Every once in a while your Favorite Catgirl likes to leave the ghosts and ninjas, alien cyborgs, and Thai kickboxing behind and watch something just a wee bit different. So what could be more different than a Swedish Vampire film about an alienated young boy and his blossoming first love and romance with a shy young vampire girl?
Our synopsis for it reads: “A fragile, anxious boy, 12-year-old Oskar is regularly bullied by his stronger classmates but never strikes back. The lonely boy’s wish for a friend seems to comes true when he meets Eli, also 12, who moves in next door to him. But Eli’s arrival coincides with a series of gruesome deaths and attacks. Though Oskar eventually realizes that she’s actually a vampire, his friendship with her is stronger than his fear…“
Ah… young love…. creepy, bloody, horrific young love. Sounds like a winner here, and luckily the Region 1 release for it is just out this month from the good folks at Magnolia released under their Magnet DVD line. There was some recent controversy on the web regarding the accuracy of the English subtitles used, but trust me, the flap was mostly over nothing….
So is it worth a look see? Well…. Neko certainly thinks so, but you all better “Read On” to find out why….
This one seemed like a good choice for me…. I’m making quite the effort these days to find films that have both English subtitles to go with the original language track and the option of a nice English audio dub. Movie nights have blossomed into cozy threesomes on some evenings when Carolyn can be persuaded to join Goober and me on the ol’ couch for some snacks and a couple of flix….. One small problem….. Although she loves this goofy Catgirl, Carolyn usually finds my tastes in foreign films to be well…. just a bit hard for her to take and the subtitles are definitely a real turn off for her. So, just for my sweetie, it’s light comedies, action films, and of course romance movies with an English dub for those nights. This one seemed to fit the bill nicely thank you very much…..
This is one I missed when the Swedish release was making itself available in those genre DVD places where such gems can be snagged here in the States, but now that Magnet’s version is out, I wasted no time in correcting that oversight. It turns out I had been missing a real treat.
The film starts as it ends, in the swirling snow of a Swedish winter night…. and is gorgeously filmed by director Tomas Alfredson as a deliciously surreal story about the pain of a boy forced to live the life of an outsider by all those who fail to see his suffering and the extremes to which merely enduring it is inexorably driving him. Oskar (played by Kare Hedebrant) is a troubled boy…. he carries a knife with him constantly, and worse yet, fantasizes of actually using it to silence his tormentors once and for all…. His scrapbook is full of newspaper reports of murders and pictures of knives and it tells this Catgirl he’s just a few years shy of becoming the sort of unfortunate spree killers you hear about in the news almost everyday. But for now… he’s just a shy boy too afraid to act, and you feel for him, hoping something will change to save him from this fate. Then it does….
A strange new girl, Eli (played by Lina Leandersson), moves in to the apartment next door with a grim creepy older guy named Hakan (Per Ragnar)…. The two of them run into each other in the apartment building’s deserted playground and even though they resist it, each for their own hidden reasons, they find themselves drawn to each other as mutual outsiders and kindred spirits. Hakan spends his time alone…. and his nights prowling the streets with a black bag of knives, funnels, rain wear and other sinister gear. It doesn’t take long before he’s butchering the locals and hanging them like cattle to drain out their blood for… well…. you know what…. He’s this movie’s “Renfield” to Eli, but you can tell he’s losing his edge…. he fails to get his jug of blood from his first victim forcing her to resort to hunting the streets on her own. She succeeds in trapping a man by pretending to be a hurt little girl in need of help, but although she feeds, she gets seen…. and that’s just the beginning of the bad stuff.
Vampirism here has many of the same rules we’re used to… Eli is portrayed as much as a victim of an addiction as a person who is driven by hunger and blind need…. Like any junkie pushed to the edge she’ll kill to survive and can’t waste time picking her victims for moral reasons. She’s not shown as a good girl…. she’s not portrayed as a bad girl…. you just have to remember she’s not actually a girl at all. At least not anymore. This makes her a perfect match for Oskar, who’s slowly becoming as unfeeling towards others as she already is. We learn other neat things too….. Cats for example…. are the ultimate enemies of the living dead…. Except that they aren’t the living dead…. vampirism is more like rabies. You get bit, then you get sick and aquire all the cravings and weaknesses almost immediately even if the bite didn’t kill you. You can’t eat real food… not without some serious physical reactions. Light is fatal…. flambé fatal…. Oh, and we learn exactly why vampires always want to be invited into a house…. and it isn’t because they just can’t enter if they wanted….
This could become a trite reworking of ever similar vampire film made, but John Ajvide Lindqvist, who adapted the screenplay from his own horror novel, resists the temptation to tell that same tired story over again. Oskar and Eli are more complicated….. It’s obvious they are falling in love, but neither of them has any notion of what love really is. Their scenes together are both touchingly sweet and somehow disturbing all at the same time. Ultimately… Eli helps Oskar realize that he has to fight back against his tormentors once and for all. He’s just gonna need some backup… just the sort of thing a creepy supernatural girlfriend can provide.
It’s “Spoiler Alert” time…. and Neko certainly doesn’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this one…. About halfway through this one, both Carolyn and I figured out what was going on here…. Basically you are struck by the idea that this story has happened before. Hakan, it seems is Oskar…. only an older, more tired and just about worn out version…. he doesn’t resent Eli’s growing attachment to Oskar, but he knows his time is about up and it’s time for her to move on if she wants to survive. It’s never really stated as such, but Hakan serves Eli without the hypnotic control or the desire to join her in the ranks of the nosferatu…. he does it simply because he wants to protect her and keep her alive. Once this hits you, you’ll feel a wave of sadness as you know that Oskar ultimately will grow old and Eli never will…. she’ll just eventually be forced to seek out another kindred soul to keep her company for as long as it lasts…. Talk about doomed relationships….
Surprisingly, this one isn’t as bloody as it seems…. but it can surprise you at times. Hakan’s little acid bath facial for instance…. Brrrrr!!! The killing is not without gore, but it’s used well here and for purpose. Neither is the sexual undertones between the two pushed to an offensive or overly gratuitous level…. there is just that hint of the stirring desire that young people that age start to feel but don’t yet have an understanding of. All in all, it hits the tone perfectly…. We both really liked this film, and were teary and sad for them by the end even though they do go away together at the finish….
So…. all in all, Neko gives this one 4 “Meows” out of 5 with several additional purrs for the neat additions to the “Lore of the Vampire”. The acting, particularly by our two young leads, is excellent….. It’s truly a remarkable genre film and well worth a look…. particularly if you ever wondered what “Sixteen Candles” meets “30 Days of Night” might look like…..
There a Trailer of course…. and Neko would never let ya go without one…. Enjoy!!