Let the Right One In
(Låt den rätte komma in)
By John Ajvide Lindqvist
It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….
*This title contains scenes of violence and sexual content that may be unsettling.
I love that moment when you can put a title down after completion and just stare at it in pure astonishment. I found myself doing just this with Let the Right One In for a multitude of reasons which I will now try to condense into something coherent.
I am going to be very forthright in the fact that there was absolutely nothing about this novel that I found myself lacking appreciation for. I mean nothing. So if you are seeking a critique or true dissection of the work, probably fair to look elsewhere. Here you are going to find only an attempt to summarize the mountainous pile of elements that worked so well for me within the pages.
“To flee is life. To linger, death.”
This was a very slow burn sort of read, but in the completely acceptable and most valuable sort of way. Every thing from the pace or narration to the world building worked in perfect correlation to achieve an unsettling atmosphere that fueled this dark book. It is rather difficult to fairly acknowledge all that the author has accomplished here. The fluid stream of tension and dread create a highly mood driven and otherworldly experience that I find myself struggling to convey. I soon discovered this was a very difficult title to put down. It was many things, but if I had to narrow my description down to a few words, inviting and unrelenting would be accurate.
The characterization that occurs within Let the Right One In is among some of the finest I have encountered. Eli, Oskar and Håkan (among others) expose us to a variety of heavy emotions and spare no expense. Some are discovered to be very relatable while others are more horrific and difficult to read at the best of times. The narration triumphantly navigates through a rather large ensemble of unique individuals. Perhaps of greatest note is the fact that I never found myself longing to return to a specific character or portion of the story. Each encounter was of great contribution and interest. I was always content exactly where I was. While Oskar would be our protagonist, each claimed their own earned spotlight so it almost seems unfair to even use the word.
The plot itself is disturbing yet completely engaging, pulling you into a complex and beautiful web of revelation and personal experience. Since I truly believe that these revelations are key to the book’s success, I am actually going to refrain from a recap.
I have to applaud the author’s brazen decision to approach this story-line in an explicit and graphic manner as it was highly rewarding in the long run. Again, this will not be a fitting read for everyone. Which I mention “graphic” I am not using the word lightly. The author has chosen to sacrifice no detail.
This isn’t a simply story of a vampire but also of adolescence and life. We are exposed to humanity not only from the side of innocence and youth, but through the eyes of that which we fear. And being forced to acknowledge the existence of both is not always an easy pill to swallow. It challenges us and takes us to an uncomfortable depth that threatens a small amount of understanding or acceptance. That is what Let the Right One In does. It forces us to see each character for all they truly are and represent. It delivers us from the blissful ignorance and questioning of youth deep into the unnerving side of a polar opposite.
The fruit of Lindqvist’s labor results in an unapologetic experience that actually defines fear on a very human and uneasy level. This is a haunting and alluring read that dares to take the reader further into the dark reaches of paranormal from an entirely unique perspective. It feels wrong to say that I love this title the way I do, yet I simply do. Tackling a combination of raw reality and the unthinkable what if, this was a heavy read that I highly recommend to all who are comfortable with unsettling content.
Thoughts On the Film
For this brisk comparison I watched the 2008 film adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist and directed by Tomas Alfredson. The cast included Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragnar. I stuck with subtitles as always. I am not a fan of dubbed films (plus partially deaf so 😉 ).
For those of you who may have missed my original post of the trailer:
While it seems that a lot of the graphic scenes and more explicit content were omitted when transferring the story to film, it was a decision that was probably necessary. There are somethings that are just not as digestible when handed to you in image. There is a strong difference between reading and viewing certain topics and somethings are just not acceptable on film.
There were however, a few minor disappointments with the film adaptation. Here are my biggest complaints:
- The experience was too condensed. I felt another 30 to 60 minutes of footage would have been more effective.
- Details that contributed to the complexity of each character were lost due to the lack of dialog. I felt that the addition of extra dialog could have replaced details that were lost due not receiving the narration that is provided in the book. Although I am torn on this matter because the lack of dialog contributes to the atmosphere.
- There was simply not enough focus on the relationship established between Oskar and Eli. This is my biggest complaint and falls back to being too condensed. Time to elaborate on this would have been of great benefit.
- Håkan’s role was completely downplayed . Admittedly, I believe this is due mainly in large to the fact that some of his identity was sacrificed to keep the film from becoming overly graphic.
I think too often we find that it is just impossible to fit an entire book into one film. There are always omissions and alterations to accommodate the big screen. The question is, was the end result effective? For me yes and a small no. A beautiful movie, but one of the rare occasions where I felt I might have enjoyed it more had I chosen to watch it first and then allow the book to fill the missing pieces. I do not normally recommend watching before reading, but in the case of Let the Right One In I feel it certainly could not hurt.