01/05/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
movie: Swedish with sub-titles now on general release. director: Thomas Alfredsson. Writer: John Lindqvist.
Cats do not like vampires and neither do I. This is a rather disturbing film with sinister undertones. Ostensibly a love story between two young people, it has a very dark side and the only one to gain from the entire experience is the vampire herself. What about the cats? Well, there are plenty of them running about in this movie!
This isn't a Hollywood type production. Don't expect dramatic music or flashy special effects. It is set in the early eighties within a humdrum housing estate somewhere in the Swedish winter. A rather bleak scene trapped by ice and snow, sombre individuals go about their daily lives unaware of the danger that enters their community. The whole atmosphere is entirely realistic which makes it all the more frightening.
Oskar is a 12 year-old boy living with his divorced mother in one of the flats. A lonely, isolated character, he doesn't seem to fit in with his classmates. Subjected to constant bullying by a group of boys, he keeps to himself and has a secret scrapbook of macabre newspaper cuttings. Then new neighbours come to the flat next door.
Arriving during darkness, a middle-aged man and a young girl enter the flat. We are immediately suspicious when the man blacks off one of the windows with cardboard. During the night, the man, who is called Häkan, makes an expedition to the park where he accosts an unfortunate individual by hanging him upside down, slashing his jugular to collect blood in a large plastic container. Unfortunately, he botches the job when the blood is spilt. He goes home empty-handed.
Oskar, alone and depressed at both the bullying and his family situation, encounters the girl outside the flats in the snow. Apart from the fact that she is lightly dressed for such cold temperatures, it's like any other meeting between adolescents. Eventually, Oskar and the vampire, by the name of Eli, become friends. She encourages him to fight back against the bully.
Meanwhile, Häkan continues to make a mess of collecting blood for his vampire, to whom he is devoted in a one-sided relationship. This forces her to go out on the town to seek her own victims but one of her bloodthirsty acts is witnessed by an elderly gentleman and the thirty or so cats he keeps in his flat. Häkan disposes of the evidence but some people in the neighbourhood are beginning to become suspicious.
Strangely, Oskar doesn't seem to be overly perturbed when he discovers Eli is a vampire. Although she appears to be only twelve, her real age is very much older and there is a dark manipulative side to her character. Spurred on by Eli, Oskar strikes the nasty bully on the ear with a large stick, an act which gives him peace for a while. Häkan makes another rìght mess of collecting blood and so as not to be recognised by the police, thus giving away the vampire's presence, he pours a strong acid over his face.
Incidentally, the title of the film refers to the fact that the vampire has to be invited to enter a house. Oskar discovers this for himself when Eli begins to disintegrate on not being properly invited. The two children now have a very close bond.
Eli has dispatched Häkan by climbing up to the hospital window to bite his jugular. Matters get uncomfortable for Eli. She attacks a woman on the estate but doesn't kill her. Subsequently, this woman begins to turn in to a vampire and is accosted by the thirty cats in the flat. Exposing herself to sunshine, she kills herself before being completely over-taken.
The woman's boyfriend puts two and two together and sets out to kill the vampire but she is rescued by Oskar. Later, when the bully returns with his evil brother intent on doing serious harm, Eli comes to Oskar's rescue. They both set out in the world together, alone and apparently happy.
The drama is clearly low-key but very realistic. This could be happening in your neighbourhood! At first glance, this may simply be a story of friendship and even love between Oskar and Eli but the reality is far more sinister. Many times the boy's age, she must be worldly wise and predatorial. A survivor who lives off the blood of humans, she also needs human assistance. With Häkan failing her requirements, she has selected a new carer. Eli will stay the same apparent age as Oskar grows older to become like the man he has replaced. Set in the eighties, presumably Oskar and Eli are still together. One day however he, too, will be replaced. How many like Oskar and Häkan has Eli used in the same way?
An excellent story, very well told in this movie, it is something quite different from the usual vampire offering and certainly one to recommend. I believe that an English re-make will be a reality in the near future but I doubt if it will be as good as the original.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA