A few weeks ago @DVDSnapshot stated on twitter that he believed Let the Right One In was the most over-rated film of the year, while he was very fond of Twilight (see his reviews here and here). @DVDSnapshot runs a very nice site and while I’ve never met him face to face, I’m fairly confident that he is not, in fact, a twelve year old girl. So why would he hold such contrary beliefs to the general consensus of the horror community? This got me thinking… maybe he’s right. Maybe Let the Right One In isn’t a stunningly beautiful study of loneliness, innocence and power, nor the best film of last year. Maybe Twilight didn’t make vampires out to be baseball playing morons that twinkle and fall in love with their food. Maybe I had it all wrong and needed to reevaluate these films using a more quantitative measure than just my own emotional reaction.
I have, therefore, come up with the following incredibly scientific and indisputable way of determining which of these films is the better. I have carefully determined the twelve most important criteria against which all vampire films must be judged, and evaluated the lead vampire from each film in light of these characteristics. For each of the twelve evaluative categories I awarded one point to whichever film best met the standards of the criteria. In order to account for any bias I might have, I recruited an assistant to help with the judging — a familiar face from our Friday the 13th and Halloween fashion reviews, A GIRL. A GIRL has taken responsibility for the judging of half the categories (the even numbered ones), while I have taken the other half. Below you’ll find the results of our research, complete with a brief discussion of why each film won in each category.
(If you have not seen Twilight, there is a 15-minute summary of it available. If you have not seen Let the Right One In, you should really stop reading right now and go watch it. It’s currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly, complete with the preferred theatrical subtitles. So, go forth and watch it. We’ll wait.)
1. Usage of Trees and Related Foliage
Sitting in trees is not one of the better known aspects of vampire life, but it plays a bigger role than you’d think. In Let the Right One In, trees play a dual role for vampire Eli. She is capable of using trees or other overhanging objects as a perch from which to lie in wait for victims. As they pass underneath, she drops down upon them, much like a deer tick (but larger, and she can’t be removed with a match or hot pin). In another scene, she runs up a tree to hide like a raccoon (but larger, and just slightly less likely to be found sorting through your garbage).
Trees also play a large part in Twilight. Hunky yet disturbingly feminine vampire Edward seems oddly drawn to the trees and is very comfortable resting in them, looking like a much paler version of Merry or Pippin happily riding in Treebeard’s branches. As opposed to Eli who uses trees for hunting and hiding, Edward uses the trees in a mating capacity, swinging from the branches or carrying Bella up into them in an effort to impress her. Edward is still thinking like a seven-year-old in this regard, as that’s the only age group I can think of that believes hanging upside down from trees will impress anyone. Due to the theatrical lameness of Edward’s tree-borne attempts at wooing Bella and the coolness inherent in dropping down upon unsuspecting Swedes like a death-dealing pigeon turd, I have to give this one to Eli. ~ Corey
Winner: Let the Right One In
2. Super Powers
No matter how traditional or modern, compelling or ridiculous the story, vampires are known to have a wealth of enviable powers. They are stronger and faster than the puny humans they once were. They have the potential to live forever (assuming they avoid pointy wooden sticks, decapitation, excess garlic and/or lemons, depending on who you want to believe). As the ultimate hunters, they are keenly intelligent and more cunning than their potential prey.
Edward is demonstrably very strong and very fast. He whooshes in to save Bella from an improbably out-of-control car in the high school parking lot, catching it with one hand and making one heck of a dent. He has also been a teenager for quite a while, as demonstrated by the scores of high school graduation caps on his wall. He has lived so long by avoiding the rare combination of decapitation and consuming flame; this mix is rare enough that we can expect him to have a very long life indeed. His cleverness, however, leaves a lot to be desired. He is unable to successfully draw the evil vampires off Bella’s trail, and very nearly allows her to be killed, saving her only with the help of his family.
Eli makes more subtle use of her super-human abilities, resorting to them only when she must. She uses her speed and strength to wipe out the boys who are tormenting Oskar, but does so out of sight of the public and the audience. She may be even older than Edward; she tells Oskar that she has been 12 years old “for a very long time”, in a very grave voice that implies many hundreds of years. Although there may be more direct methods of killing her, we learn only that she must avoid sunlight and entering a home uninvited. Perhaps because she is trapped in a younger body, Eli has learned to be quite clever. She convinces a human adult to venture out into the world for her, gathering blood and other necessities, and thus limits dangerous situations for herself. She also has the good sense to move to another town when everything goes pear-shaped. ~ A GIRL
Winner: Let the Right One In
3. Sleeping Preferences
Since sunlight is usually such a problem for vampires, sleeping eats up a large chunk of their day. But where to sleep? Obviously it needs to be in a location where a stray beam of sunlight through the curtains wouldn’t accidentally light your butt cheeks on fire. There is the traditional solution of the coffin, but for our post-modern vampires, that’s a little on-the-nose. Eli solves this problem by making like a drunken sorority girl and sleeping in the bathtub. She even goes so far as to make a little cocoon out of sheets, blankets and sleeping bags, leading to a fairly sun-free way to dream the day away.
I think I missed this part in the movie, but my fiancée informs me that the vampires in Twilight do not sleep at all. I suppose this makes sense, what with all the creepy lurking in teenage girl’s bedrooms and watching them sleep they have to squeeze into each night. I’ve often dreamed of not needing to sleep, which is a rather ironic statement, now that I think about it. Can you imagine how much you could get done with an extra eight hours in each day? Hell, with that much extra time I could probably have finished Fallout 3 and Oblivion by now. And do you know how good I could get at Left4Dead? For that alone, this point goes to Twilight. ~ Corey
4. Fashion Sense
Vampires are known for their effortless coolness, and often have an exceptionally attractive appearance, the better to transfix their prey. Traditionalists and brooders prefer an all-black look, but your modern vampire selects a flattering designer label. No matter how glamorous they wish to be, however, they must be ever-mindful of blending in with their prey. If they stand out too much, they are in danger of an encounter with the aforementioned pointy stick, lemon, etc.
Edward really wants to achieve the sophisticated vampire look, but is horribly burdened by the necessity of appearing to be a high-school student in Fork, WA. He has compromised by shopping primarily at the Gap, which this GIRL remembers fondly from her younger and poorer days. I do believe that Edward has erred slightly here, as his family’s patriarch is supposed to be a doctor. To best comply with this cover, Edward really should sport trendier, better tailored clothing, perhaps from sister store Banana Republic.
Not having visited Sweden, I cannot claim extensive knowledge of what is fashionable there, for vampires or mere mortals. On the one hand, Eli habitually dresses in over-sized and worn-out clothing which would be several decades out of style in this hemisphere. On the other hand, as far as I can tell so does everyone else in LtROI. Therefore I must conclude that she has a keen grasp of the appearance she must maintain in order to keep her vampire nature a secret.
So, Edward clearly has better fashion sense, but Eli blends more perfectly with her surroundings. ~ A GIRL
5. Residential Invitation Requirements
I never liked the way the Buffy-verse dealt with vampires and their invitation-only requirement for entering a private dwelling. They’re magically repelled from empty air as though they’re pushing up against a hard surface? Of course, there were far more important questions surrounding Buffy’s world (like how can Spike smoke with no breath?). In any case, Let the Right One In finally comes up with a cool way to depict this piece of vampire lore. Eli can enter Oskar’s apartment uninvited but (in one of the film’s most effective scenes) after a few seconds she begins bleeding from every orifice and pore. I imagine if this continued for more than a minute or two, she’d die — luckily Oskar gives her an invitation long before it comes to that.
So what does Twilight have to say about this? Nothing. Nada. I’m not sure Stephanie Myer ever actually saw a vampire movie before, so it’s not all that surprising that she missed this part of the legend. In the land of Twilight, vampires can come and go as they please — busting up the window if need be or, if they’re feeling more stalker-ish, just slipping in unnoticed every night and watching you sleep. That Edward… he’s so dreamy.
The point is awarded to Let the Right One In for excessive use of a creepy blood-covered child to make one of the lamer vampire myths cool. ~ Corey
Winner: Let the Right One In
6. Dietary Habits
Vampires really have it rough when it comes to dining. They have more trouble than a gluten-intolerant vegan when selecting a meal at a fancy restaurant. Perhaps they can get by on a juicy rare ostrich steak, but I’m guessing they never touch their fingerling potatoes.
Edward’s family confusingly claims to be “vegetarian”, but like all too many vegetarians they avoid just the meats they find most objectionable, in this case humans. They hunt deer and other forest creatures for blood. Corey rightly questions whether any critters that manage to escape a full draining find themselves transformed into vegetarian vampire wildlife (If so, what do they eat? Insects?). This limited diet is required in order to make nice with the humans, but I can’t help but think that, like vegetarians, they aren’t getting their RDA of all needed proteins, vitamins and minerals. They also aren’t seen to eat very often, so they could be calorically challenged as well. Maybe this explains why they aren’t so smart.
Eli adheres to a traditional vampire diet of human blood. Throughout the movie, we learn that as she grows hungry she becomes more aged in appearance, developing the wrinkles and skin tone of a weathered old woman. She feeds several times during the course of the film, about once every day or so, which is in keeping with the habits of other carnivorous predators. She prefers to have others gather the blood for her, which must be the vampire version of take-out, but when necessary she is very adept at the neck-biting and blood-sucking. ~ A GIRL
Winner: Let the Right One In
7. Tendency to Behead People
Similar to how a ninja’s purpose is to flip out and kill people, a vampire’s ultimate purpose is to flip out and behead people viciously. That’s when they’re at their happiest. You may find in your day-to-day life that you have few realistic opportunities to behead people, but vampires run into them all the time. Case in point — when Oskar’s tormentors up the ante and almost drown him, Eli gets medieval on their Swedish asses. I’m not certain, but I think it is the older brother of the primary tormentor who finds himself significantly shorter thanks to Eli’s tendency to decapitate people that mess with her boyfriends. In a shot that will be studied in film classes for decades, we see the entire massacre play out from underneath the water with Oskar, showing us only glimpses of the violence happening above.
Edward is also put into a situation where decapitation seems like the most reasonable response. After improbably beating James in battle, Edward knows the only way to kill James is to dismember him and burn the pieces. He instead decides to take a bite out of crime, and rips out James’ throat. In a major puss move, Edward leaves his siblings to clean up his mess while he goes and plays with his now a little more worse-for-wear girlfriend/food item some more. ~ Corey
Winner: Let the Right One In
8. Complexion, Hygiene and Hair Care
Personal grooming is much like fashion for a vampire; they must enhance their appearance as much as possible in order to charm their food, but they must not go overboard and garner too much attention. Their unnaturally pale skin always makes them stand out, even in this modern age of ozone holes, melanomas and the widespread sunscreen use made necessary by these dangers.
Edward seems to be about as clean-cut as a teenage boy can get. He never has scruffy beard stubble, and is a master of hair-goo application and manipulation. We never see any food on his face or his shirt, and by all appearances his clothes are kept clean. He does have a disturbing tendency to glow like an albino firefly in the sunlight, but he does the best he can to avoid sunny environments. If he were a girl I suspect he could camouflage this unsightly shine with the liberal application of foundation and face powder, but since he is a boy in the crunchy Washington wilderness, he just can’t be that metrosexual or he really would stand out like…well, like a metrosexual in the crunchy Washington wilderness.
I don’t think it can be said that Eli has any hygiene or hair care regimen at all. She doesn’t seem to be nearly as pale as Edward, but it’s often impossible to tell because she’s covered with dirt or blood. She does not have any cleaning rituals to speak of, although when Oskar informs her that she smells, she does take a shower, and we discover that she cleans up pretty well. I suspect that like a lot of tween girls, Eli just hasn’t had enough experience with proper grooming. Maybe Oskar will get her a subscription to Teen magazine and she will pick up some good grooming tips. There’s a lot of room for improvement for Eli, so we look forward to catching up with her in a few years to see how she’s doing.
This one is hard to call. Both Eli and Edward have a significant problem area that could potentially draw unwanted attention. However, Edward has learned to conscientiously minimize his sparkle time, while Eli just doesn’t have a clue. ~ A GIRL
9. Dating Requirements
When it comes to dating, Eli and Edward are looking for very different things. Eli needs a pre-teen boy who is so abused and neglected that he will hitch his horse to her wagon, no questions asked. One would presume she would also need him to assume the role that her previous “father” had; protecting her during the day, performing half-assed exsanguinations, and helping her get out of town when she draws too much suspicion (the fact that Oskar had a Rubik’s Cube was just icing on the cake). How much of Eli’s need for Oskar’s friendship is necessity based and how much is selfless is debatable, and likely left intentionally vague.
Edward, on the other hand, is a little less picky. He was looking for a girl whose smell contains outrageous flavor (actual quote). Apart from that, she need only be clumsy, needy, have daddy issues and be prone to getting hit by rogue buses sliding around in school parking lots. The fact that Bella’s name means “beautiful swan” is probably also a plus, as is the fact that she’s hot but kinda dumb. I’m going to give this one to Edward because while I find Oskar’s character fascinating, I think Bella would be slightly more tolerable to be around than a eleven-year-old boy fascinated with murder and getting his ass handed to him by bullies. ~ Corey
10. Social and Dating Skills
Vampires must interact smoothly with humans, both in order to maintain their cover and to lure potential meals back to their vampire lair. Edward and Eli are both lucky that they have the appearance of young humans, who are expected to be somewhat socially awkward and sullen. Let’s examine how they attempt to befriend others:
Edward has an advantage in his family. By moving in a pack with them, he gives the appearance of being popular and gregarious. However, from the first moment he meets Bella, his well-socialized persona begins to unravel. Upon catching her scent as she enters the classroom, he makes retching noises and nearly barfs like a freshman at a keg party. He is also unskilled in the art of complimenting a girl, referring to Bella his “little spider monkey” rather than using any words which might be endearing. Before the couple has even been on a date, Edward stalks Bella when she’s shopping with her girlfriends, turning up unexpectedly to rescue her. She must appreciate the quick end to being harassed by the townies, but Edward needs to learn that following a girl around is not charming, it is creepy.
Although Eli has no social circle to speak of, and isn’t much of a conversationalist, she makes a much better first impression than Edward. Upon meeting Oskar, she allows him to strike up a little conversation. She knows how to play hard-to-get, going so far as to say “Just so you know, I can’t be your friend,” although it is clear that she will be. Eventually Eli agrees to date Oskar, although she stipulates that dating must be exactly like not-dating. This is also not charming, but I find it more awkward than creepy. ~ A GIRL
Winner: Let the Right One In
11. Reaction to Sunlight
Apart from drinking blood, the most salient aspect of the vampire myth is their negative reaction sunlight. Occasionally they’re just averse to it, but in almost all cases sunlight is painful, if not outright lethal to vamps, regardless of what movie you’re watching. Eli is no exception to this rule. We never actually see her reaction to it specifically, but as is clear in the image above, sunlight and vampires don’t mix in the world of Let the Right One In. We first see this when the woman that Eli was forced to leave alive begins to transform and a ray of sunlight burns her finger. Her skin ignites and burns much like the tip of a cigarette, which I think is one of the cooler ways I’ve seen this aspect of vampire mythology portrayed.
And then there’s Twilight. While it’s true that the vampires in Twilight avoid sunlight, they do so only because sunlight reveals their true likeness, not because it’s harmful to them. Standing in direct sunlight, Edward’s “skin of a killer” can clearly be seen. And what does the “skin of a killer” look like? Well, it’s remarkably similiar to what you’d look like if you gave yourself a bath in this. Apparently in the Twilight universe, vampires intimidate their prey by twinkling. That is so obscenely ridiculous that I’m not just going to award the point to Let the Right One In — I’m going to break my own established methodology and give Let the Right One In two points for having its vampires properly combust instead of sparkling like an eleven-year-old girl’s cellphone case.
(I tried really hard to work a Donnie Darko “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion” reference into the previous paragraph, but couldn’t make it happen.) ~ Corey
Winner: Let the Right One In
12. Benefits and Drawbacks of Being Their BFF
Since both Twilight and Let the Right One In are vampire buddy quasi-romances, ultimately they must be judged on the success of the friendship-romance they portray. So, which of our vampires would make the bestest Best Friend FOREVER ever? With whom would we rather hang out, share our secrets, or find ourselves in a compromising photo on the cover of a tabloid?
As previously mentioned, Edward already has a sizable circle of friends. Does he really need another pal? How could we be sure that we were his BEST friend? He doesn’t have any other human friends, so would he discard us once the novelty wore off? He has a nice house and a groovy hairdo, and I’m sure that he can get us into some really good parties. But could we really count on him when we needed him, or would he get distracted and allow us to end up dead in the gutter with holes in our neck?
On the other hand, Eli comes with a lot of emotional baggage that might put a strain on the friendship. She’s obviously used to living alone or being the boss in a relationship of necessity. She’s got some pre-vampire abuse issues that she hasn’t really worked through. We would end up entertaining her at our place all the time, because her house is a mess. Despite all that, I am sure we would be confident that she would always have our backs when we needed her, and we would discover that even though she might not admit it, she would need us as well. ~ A GIRL
Winner: Let the Right One In
So by my tally, that gives Twilight four points to Let the Right One In‘s ten. I think it’s safe to say that’s well outside the margin of error. So, I think we’ve put the debate of which is a better film, Twilight or Let the Right One In, to rest. I’d like to thank A GIRL for joining us once again and giving a female perspective on this topic.