out, Hakan pours acid over his face to disfigure himself. In this way, his identity can never be found and traced back to Eli. Hakan then proceeds to allow Eli to drain his blood and pitch him out a window.
Let’s recap: Hakan destroyed his own face, let his blood get sucked out of his body, and allowed himself to be dropped to his death. Why? All because of Eli.
Eli is a vampire. She has been 12 for God knows how long. Let’s imagine when Hakan may have met Eli. Perhaps he was 12 at the time. Does this sound familiar at all?
That’s right. Oskar is just like Hakan. At least, he will be in time. As the love between Oskar and Eli blooms, Oskar will age and become a man. But Eli will never change. No one else is around to hide Eli from the world. So will Oskar gut people and drain their blood? Will his life turn into this fatiguing, endless trauma as it did to Hakan?
We see in Hakan a weariness throughout the half of the film in which he is present. He is tired, probably disgusted with himself for years of murder. Guilt constantly wearing away at him. And all that blood. It’s a living nightmare!
So Oskar isn’t getting the sweet, romantic happy ending that the final scene is depicting. Instead, he is on a train ride hurtling toward a living Hell in which he must murder innocent people so that his love may survive, all the while having to cope with the knowledge that he will pass on as just a blip in her immortal lifespan, nothing more than the vampire equivalent to a fling.
What does this mean for Eli? Is she truly the sweet love interest of the film? Or is she really the antagonist all along? Sure, she disposed of Oskar’s bullies (read: murdered children!). But at what cost? Now Oskar will forever be her human slave, dragging in meal after meal, evading the law until he finally kicks the bucket himself.
The entire film reads differently in this vein. Eli is rather indifferent to Oskar at first. Sure they talk and share a Rubik’s cube, but ask yourself this: Eli doesn’t truly get close to Oskar until when? Immediately after she drinks the blood of poor old Hakan! It is in this scene that Eli accepts Oskar’s invitation for them to “go steady” together.
Let’s break this down. Eli, now with no easy source of food, is forced to put herself in danger by killing her own humans out in public. What is the survivalist thing to do? Find a new patsy to do your dirty work. What about that kid from the jungle gym with the Rubik’s cube? Sure, he’s a little lanky and he can’t stand up to bullies, but he does play with a knife a lot and holds a lot of pent up aggression. I’m sure he’ll do the trick!
Maybe those bullies weren’t so bad in retrospect, huh?
I know that the book that this movie was adapted from, and a subsequent short story acting as an epilogue, deals with this issue in full. I’m just having some fun with the way that the movie portrays it. The movie takes out the entire subplot of Hakan being a pedophile who wants to have a sexual relationship with Eli. Downplaying this makes Eli’s relationship with Oskar seem innocent.
As always, thanks for reading!
What did you think of my rambling? Do you care? If so, why? Let me know in the comments what you think of Let the Right One In.
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)