Edited extracts from Devil’s Advocates: Let the Right One In by Anne Billson (Auteur Publishing, 2011)
That evening, Oskar buys candy at a sweet-shop while Eli waits outside; it’s the first time we’ve seen them together away from the jungle gym. This is progress in their relationship – even something vaguely resembling a date. The shop’s cat hisses violently at Eli through the window – an early sign that cats don’t like vampires, and a foreshadowing of the cat attack on Virginia later on…
The cats’ violent reaction to the vampires suggests a sensitivity to another animal or predator in the vicinity; they react with hissing and flattened ears, the way they might react to a dog or another, more powerful cat. And indeed Eli makes an animal noise as she launches her attacks, and, while she lies in wait up a tree, makes a strange noise which might almost be a sort of purring. The way she laps up blood from the floor is also reminiscent of the actions of a cat.
The cat attack on Virginia is not the first film in which animals are shown as being sensitive to the presence of monsters. The shapeshifters in Sleepwalkers (1992), from a screenplay by Stephen King, are opposed by neighbourhood cats, which besiege the house where the shapeshifters are staying… In Near Dark, Caleb’s horse reacts to Mae, who says, “Horses don’t like me”. In The Lost Boys, the young hero’s Alaskan Malamute, Nanook, attacks the vampire intruders, while in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the animals in the zoo react with wild noises and panicked behaviour to Dracula’s approach.
The animals are reacting, one imagines, to the presence of a creature they sense contravenes the laws of nature. Animals often predict natural disasters, such as earthquakes; they seem to know when the world is out of joint or when the natural order is disturbed. And vampires, the walking dead, are not natural but supernatural.