* I contend that there has been a vampire film released every year since 1919, and whilst I contend this with no proof, I contend it with the same certainty that I could run a marathon. Its plain to me that vampires are an all pervading myth and one particularly suitable to cinematic representation. The special powers are pretty easy to represent (a bit of gas, a flip cut to a bat), and since the main power is charisma, its the monster vain stars most like to play. Look at Tom Cruise!

So with such a commonly represented fiend as the vampire clogging up our screens at least annually if not more, the challenge comes to make them interesting. Its a challenge often dropped, looking at endless rehashes of Dracula. And post Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s comprehensive deconstruction of all that is vampire, where is there to go? Well perhaps back to the well, back to the source. And I don’t mean Dracula, but rather folk tales about the others who move in and are a bit weird. Which brings us to Let The Right One In, a Swedish vampire film which is both thoroughly traditional and yet novel enough to be revitalising for the genre*. Because what has been lost in the gradual but absolute monsterfication of the vampire is that at its heart a vampire is seductive BECAUSE we want to be one. It is the great paradox at the heart of Buffy as soon as any the vampires were given any personality or agency. If vampires can choose to be evil, then they can choose to be good, and therefore a vampire is just a superpowered human with a dodgy diet.

Let The Right One In has all of its vampire signifiers down. Mysterious deaths, strangers in town and a overall gothic air which sits somewhat at odds with the nasty seventies architecture and snow. These vampires are cautious though, as we would imagined a persecuted minority to be, a father and daughter team taking their kills carefully (father draining victims for his daughter). This runs concurrently with the miserable childhood of Oskar, bullied at school, ignored at home, flirting with his own dramatic fightback to beat his bullies. And so disturbed murderous kid meets vampire kid and its love at pretty much first sight. He works out pretty quickly she is a vampire, but isn’t fazed. She is almost scared by his infatuation, she does not kill because she wants to, but she has to.

What Let The Right One In manages better than any other vampire film of the last twenty years is its atmosphere. It is, in itself, seductive. This is an ugly place full of pretty ugly people and you can see how in other circumstances this kid is on his way to a school shooting. Or will get over it, leave the town and never go back again. What this town doesn’t need is a vampire going around killing people, but it already feels pretty damned. All it has it pretty snowdrifts for this kid, and I kniow snowdrifts are less fun when you have to play in them every day. Its the modern day vampire story done right (at least Dracula AD 1972 is itself a period piece now). These are the kinds of cold, hopeless towns that vampires would haunt, who misses the marginalia. Which is also the message of its ending too, a curiously happy ending until you consider its actual meaning.

*You may have noticed I like to illustrate film pieces with foreign posters for the film. In France the film is called Morse. Less crosswords but about the same number of murders. It is a name that makes in some ways more sense than Let The Right One In, which nevertheless sounds spookier and is a Smiths reference, so therefore artier as well.

**If revitalising the genre means an American remake which will probably miss the core fo the film. This is not Twilight!