The Other transcending oceans and borders is a concept that is commonly explored in fiction, working particularly well when engendered by the monsters of the horror genre. Though The Other exists in so many places, the way the anxieties and perceptions of them are presented in film can vary drastically from region to region. Take Germany’s Nosferatu, for instance, and 1931’s Dracula from the United States. Both films are loose adaptations of the same novel, but the Count is presented as an alien-like deformity in one, and a handsome, mesmerizing character in the other. Because of this, I wanted to travel across the world to Sweden through this week’s film to determine the ways in which presentations of The Other in Let the Right One In differ from what I’m used to in American vampire fiction. The film reflects the general attitudes held by the society in which it was produced and, with so much of its content being undeniably queer, this is especially true in regard to issues of gender and sexuality.
Let the Right One In tells the story of a 12-year old outcast named Oskar, who befriends a young vampire named Eli in Stockholm some time in the 1980s. Being a victim of relentless bullying, Oskar develops violent behavior in private and spends his time plotting his revenge until he meets Eli, who emboldens him to finally stand up for himself. The two become very close, even when Oskar discovers the truth about his new companion. Eli, who was born male, then castrated upon becoming a vampire 200 years prior, and now presents as more feminine, passing for a young girl. When Eli and Oskar first meet, Oskar assumes that Eli is female, clearly garnering feelings of admiration and attraction for them. Moments of vulnerability and transparency between the two establish their relationship as a profoundly intimate one, and in an incredibly touching scene where the two embrace, Eli asks if Oskar would still like them if they weren’t a girl, to which he answers, “I suppose so.” I always took this response from Oskar not as passive, but as indifference about Eli’s gender—he loves them anyway, even later in the film when Eli states that they do not identify as female. Eli also transitions from more classical masculine aspects to so-called feminine presentations based on the needs of the circumstance. For instance, when Eli shares tender moments with Oskar, their voice and body language would be deemed more nurturing and feminine (according to society’s standards). However, when Eli is angered or frustrated, they become aggressive and their tone is much deeper and more husky, qualities that are seen as traditionally masculine. All of these aspects as well as the relationship between Oskar and Eli grounds Let the Right One In as undeniably and very intentionally queer. The case in this film is unique in that it is not only our monster, our vampire, that is presented as The Other, but Oskar as well, even before he meets Eli.
Read More – Blood Lust: Illuminating Perspectives in Let the Right One In – Talk Film Society