If there were a game called "Nation or Monster," where you list adjectives and everyone else has to guess whether you're talking about a country's people or a mythological horror, that game would fail as soon as anyone starts talking about vampires or Sweden.
Pale? That's no help. Moody? Tall? Could go either way. Overserious, fond of gross beverages, and impossibly pretty? Again, there's no practical difference. But it does explain why the two go so well together, as in 2008's Let the Right One In.
12-year-old Kare Hedebrant is ignored by his parents, bullied by his peers, and cut off from the world. He finds his first friend in Lina Leandersson, the new girl in his apartment complex, an odd duck who promises to help him deal with his tormenters. Oh, right: and she's also a vampire.
Like you might guess, Let the Right One In is moody. And snowy. And slow. It's the kind of movie people call "atmospheric," which is usually code for "interesting even though nothing's really happening."
But far from being plotless, Right One's story just takes its time to play out. Adapting from his own novel, screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist sets up small events early (inasmuch as crazy public bloodsuckings can be considered "small") with big consequences later. Director Tomas Alfredson nails that novelistic feel, handling buckets of secondary characters and tangential scenes without losing focus.
What more could you want than brooding atmospherics and a literary feel? Ah yes, the part where you have fun. No worries: Leandersson isn't the sparkly or swoony kind of vampire. She's hungry, and that means tackling grown men into the snow like fat-bellied deer and making them scream in ways that would embarrass them if they didn't have far greater worries, like their rapidly dropping blood pressure.
It's the contrast between Leandersson's animal brutality and Hedebrant's very ground-level, young adult problems that makes it so gripping. Meanwhile, the rules of vampirism are treated with as much attention to detail as the ins and outs of Hedebrant's schoolboy life.
As for the romance that inevitably follows vampires around (I think their natural eroticism is so highly charged the only way to prevent it from exploding is to strap it down with tight black leather), here, Hedebrant doesn't even know what going steady means. I'd like to think the vampire fad has played itself out, but with fresh takes like Let the Right One In, it may be around a while yet--and in that case, it won't be all bad.