Monday, October 18, 2010

From Book to Film: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
St. Martin's Griffin, 2008 (English translated version)
Horror; 480 pgs

I like horror novels now and then. I prefer the psychological variety to the blood and gore type novels. I confess to finding the gory ones a bit ridiculous and so find more humor in them than a sense of fear.

Most of the novels I read that involve vampires don't really count as horror. I suppose some of the dark urban fantasy novels I read could fall into that category to some degree. When I first began reading Let the Right One In, I wasn't really sure what I was in for. It has that definite suspense/thriller feel to it. There's a mystery too. The horror of the novel crept up on me and by the end, there was no question what type of book Lindqvist has written.

Usually I have no problem keeping characters straight, but I was a tad confused at first with the way the novel jumps around, especially at the beginning. I'm still not sure I figured out who everyone was, but that didn't hurt my enjoyment of the novel.

Oskar is a 13 year old boy living in the suburb of Blackeberg. He has a fascination murderers, often dreaming of being a killer himself. It's no wonder really, given he's the victim of bullies at school who wants nothing more than to hurt those who hurt him. Oskar has no friends and leads a lonely existence. Until, that is, he meets Eli, his twelve year old neighbor who seems just as much an outcast as he is. Eli is not your typical 12 year old. There is something odd about Eli, which Oskar senses right away, and yet he can't put his finger on it.

The town they live in is in high alert because of the recent death of a boy in a neighboring suburb. It appears to be the work of a serial killer, and when another body, this time of an older man, the police are sure they are right. Other strange things begin to occur as well, raising suspicion and adding confusion. Only a couple begin to wonder if they have a vampire in their midst. After all, vampires aren't real, are they?

Let the Right One In is very dark and not for the faint of heart. It isn't the violence, although it can be violent at times, which makes it so. The pedophilia will turn just about anyone's stomach. It isn't glamorized and it certainly has its part in the story--but, well, it's impossible not to feel disgusted by it all the same. There is also a scene involving cats which isn't at all pretty. I skimmed over that part quickly, something I don't often do, but it was just too disturbing for my sensibilities.

The novel was never without suspense and there was always that underlying creepiness. I liked the first half of the novel more than I did the second but thought it was good overall. I think that had a lot to do with a shift in focus--the novel being more suspense/thriller in the first half and becoming more definitely horror in the second half.

After reading the book, I wasn't so sure I wanted to see the movie after all. But I couldn't resist. And I probably should have. The movie was okay. Set in Sweden, the landscape was breathtaking--all that snow--just how I pictured it as I read the book. The book is on the long side and the movie, just under 2 hours long, wasn't nearly enough time to cover everything in the novel, which was to be expected. And I wasn't too surprised that some of the themes running through the book were completely left out of the film. Those types of things don't generally bother me. I can easily enjoy movies and books in their separate mediums, even while making comparisons.

I did find the movie lacking though. It didn't hold the same suspense I felt while reading the book or that constant feeling of creepiness. I do have to give credit though to the fact that the relationship between Oskar and Eli was very well played--two lonely souls coming together in friendship. The movie really brought home the bond the two had formed.

I am not sure I will be watching the American version (I saw an ad for it the other day). I think the running title is Let Me In. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Let the Right One In, if you ask me. And, well, I'm not a big horror movie fan.

Let the Right One In
Drama, Thriller/Horror, Mystery - 2008 (Norway) (rated R)
Directed by Tomas Aldredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Source: Book provided by the LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program. Movie rented through Netflix by myself.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I bought the book when it was first released, and like any other new books I just chucked it into my TBR pile, lol. I've read a lot of good reviews on this though so I need to get to it. ;)

  2. This novel has been recommended to me by a few people who like top notch horror. Your review has reminded me of how much I want to read it. Like you, I often find horror to be laughable, but a well-written horror can stay with you for a long time (and then the lights get left on at night).

  3. I am finding that I really like psychological horror novels, and the fact that this story can be first read, and then watched really entices me to pick up this book. I am not sure about the pedophilia and the cat nastiness, though, so I am going to have to give it a little more thought. Thanks for the great review on this book and movie!

  4. I'm currently reading this for the R.I.P. V challenge and enjoying it. I feel for Oskar. I wouldn't know what to do but live in fear every day if I'm Oskar's position.

  5. I agree with you about horror books with scenes of gore, they are often silly and ridiculous. It irritates me when interesting, good thrillers are somewhat side-lined by over-blown gory scenes, too. But I love well-written psychological horror stories. I've never heard of this book but I don't think it's for me. Pedophilia turns my stomach as does animal abuse. Since there are scenes with both in this book, I'll pass. I'm a wimp!

    I'm glad you liked the book overall. If you hadn't watched the movie you probably would have wondered about it. It's disappointing when the movie pales so much in comparison to the book.

    ~ Amy

  6. I've really been wanting to do the book/movie thing with this one, but just haven't found the time. Why do they always have to mess with the cats??? That always causes me as much trouble as anything. Her Fearful Symmetry gave me bad dreams for days. I intend to get to these at some point. The American version did get pretty good reviews.

  7. I've been curious about this one for a while (book and movie alike, though I want to read it first), but now I'm worried about the cats scene... :S

  8. I could probably handle reading this book, but there's no way I could watch the movie!

  9. I've heard good things about this novel, although with the same caveats that you mention. Have also read that the original film version is top-notch even in translation. I'm not sure I could bear the film and have even wondered if I could read the book. Your review makes me want to give it a try. Thanks, Wendy.

  10. I was neither here nor there about the movie, but I liked that Eli wasn't presented as glamorous and sexy.

  11. I haven't read the book, I watched about half of Let the Right One In, but I LOVED Let Me In. I feel bad about that a I needed it to be Americanized for me. but I also like both of the actors in the movie, the director, and the guy who did the score.

  12. I had to return this book to the library unread...makes me sad. I'm definitely interested in reading and not seeing the movie. I don't mind thrillers/scary books but it changes when they bring it to life on the big screen. Then I get really scared!!

  13. I really want to read the book and see the movie (the Swedish version). I love a good creepy story!

  14. I made the mistake of seeing the movie (the Swedish version) first! Not because I didn't like the movie - on the contrary, I really enjoyed it, so much so that every time I open the book now to read, all I can remember is the movie! I broke my cardinal rule of reading the book first, then seeing the movie. I'm still trying to convince myself that the book will be better than the movie, but there was something very sad and lonely about the characters, and the chill of the vampires, and the friendship, that really impressed up on me visually in how it was filmed by the Swedish director.

    On a side note, I really want to read his Zombie book but I can't find it here yet. I like horror novels so long as they aren't slasher books (or movies) which I think are a waste of time. I did really enjoy your review too!

  15. I had no idea the movie was based on a glad I read your review. it interests me enough to try and find a copy to read, before seeing the movie.

  16. I think when I am in the right mood I would enjoy this one although enjoy seems like the wrong word!

  17. Thank you all for your great comments! I loaned me copy to a coworker and she's slowly making her way through it--it went so fast for me that I was beginning to wonder what was taking her so long. LOL She keeps leaving it behind at the office.


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.