The world got a good taste of Swedish horror in the early 2000s thanks to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire novel Let the Right One In (2004), a story that takes Dracula’s Renfield character and turns him into a more tragic and somber figure. Two film adaptations followed, one Swedish (2008) and one American (2010), along with a couple of Swedish theater adaptations and a comic book series produced by Dark Horse that Lindqvist reportedly condemned. He stated the comic was actually the result of a misleading deal authored by producers at the time the rights were sold.
Now, it’s Showtime’s turn to give the source material its own twist with a 10-episode series that takes the child vampire and her “Renfield” from Sweden to the streets of New York City. Fittingly, Let the Right One In took to the halls of New York Comic Con 2022 to give audience a taste of the series with a screener of its first episode and a talk with the cast and showrunner of the new horror series.
The Showtime adaptation goes for a few fundamental changes to the original that change the nature and, to an extent, the identity of the story. The child vampire this time around is played by Madison Taylor Báez and her caretaker isn’t a man she chose as her companion but her father, played by Demián Bichir. They’re chasing after a cure that reverses vampirism all while trying to live somewhat of a normal life without having to run away every few months form place to place due to the trail of blood they leave behind.
New York is the perfect place for this as the city’s rising crime rate can mask their movements and the girl’s feeding habits. A detective played by Anika Noni Rose is tasked with investigating a series of grizzly murders that leave the victims torn to pieces all while trying to take care of her socially awkward son from being such an easy target for bullies at school. Little does she know that her new next door neighbors might be responsible for some of the killings.
Anika Noni Rose spoke to the importance of taking the original story to New York, a bigger and busier place than the previous adaptations. She insisted the intention is to turn the city into a character with a mind of its own that the main characters will have to contend with. The anonymity that comes with city living plays into the vampire’s strengths, but it also affects her ability to relate and make friends. That’s where the detective’s son comes in, played by Ian Foreman.
When asked about how the horror elements of the story helped build their characters, each actor emphasized the importance of not just seeing Let the Right One In as a horror story. Grace Gummer, who plays a doctor who might be looking for a cure for the vampiric condition for her own reasons, stated as such. She praised the script’s attention to character and to how it made sure it also worked as drama on the grounds of familial connections and sacrifice.
Bichir went as far to call the series and his character Shakespearean, especially in its take on tragedy. Changing the character into the vamp’s father rather than a man that grows into the role makes the connection between the two mains considerably different, to the point it might put off some fans of the adaptations and book. In the original, the Renfield role wasn’t exclusive to one person. The vampire would replace them as time passed and their pairing would be framed as a life-long commitment that always doomed to end in heartbreak. That element isn’t necessarily present in the series as the father/daughter relationship complicates that replacement process, raising the stakes on the cure front.
How the series reconciles this remains a secret as the show just premiered on October 9th. Showrunner Andrew Hinderaker was enthusiastic about the changes, especially those concerning Gummer’s character. Her arc opens the story up to explore the biology of the vampire along with the myth, things that Hinderaker hopes sets his adaptation apart from the rest.
The first episode, showed at the con, certainly feels different. It’s more of a new story with key elements from the source rather than a faithful adaptation. The scientific aspect does take thing into The Strain territory, where science is at the forefront of the lore. It robs the story of its mystique a bit, but it’s not without its intrigue.
What really makes the show so easy to watch is the performances. Bishir and Taylor Báez sell their father/daughter relationship instantly, putting forth a special bond that makes you root for them. The supporting cast do the same, interestingly divided into pairs or small family units complete with their own “Renfields.” Noni Rose and Foreman’s characters in particular get this treatment, with the mom trying to shield her kid from the world the same way the father does with her vamp daughter. There’s a lot of potential here, so long as it doesn’t veer too far away from what made the original so special.
The first episode of Let the Right One In is already out on Showtime and if the plot doesn’t grab you, the characters will. The vampires look creepy, especially their eyes, and there’s a sense of violence about them that make for a curious look at their condition. Time will tell if it’s worthy of the stuff that came before it.