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The Dark Truth Behind The “Let the Right One In” Ending

 

Caution: Major Spoilers for Let the Right One In ahead!

 

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Eli: sweet vampire girl or evil monster?

 

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.

 

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He’s trapped.

 

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?

 

The Post-Script

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)

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19 thoughts on “The Dark Truth Behind The “Let the Right One In” Ending”

  1. It’s been two years so you know by now that Eli turns Oskar into a vampire in the novella that follows. The friendship and budding romance between the two boys continues on in undeath….

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  2. This is something I’ve enjoyed thinking about too. I love the movie, and I’ve also read the book a few times, it’s quite good as well.

    It’s easy to assume that maybe Eli was just prepping Oskar to be her next servant, but I don’t think that’s the case. When Eli finds Harlan, he’s already a grown man. While we aren’t told how old he is, it’s safe to assume he’s probably middle aged based on his mannerisms.

    Compare that with Oskar, who is only a child. Clearly he’s less suited to getting blood for her than Hakan is. The book also notes that Eli starts to act more childish when she starts hanging out with Oskar, something that Hakan notices. It seems to me that Oskar allows Eli to, in a way, enjoy the childhood she was cheated out of, and because of that she probably does have strong affection for him.

    Of course Oskar will likely wind up with a task similar to Hakan’s anyways, even if he wasn’t selected for that reason.

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  3. Not sure if you’ll ever see this at this point, but I have one observation:

    In the beginning, when we see Hakan make the first kill of the movie, he says to the person he’s killing about the chemical that will knock him out…”You’ll be the first to find out.” To me that meant he will be the first victim of at least Hakan trying out this method.

    Also, it seemed to me like throughout Hakan’s appearances in the movie, he wasn’t very good at killing people for Eli. There wasn’t any scene where Hakan was successful. He was clumsy and just bad at it. Even disposing the body for Eli, he eventually failed at.

    All of that to me seems like he was not someone who fell in love with her when he (Hakan) was 12. Even the scene where he returns home empty handed, and Eli is mad at him, she says “you promised you would help me!” That doesn’t seem like a line she would say to someone who has been helping her for years and years.

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  4. I just saw the movie and I pegged her as a gold digger when events after ‘dads’ death unfolded. As soon as I saw the photo I figured the wimpy boy would become the next “sub”.

    Your article makes perfect sense.

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  5. First: both the book and the movie are clear about Eli having been a mortal boy, not a mortal girl. Whether Eli can any longer be classified as either boy or girl is an interesting question, but not a particularly pertinent one. What Eli is now, pertinently, is a being who must live on the blood of living, mortal humans.

    I was very sorry that the film left out the way in which Hakan and Eli met, because it was pretty explicitly a meeting of predators; and I had the sense in the book that Eli chose Hakan precisely *because* he was a predator. That is: if Eli must enslave someone to do the terrible work of keeping Eli alive,Eli would prefer to enslave someone who is already deeply compromised in the way of criminal appetites and obsessions — in the way of using superior strength to force others to do his will.

    Both book and movie also made it deeply, achingly clear how much Eli is horrified by the need to kill human beings in order to survive. There is no indication of anything at all psychopathic about the boy that Eli was when he was still a mortal boy. What happened to that boy, so far as we know, fell upon him through no guilt of his own.

    Of course, one could choose to say to Eli, “Why don’t you do what Virginia did — allow yourself to die in flames in the sunlight — rather than going on being the cause of misery and death to so many mortal people? Why have you NEVER done that?”

    And the answer to that is not explicit in either book or movie. The story I’ve supplied for myself is this: When Eli was abused, raped, and infected by the vampiric local nobleman, the boy was only about twelve years old. That’s a little young for me to lay the heavy requirement of choosing death over survival upon the child, even survival at the terrible cost of other people’s lives. And then … the years go by, and the decades — the generations, blooming and fading.

    The centuries go by.

    And here’s another reason to forgive Eli his going on, his not selflessly destroying himself: Eli is no longer a mortal human. It is as though that nobleman had turned a sheep into a wolf — a wolf that can live only on a diet of sheep.

    And we mortals, ourselves, are a species that has to a very high degree learned to turn off its guilt over harming other living creatures. The majority of us live on the miseries and deaths of other sentient beings every day, practically every meal, of our lives — and it has to be said that most of us show *much* less remorse over that arrangement than Eli does over his.

    Eli’s “choosing” Oskar is a complex process … one of the most interesting aspects of this darkly fascinating parable. At first Eli warns Oskar off — because Oskar is a child, and Eli would rather not involve a child? Because Eli already has Hakan, and any other relationships would be unnecessary messes and endangerments?

    But when Eli finally does choose Oskar, it seems to be for various reasons braided together: because he can be of use to Oskar, both as a protector and as a teacher; because Oskar is already a predator of a worse sort than Eli has ever been, *lusting* to commit violence and not merely *needing* to; because Eli has, very possibly, had not one real friend since the day he died to moral life, because Eli’s compassion for and identification with Oskar seem, at long last, like an invitation to a sort of human connection that Eli had thought lost to him forever.

    For me, the most telling moments of the whole story all stack up around, not Oskar getting more gleeful about death and violence, but getting more truly aware and more truly horrified by such things. He is not gleeful when Eli kills his bullies for him, but clearly in shock. He is horrified by the necessary murder of Lacke, throwing away his own knife in utter rejection. And (the deepest and most powerful passage of the film for me), there’s the moment when Eli draws him into deeply intimate connection, confronting him with his own thirst for violence and Eli’s own horror of it, saying, Experience, for a moment, *my* experience.

    The ending is only happy in some aspects, and certainly not in all. We can presume that innocent people will continue to be slaughtered to keep Eli alive — Oskar, too, if indeed he is inducted into vampirism. But paradoxically, Oskar in becoming intimate with Eli has become more exposed to and possibly vulnerable to deep compassion and remorse; and two lonely beings that many of us in the audience have come to care for have found, each of them, a friend.

    There are many worse endings than that.

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  6. First: both the book and the movie are clear about Eli having been a mortal boy, not a mortal girl. Whether Eli can any longer be classified as either boy or girl is an interesting question, but not a particularly pertinent one. What Eli is now, pertinently, is a being who must live on the blood of living, mortal humans.

    I was very sorry that the film left out the way in which Hakan and Eli met, because it was pretty explicitly a meeting of predators; and I had the sense in the book that Eli chose Hakan precisely *because* he was a predator. That is: if Eli must enslave someone to do the terrible work of keeping Eli alive,Eli would prefer to enslave someone who is already deeply compromised in the way of criminal appetites and obsessions — in the way of using superior strength to force others to do his will.

    Both book and movie also made it deeply, achingly clear how much Eli is horrified by the need to kill human beings in order to survive. There is no indication of anything at all psychopathic about the boy that Eli was when he was still a mortal boy. What happened to that boy, so far as we know, fell upon him through no guilt of his own.

    Of course, one could choose to say to Eli, “Why don’t you do what Virginia did — allow yourself to die in flames in the sunlight — rather than going on being the cause of misery and death to so many mortal people? Why have you NEVER done that?”

    And the answer to that is not explicit in either book or movie. The story I’ve supplied for myself is this: When Eli was abused, raped, and infected by the vampiric local nobleman, the boy was only about twelve years old. That’s a little young for me to lay the heavy requirement of choosing death over survival upon the child, even survival at the terrible cost of other people’s lives. And then … the years go by, and the decades — the generations, blooming and fading.

    The centuries go by.

    And here’s another reason to forgive Eli his going on, his not selflessly destroying himself: Eli is no longer a mortal human. It is as though that nobleman had turned a sheep into a wolf — a wolf that can live only on a diet of sheep.

    And we mortals, ourselves, are a species that has to a very high degree learned to turn off its guilt over harming other living creatures. The majority of us live on the miseries and deaths of other sentient beings every day, practically every meal, of our lives — and it has to be said that most of us show *much* less remorse over that arrangement than Eli does over his.

    Eli’s “choosing” Oskar is a complex process … one of the most interesting aspects of this darkly fascinating parable. At first Eli warns Oskar off — because Oskar is a child, and Eli would rather not involve a child? Because Eli already has Hakan, and any other relationships would be unnecessary messes and endangerments?

    But when Eli finally does choose Oskar, it seems to be for various reasons braided together: because he can be of use to Oskar, both as a protector and as a teacher; because Oskar is already a predator of a worse sort than Eli has ever been, *lusting* to commit violence and not merely *needing* to; because Eli has, very possibly, had not one real friend since the day he died to moral life, because Eli’s compassion for and identification with Oskar seem, at long last, like an invitation to a sort of human connection that Eli had thought lost to him forever.

    For me, the most telling moments of the whole story all stack up around, not Oskar getting more gleeful about death and violence, but getting more truly aware and more truly horrified by such things. He is not gleeful when Eli kills his bullies for him, but clearly in shock. He is horrified by the necessary murder of Lacke, throwing away his own knife in utter rejection. And (the deepest and most powerful passage of the film for me), there’s the moment when Eli draws him into deeply intimate connection, confronting him with his own thirst for violence and Eli’s own horror of it, saying, Experience, for a moment, *my* experience.

    The ending is only happy in some aspects, and certainly not in all. We can presume that innocent people will continue to be slaughtered to keep Eli alive — Oskar, too, if indeed he is inducted into vampirism. But paradoxically, Oskar in becoming intimate with Eli has become more exposed to and possibly vulnerable to deep compassion and remorse; and two lonely beings that many of us in the audience have come to care for have found, each of them, a friend.

    There are many worse endings than that.

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  7. It’s a happy ending… Read the books, Let the right one in and it’s sequel Let the old dreams die. After getting off from train. Oscar asks her to turn him into vampire. They both cut hands and mix their blood.

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  8. In the book Eli is actually a castrated boy.. ( she says so after getting in bed with him).
    As for Oacar being fated to a slave life as a bag man? He doesn’t know that will or may be his fate. I’m sure he just sees Eli as his savior. In his mind he got the “girl.” Where they are going is anyone’s guess. It’s obvious his home life sux, his Dad is an alcoholic, possible homosexual. His Mother is clueless at best to the bullying. So maybe the next 50 years of his life with Eli may be an improvement.

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  9. Hakan didn’t even die. He clearly moves after he hits the ground, confirming that Eli didn’t suck him dry and he is now a vampire.

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  10. That scene in all it’s completely is what the movie was about. What did you want a Hollywood happily ever after ending? You must be American- that’s why we in the rest of the world don’t like American movies. The rest of the world loves a movie that in the last moment of the last scene terns the whole movie upside down and sends it in a direction that’s uncomfortable, that you really didn’t want to go, welcome to Scandinavian noire

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    1. You’re welcome of course to your opinion, but facts are facts. Here are some facts.

      The rest of the world not only loves American movies and spends more money at the boxoffice on American movies than Americans do at home, it also owes a great debt of gratitude to America for the viability of film as an art form. You might read, for example, “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” to get a more accurate sense of what the rest of the world thinks of American films.

      The rest of the world doesn’t necessarily love any one type of ending, and especially not last moments/last scenes/turning things upside down and all that. For example, untold thousands of movies have been made in India for one of the largest film markets in the world, and those Bollywood movies have more tendency toward happy endings than Hollywood movies. Happy endings are not a uniformly despised construct. I don’t know why you’d want to imply that they are or should be, but that’s what you did.

      Finally, and to prove that at least this American does understand irony, the term “film noire” was first coined by French critics in the Forties to describe Hollywood films like The Maltese Falcon and Murder My Sweet that were distinctive at that time for, among other qualities, their dark endings.

      Also you could be a lot nicer.

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  11. Seriously..?? That’s what you interpreted..??
    There was another woman in this film who got bit by Elizabeth. And this time, Eli didn’t complete her job, leaving the victim alive, and at that point the victim herself turned into a vampire with the same bloodlust.. and since it is a well known fact by now that vampires don’t age, I think that the ending of the film is happy indeed.. Twistedhappy, but still happy.. 🙂
    All eEli has to do is to bite Oskar just enough to let him survive, and bam, Oskar’s an ageless vampire himself.. In fact, I would praise the writer for creating Oskar as one with both innocence and a certain sense of maturity to handle Eli.
    Rest all said and done, this really was a great movie. 🙂

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  12. I read her intimacy with Oskar after Hakan’s death as a need to be vulnerable to someone. I don’t think she was feeling guilty, per se, but weary. There were a few hints in the film that she didn’t enjoy murder and maybe even disliked it, not the least of which telling Oskar that she did it out of necessity. I think the true guilt was long past but, especially with someone who was as vulnerable to her as Hakan, I think it did affect her and she needed some form of consolation. Of course, that’s just my interpretation.

    Keep in mind that due to Hakan’s role in her life, she very likely hadn’t killed someone herself in a while, possibly even quite some time.

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  13. Alex, you cynic! But in all seriousness, I definitely got vibes that the ending wasn’t as conventionally happy as most other films on first viewing, but totally missed any sort of pedophilic themes lurking below with Hakan. Pretty mind-blowing. I’ve been meaning to revisit this one since I watched it a few years back and now I’ll have something in particular to look for!

    Liked by 1 person

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