I recently watched a movie called ‘Let Me In’ on Netflix. It’s a sorrowful tale of a young boy growing up isolated, alone and afraid. Bullied at school and suffering through the divorce of his parents at home, his only solace comes when a girl, Abby, moves in with her father, Thomas, next door. He is instantly intrigued by her; she is aloof and reluctant, for reasons that are explained later. But they nevertheless find themselves drawn to one another and are able to bond over a mutual love of puzzles.
The tale unfolds in one sense as a Peter Pan fable. There are elements of eternal youth depicted in the character of Abby, who is revealed to be a vampire. In a more traditional take on the vampire myth, she must be invited into a house like in vampire legends of old. She burns in the sun and is only seen at night. And while it is unknown if religious artifacts have an adverse effect on her, there are numerous religious overtones displayed in the character of Owen’s mother who listens several times throughout the movie to late night sermons on T.V., a habit that is hinted to have contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Abby is also super-strong, and seems to revert to a more animal state with glowing eyes when feeding.
Despite this, she remains very much a child. In describing her plight to Owen, she self-describes as being “…12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.” She is inquisitive, laughs, and engages at every turn with Owen for all the world like a 12-year old girl would. She doesn’t really hint that she knows why she has to be invited in to a house beyond knowing that it eventually causes blood to pour from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She knows that she must not be in the sun, and that she needs blood to live. And that is all that is given.
In another sense, this makes Owen and Abby’s infatuation all the more tragic. While being an otherwise very stereotypical childhood crush, the revelation that Abby is a vampire, combined with the discovery that her father is not in fact her father but the last boy she fell in love with, gives rise to the implication that Thomas’ fate is what is in store for Owen.
Owen, like Thomas, will grow old and die in service to a childhood love that cannot grow old with him, in addition to his already ravaged childhood, torn asunder by the divorce of his parents and, towards the end, his near death at the hands of his bullies. This spells depressingly cruel consequences for Owen that two children, one immortal and the other merely troubled, could never be adult enough to foresee. Thomas, it is shown, commits several acts of murder just to collect blood for Abby to survive.
During overheard conversations between Abby and Thomas, it is shown that decades of such murders begin catching up to him as an old man. In the end, after botching a second attack and about to be captured, he douses himself with acid to obscure his identity and, thus, his connection to Abby, protecting her. When she comes to visit him at the hospital, he is unable to invite her in due to the acid damage to his vocal cords. Lastly, unable to speak, he offers himself to Abby, who feeds from him before allowing his body to fall from his tenth floor room. On a police tablet, left by an officer near his bedside should he wish to confess, is scrawled a single line: “I’m sorry Abby.”
By the end of ‘Let Me In’ I was shouting internally ‘Let Me Out’ as I tried to imagine any way in which the ending of such of a path could ever be thought of as romantic or good.