25 October 2011

Let the Right One In (Book to Film Review)

(This review will contain a few spoilers for those who haven't read the book or viewed the film. I will denote these sections with an asterisk *).

Oh, dear. Movies. They can never quite adapt a book to the big screen just right. They always skimp on the important stuff.

Because this was the Swedish version, and I have enjoyed their films considerably, I was confident that combined with the book's story, it was going to be a fright night beyond compare. The long and short of it, though? It was good. Not great. Not knock your socks off fantastic. Nowhere near as gory as the book. It was just... decent.

A few weeks ago, I read Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and loved it. LOVED it. Read it in a couple days and looked over my shoulder every few minutes when I was alone and the house was quiet. When my dog and cat perked up at absolutely nothing in a corner, I was a wee bit nervous.

Here's the premise: A young girl is a vampire and lives with an older man who assists her blood diet by helping to kill people. She's about twelve-years-old (for a long time, of course) and befriends the next door neighbor, Oskar, who is always bullied. They develop the friendship that each of them sorely need and have been lacking their whole lives.

But the young girl is a vampire and she's brutal. She smells, she looks horrific when she kills, and innocent people do die when she needs to feed. No glitter and sparkle here.

To be clear, the book could occasionally approach troubling subjects in a a quieter and more thoughtful way. Bullies, feeling alone and isolated within your family, child abuse, murder, etc., etc. It didn't always deal with the vampire world, but the primary story was that Oskar's new friend led a horrible life and yet somehow she and Oksar had a lot in common.

We all know that the movie version of a book is never quite up to par, but sometimes, you just hold out hope that it will be. My hopes, however, were dashed and I was particularly upset with one aspect that only those who have read the book would know: *The older man the vampire lives with is a disgusting filthy abuser of children in the book, but in the movie, there is no mention of how horrible this person is. I struggled with accepting this difference and I do realize I should separate the two differing mediums as individual creative outlets of one story, but I was challenged in accepting this change in character. I could not look kindly upon this man, although I tried to separate it. Not to mention, this character goes through multiple scenes of gore and fright which are separate from this awful aspect that were completely horrifying, and for a film that was supposed to be classified as horror, it didn't tap into really any of these spine-tingling moments.

Oh, and the bullies? In the book, they were brutal but had a back story. In the film, they were less in brutality with no explanations so it's difficult to understand why a brother of one of the bullies shows up to deliver to Oskar what he feels is appropriate justice. It doesn't make sense. It's pretty clear in the book why he's there, but if you haven't read it, you have to create a reason for why he is there.

The film missed out on another valuable and enriching story with a boy named Tommy who also feels alone in his life, with his friends, and with family. His mother is dating a fairly annoying police officer who is investigating the crimes of horrific death that the vampire and the man she's living with are perpetrating. This storyline is significant to the conclusion, yet Tommy doesn't exist in the movie.

*And the scene when the cats attack Virginia? Oh, my goodness, the special effects were lacking.*

And here's the main thing. It's just a really, really quiet film. There's a lot of deep silence, meaningful looks at corners of a room, but the blood-curdling and truly frightening moments of the book are either wiped out in the film version, or they are included only to occasionally draw quiet reflection over...being a vampire. The true conflicts that the regular child and adult deal with are missed out on in the film It's just...quiet.

It was good, not great. Maybe I should rephrase and instead determine that, in my honest opinion, it was just all right.

For those who haven't read the book, you might like it, but don't expect a lot of stuff to happen. It's quiet. For those who have read the book, you probably won't like it.

This is my first selection for the RIP Challenge Peril of the Screen. You can read more RIP reviews from other participants by clicking here


  1. Love, love love the review! I remember reading your review of the book and thought it would be a great one for me to read...maybe almost too scary for me to read ~ this movie sounds like a tame one and something I could actually sit through! (I'm a big fraidy cat of horror movies! give me all the horror fiction there is but when it comes to the movies, I'm outta here!)

  2. A really thoughtful review. I adored the book and really really loved the film so fascinated to see a different perspective. If you are at all interested, my review is here http://brideofthescreengod.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/let-the-right-one-in/
    I have the US remake on DVD and am looking forward to comparing the two.
    Have you read any more Lindqvist?

  3. I would concur 100%. The movie was OK, as movies go, but did not even COME CLOSE to the book. I'm not really sure if anyone could have done that though. It is like my thoughts on the movie "Blindness"...I'm not sure anyone should have even tried. (Have you seen the US version Let Me In?) I haven't seen that one yet, but hold out no more hope.

  4. It sounds like the movie was a tad disappointing once you have experienced the wonderfulness of the book. I haven't read this one yet, but have been looking for something great to read for Halloween, and it's either going to be this one, or a zombie novel called Warm Bodies. This one actually sounds a little scarier, and plus, I could watch the movie when I am done! It would be interesting to see the movie and then come back and reread your review of it.

  5. I loved this movie ... and the book. I thought the Swedish version was a great adaptation of the book! It is very dark, and quiet, but much better than some of the other movies out there. I first watched the DUBBED version and it sucked ... very poor dubbing ... so, definitely watch the subtitled one. Really got me into John Lindqvist!