Think the vampire has seen its twilight due to over and misuse? Read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In1. This creepy Swedish novel has made the undead scary again and inspired two film adaptations. We’ll be reviewing both of those in October. Today, we’re examining the novel—and providing a preview of this year’s Halloween Reviews.

1. Låt den rätte komma in, Let Me In

Title: Let the Right One In
Original title: Låt den rätte komma in
Some English translations: Let Me In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
ISBN: 0312656491, 0312355297
First published: 2004.

Available from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Premise:

A morbid, bullied boy, a psychologically tortured pedophile, and numerous other characters in 1980s Blackeberg (a suburb of Stockholm) have their lives changed by Eli, who has been twelve years old for a very long time.

High Point:

Eli occupies several spaces, between living and dead, 12-year-old and ancient, friend and manipulator, lost girl and cold-blooded killer– and others, which I will not spoil. She can be strong and stealthy, dropping onto her prey like a cat, or weakened and socially inept (she frequently neglects ordinary hygiene, with results that Oskar finds “kind of gross”). Lindqvist handles the characterization and contradictions brilliantly. Eli joins Stoker’s Dracula and Rice’s Louis in the ranks of the best undead characters in prose fiction.

Low Points:

Let the Right One In must play a delicate game, balancing the horrific and the everyday. At times, events threaten to unbalance the reality the opening chapters work so hard to establish. As we approach the conclusion, the schoolyard cruelty becomes excessive, and the real-world effects of Eli’s presence become more public.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 The novel provides a comparatively fresh take on a vampire, but it’s not as though Lindqvist recreates either the vampire or the horror novel from the ground up. Part of the appeal is how well he uses many conventional ideas about the undead.

His concept of the vampire’s brain provides an interesting explanation for some contradictions inherent in the lore, and for the vampire/revenant connection explored in some other vampire literature.

Imagery: 6/6

Story: 5/6. The approach recalls Stephen King: we experience events through the lives of several characters—ordinary as well as extraordinarily vile folks. Various plot threads converge around the disturbingly plausible relationship that develops between Oskar and Eli. Lindqvist avoids some of the excesses to which King can be prone. His version of the world feels very real.

I found the pacing dragged, just slightly, in the final third, and note that the movie makes many of its cuts in exactly this area.

Characterization: 6/6. Lindqvist crafts credible characters, and seems most comfortable describing psychologically crippled individuals. The rest I have discussed under “High Points.”

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Editing: 5/6. I mentioned some minor issues with the conclusion. As for the style, I am reviewing a translation, and cannot adequately comment on the craft of the original author. I’m told by the one Swedish-language reader I know that he writes very well.

Overall score: 5/6

In total, Let the Right One In receives 36/42

Halloween Reviews 2010

We start off with Rob Zombie’s remake of a classic we reviewed a few years back. Blaine will then attempt to restore some balance with a look at wholesome Halloween fare from the 1980s:

October 2: Halloween (2007- Reviewed by JD)
October 3: Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985- Reviewed by Blaine)

With the resurrection of Hammer Studios and the American adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel, we’ll be taking a look at both cinematic takes on Eli and Oskar/ Abby and Owen.

October 9: Let The Right One In (2008 – Reviewed by JD)
October 10: Let Me In (2010 – Reviewed by JD)

Next, Blaine takes a look at some comparatively recent independent horror films:

October 16: They Wait (2007- Reviewed by Blaine)
October 17: Subhuman aka Shelf Life (2004—Reviewed by Blaine)

Last year we looked at the birth of Hammer Horror; in the year it returns from the grave, I’ll be examining two of the more noteworthy films from its original dying days:

October 23: Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973—Reviewed by JD)
October 24: The Vampire Lovers (1970—Reviewed by JD)

Another attempt to forge a fearful balance, with Fiz looking at a Disney classic, and Alex celebrating the big day with one of the most notorious and celebrated horror movies of all time:

October 30: The Black Cauldron (1985—Reviewed by Blaine)
October 31: The Exorcist (1973—Reviewed by Alex)