Ladies of Horror May-hem: Eli


Looks like we’re on a bit of a one-name streak here, eh? Also, it’s our third appearance by a vampire with Eli, the ageless young lass played by Lina Leandersson in director Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In.

Truth is, Eli might actually be upset by her appearance on this list. After all, she does tell her infatuated new friend and neighbor Oskar that she is not a girl.

And thus begin serious spoilers for the novel on which this movie is based…plus a nice bit of proof that sometimes a book and its movie can be utterly different but equally enjoyable beasts. I call this the Blade Runner effect.

In John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel (and in one confusingly brief scene in the movie) it is acknowledged that Eli truly is not a girl. She was once a young boy named Elias, but the vampire who turned him centuries before castrated him. That’s all that I’m going to ruin from the novel.

For the film adaptation, Lindqvist and Alfredson decided to go with portraying Eli as a young woman and, in the end, removing most of hir backstory (minus that one scene I mentioned briefly in the previous paragraph). Instead, what we see are two lonely, different people, Oskar and Eli, letting each other in to the other’s life, with unanticipatedly satisfying results.

I include Eli in this month’s list because she again represents what I love about vampires. True, she shows compassion and kindness to Oskar, but she is also a killer at her undead core. She sometimes comes across feral, her permanently child-sized body hiding a ferocious strength and a mind sharpened by years as a predatory creature (as opposed to her “guardian,” whose hunting skills have obviously been declining with his age).

The thing I love most about Eli? Early in the film, Oskar notes that she has a peculiar smell, which Eli asks him to detect upon their next meeting…after she has fed. I’ve had this opinion for a while now that vampires must stink of rot when they haven’t fed for a while. After all, they are permanently stuck in a limbo between life and death, their once-mortal bodies now needing constant tending through the blood of the living. Without that fresh nutrient, decay will set in. They still won’t die, but decomposition is literally a neck puncture away.

That kind of existence has gotta stink. Also, their breath must reek of iron…but that’s a different discussion.

I love the fact that Lindqvist and Alfredson address the fact that young Eli smells. Even though Oskar doesn’t know exactly what he’s smelling, I’m going to believe that it’s the stink of death.

Eli is brilliant and brutal, and her motives for letting Oskar in beg for questioning and examination and interpretation on many levels. She will eternally look like a child, but within her is the spirit of a cunning survivalist, willing to do whatever it takes to continue to exist. However this colors her new relationship with Oskar, there is no doubting that these two have found fulfillment in each other in oddly comforting ways. What it will mean later, especially for the currently mortal Oskar, is also up for speculation, but rest assured, in this instance, he has indeed let the right one in.