John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 debut novel Låt den rätte komma in came as a pleasant surprise. From a stand-up comedian of respectable but unremarkable standing, suddenly we had this excellent vampire novel set in a staid Stockholm suburb in 1982 — a time and a place I personally know quite well.
The novel is about adolescent friendship set against a thematic backdrop of forbidden thirst: the young vampire Eli craves blood, his paedophile handyman lusts for children, and the worn drunks upon whom they prey convene around their thirst for alcohol — and friendship. There are a few scenes of horror-flick grotesquerie (when were you last attacked by a brain-dead paedophile vampire zombie, Dear Reader?), but all in all it is a novel of great finesse.
Of this fine book has now come a similary fine film, directed by Thomas Alfredsson using a script by Lindqvist himself. The photography is top tier, unabashedly arty, the pacing slow, the set design understated but solidly period. The weight of the film rests squarely on the shoulders of two fine young actors, though I was confused to find that one of them has had her lines dubbed by a third actor. This is a vampire movie in the style of Kay Pollak, gory and beautiful and sad, another step in the inexorable mainstreaming and artification of genre culture. Look for it at your art house, not at a gorefest convention.
Those into Swedish pop music will be intrigued to hear a previously unknown Gyllene Tider song of unmistakable early 80s vintage played in the film. As I understand things, what we are actually hearing is a new track recorded by Per Gessle (of Roxette fame) in pitch-perfect imitation of his old band!