For those who like the basic vampire romance dynamic in Twilight but don’t necessarily like its execution, I highly recommend the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. I just rented this a few days ago and fell in love with it. I think it’s one of my top films of all time. It has many elements that are similar to Twilight in terms of vampire romance, but it treats the subject much more seriously and is a bit truer to the vampire characteristics traditional to the last fifty years of movie-making.

It’s about a boy named Oskar who’s bullied at school and is in a pretty bad place. He carries a knife around and dreams of being able to kill his tormentors. He falls in love with a reserved girl named Eli, who secretly kills people to survive off their blood. The violent nature of the characters is never downplayed. In some ways, Eli exists as an embodiment of Oskar’s own dark side. A theme of the movie is that everyone can be antagonistic, but Eli can actually claim the moral high ground because she only kills to live and can feel bad afterward.

For Twilight, I know there’s some criticism of Bella and Edward’s relationship because Edward is over a century old, and he’s called a pedophile for it. In Twilight, this is never really addressed. Edward is noted to be old, but he acts like a 17-year-old boy enough that he might as well be one. In Let the Right One In, the subject is actually touched on a bit. The actress manages to play the Eli character in a very mature way, so it’s easy to imagine that this is an old woman in the body of a 12-year-old. “I’m 12… more or less.” There’s even a point where Oskar is kissing Eli and there’s a brief flash where he’s kissing an old woman. The film acknowledges that it’s a bit twisted, though it kind of reminds me of Harold and Maude.

The romance between the two characters doesn’t have the same sort of contrived feel as in Twilight. Oskar and Eli actually spend time together and their friendship seems more real. For one thing, it’s not a sex fantasy. The two are physically 12 and aren’t really interested in sex. Their romance is on the level of a childhood crush, and it seems sweeter than the full-on lust of Bella and Edward.

Because the subject is treated seriously, I end up caring about it more. There’s the same element of the vampire wanting to eat the human but resisting it because of love, but it feels more valuable in this case partially because the vampire is a killer. All of the violent aspects of vampirism are there and not shied away from. This is one of the best vampire films ever, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the genre.