‘Let the Right One In’ is a 2008 horror movie directed by Thomas Alfredson. The movie features a 12-year-old boy who develops a romantic relationship with a child vampire in his Blackeberg neighborhood. The film is adapted from the 2004 novel Let the Right One in written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who was also involved in the development of the film’s screenplay.
Oskar, the main character in the movie, seems unable to shake off bullies, but everything changes when he encounters the 12-year-old vampire girl who moved into his neighborhood. They start off their friendship with an innocent conversation, and before the boy realizes that the girl is a vampire, he was deeply in love with her.
Despite the danger of being around a friend who is responsible for many deaths happening in his neighborhood, the boy lets friendship take precedence over any fear. However, the film has a way of flipping the audience’s expectations through psychological manipulation. This is a recurring theme in the movie, and it is used to engage with the audience.
Oscar and Eli meet for the first time near a jungle gym. Eli finds Oscar stabbing a tree with a knife and asks him what he was doing. He replies, saying that he was doing nothing. After a while, Eli tells Oskar that she cannot be his friend. Oskar later replies by asking Eli what made her think that he’d even want to be her friend. This suggests to the audience that the two characters have very little interest in becoming friends. However, friendship was the intended end goal for both of them.
In their second encounter, Eli meets Oskar playing with a Rubik cube and shrewdly asks him what the cube was. Shocked by her ignorance, Oskar still ends up explaining what the cube was and how it worked. But the next morning, when Oskar goes to the jungle gym, he is surprised to find the Rubik cube solved. In both instances, Eli is portrayed to have psychological subterfuge. Both Oskar and the audience expected Eli not to solve the cube. However, this expectation is flipped through Eli’s psychological ploy.
Another reversal is shown in the character Hanken. He is Eli’s human caretaker, and his responsibility is to feed her. This paternal image and relationship are created in the minds of the audience in the early stages of the movie. However, as it progresses, the audience is made to believe that Hankan could be a pedophile.
It later emerges that Eli’s main intention of befriending Oskar was to find a replacement for Hankan due to his incompetence in his role as a caretaker. In this instance, the film suggests that the previous relationship between Hankan and Eli was romantic, but appearances in this film are always deceiving.
The theme of psychological manipulation and flipping the audience’s expectations are repeated severally in the film. Eli is shown to have an influence over Oskar, which can be described to be a mirror to the film’s control over its audience. Eli is also portrayed to have control over Oskar’s self-image. The audience’s expectation was to see a romantic relationship between Eli and Oskar. Instead, Eli turns Oskar from a victim to a victimizer. Oskar, the once bullied 12-year-old boy, transforms into a killer.