Damn you Anne Rice! Even since you introduced that lovelorn supermodel turned bloodsucker Lestat, the vampire has been romanticized all out of proportion. Cold yet compassionate, sexy but spurned, the supposed supernatural monster has gone from corpse to Casanova in the twinkle of a dateless spinster's eye. Now comes Twilight, the latest entry in the continued compromising of the classic Stoker archetype. Aimed directly at the ADD-addled attention span of the average Facebooker, aside from being no fun at all, it stands as one of 2008's most crass commercial statements.
When her mother's new hubby wants to pursue his dreams of playing minor league baseball, Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart
) is sent off to live with her sheriff father (Billy Burke
) in the sleepy, somewhat creepy Pacific Northwest town of Fork. There she becomes an instant hit at the local high school, and captures the piercing gaze of campus pretty boy Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson
). The foster son of the town's enigmatic doctor, he and his surprisingly similar-looking siblings are noted for being very secretive and semi-outcasts. Article continues below
At first, Bella and Edward don't get along. He acts oddly around her. But slowly their affections build. Soon, he is saving her from out-of-control cars and random acts of gang violence. She, on the other hand, is figuring out his problem -- he's a vampire. Turns out that Edward "senses" something special about Bella, and can't be sure that he can control his "cravings" around her. Even worse, by befriending the undead, our heroine puts herself in harm's way, especially when a band of rogue neckbiters come to town looking for humans to hunt.
Like a ghastly grrl power Lost Boys fused with a half-dozen copies of Janet Quin-Harkin's Ten Boy Summer, Twilight is a preposterously preprogrammed snoozer that preaches to the fan fiction choir already predisposed to this dross. It's a spotty spook show romance bathed in the glow of a thousand tween journal entries and accented by a million microns of misspent adolescent hormones. The legions of "Twilighters" -- devotees who have each of the four novels in Stephanie Meyer's franchise memorized -- will lap up every pulled-from-the-pages moment of this manufactured motion picture. All others will be left scratching their heads and wondering what the big deal is.
When it comes to bringing something new or fresh to the vampire dynamic, director Catherine Hardwicke
is hemmed in by the incomplete mythos of the books. She has to stay true to it, lest the demo revolt. But that means we get vampires with luminescent skin, the ability to hang out during the day (as long as it's cloudy), and an appetite for preppie attire. Their lust for vein V8 is apparently pretty far down on their macabre to-do list. Even worse, these creatures offer no sense of danger. Even your non-horror high school angst-fest provides a little pubescence-driven dread. But here, the most frightening element is how readily accepted Bella is among her classmates.
As with any movie made from a popular fiction franchise, Twilight's need for faithfulness flummoxes anything remotely resembling entertainment. As long as it includes the mandatory scenes that readers have obsessed over, they're in the clear. But not even the decent turns by Ms. Stewart or Master Pattinson (looking exceptionally effeminate here) can salvage such forced insularity. The best adaptations of standing series find interesting and inventive ways of bringing the mainstream into their private fold. Twilight is one boring, overbearing phenomenon. It's the poster boy for the whole "terror as tragic figure" fallacy.