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Twilight Part 1: Vampires Don't F#*ing Sparkle!

Here's the thing with the vampire genre: when done right, they're great horror tales who don't rely on cheap scares to leave a mark on the audience. The best example of this is Ann Rice's Interview with the Vampire, the popular Gothic horror tale chronicling the life of one Louis de Pointe du Lac, an ordinary man who is turned into a vampire by Lestat, the torrid love-hate relationship between the two men, and Claudia, the little girl which becomes Louis' only reason for staying with Lestat. That was a tale full of life in the shadows and the tragedy of living forever and the characters were engaging, tormented people who each learn that immortality is a fate far worse than death itself. For a few seasons, the HBO series True Blood brought simmering sexuality and gory violence to the cable screen, along with interesting characters and...vampire politics? And most recently, the genre gave us two terrific movies, 2008's Sweedish thriller Let The Right One In and it's American counterpart in 2010, Let Me In, both chilling takes on killer, blood sucking immortals in child form. From Bram Stoker's Dracula to Ann Rice and Lestat to Eric and Bill, the vampire genre has been all about tortured individuals lurking in the shadows, struggling to hold onto whatever humanity they still have. So what did author Stephanie Meyer and the folks at Summit Entertainment, a relatively new and independent distribution studio at the time before the series brought them the big bucks and Kathryn Bigelow brought the studio their first Oscar trophies in 2009 for The Hurt Locker, bring to the table that we haven't already seen?

Vamps who fucking sparkle. Really.

These vampires don't suck blood from unsuspecting humans, they don't seduce innocent and pure women (or men) into carnal lust, and they don't have traditional weaknesses, like a stake through the heart, or are vulnerable to garlic, and sunlight doesn't kill them! Nope, they hunt animals for nourishment, and they brood. Continuously. I wouldn't have a problem with this, if it wasn't for the fact that Meyer's vamps look like rejects from an Abercrobie and Fitch monthly catalog!

Seriously, take a look at this lot: do the look like vampires? No fangs, color contacts, no blood dripping from their mouths, and they're clearly doing the annoying 'not posing but posing to show how deep and cool I am without trying' pose (Or as my friend Aria would say, the typical Johnny Depp shot)! God, these douchebags are VINO's (Vampires In Name Only); they might as well be from Dawson's Creek for all the difference it makes!

The deconstruction of the vampire mythology and turning them into pretentious Depp clones is one of the many issues I have with Twilight, the first in the series about how important it is to have an over-possessive, good-looking bad boy beau any young girl can turn good. As you've probably seen by now, this isn't your father's version of the bloodsuckers who own the night. These are what vampires look in the minds of middle school to high school girls who don't play by society's rules and has deep, traumatic issues they're grappling with. Think if James Dean were alive and made a fourth movie, "Rebel Without a Cause...with Vampires"; take away the charisma and acting ability, leave the good looks and open up the Chris Columbus School of Acting playbook for the leads, and you have this movie. Of course, a movie like this isn't supposed to be catered to my demographic who like their vampires movies filled with blood, violence and eroticism. But take those things away and you have a sterilized version of vampires with no bite, just endless scenes of characters sulking.

That's another thing that pisses me off about this film: everyone in this freaking movie sulks! The teenagers sulk. The parents sulk. The vampires are supposed to sulk, but there's no sense of remorse or longing to die after living several lifetimes and watching the people they care about wither away and pass on. To be fair, this movie takes place in a sleepy town called Forks, Washington, where there's no sports teams or anything remotely interesting about the place, next to the lush forest and the bleak atmosphere, so I guess for the townsfolk, sulking is probably their pastime. Again, I wouldn't have a problem with this, if the characters gave us any indication for their troubles. They're just brooding for the camera because the script and the source material says so, basically.

This leads me to what has to be, my biggest bitch with the movie: the title character, Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart. She moves to Forks to live with her dad, the town sheriff (played by a deadpan Billy Burke) after mom decides to move in with her minor league ball-playing beau in Florida. The character of Bella is supposed to be the everyday girl: not a superficial hot chick but easily someone young girls can relate to. Bella is supposedly tortured, but the movie indicates she doesn't have any real issues. It's told that the parents are separated, but we see no evidence that she's struggling with divorce after it happened. In fact, we get no backstory on her at all! Was she abused as a child? Did she go through an emotionally distressing experience like seeing someone die right in front of her eyes? The only reason why we get this idea she has issues is because she alienates herself from the rest of the general population at her new high school. We know fuck all else about her, and the filmmakers try to shove this notion that she's some sort of a lost soul? Come on!

If we know very little about Bella, it comes as no surprise that Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is just as much of an enigmas as Bella. Edward is supposed to be the bad boy with a past, and to the film's credit, they do explain how he became a vampire, but there's little sense of him longing to be able to grow old and die, or even being racked with guilt from what he's had to be do in order to survive (i'm sure he's had to kill a few dozen people before he made the switch to feasting on animals). We see him look at her all weird, but apparently, her pure nature is enough to cause this reaction.....

If the whole point was to show that he's taken aback by her beauty and his lust for blood is re-kindled, why doesn't it work when he's around other female students? Also, this is one of the best scenes in the film, mostly due to the fact that it's unintentionally hilarious. There's another scene in Twilight where you do find a pulse: a nomadic vampire (Cam Gidget) kidnaps Bella, and plans on torturing her before he feasts on her flesh. It's something of a hair-raising sequence, and it does give the film mild excitement, but that's about as close as you'll get to feeling alive in this picture. The rest of the movie goes through the courtship of Ed and Bella, meeting the Cullen clan and getting to know one another through a rousing game of vampire baseball. I'm not kidding, and it's another way to spice up this de-balled vampire flick. All it did was add to the boredom I felt watching the damn thing.

Twilight is a movie for teenage girls and hopeless romantics who buy into the plain girl being swept away by the man of her dreams...or vampire, in this particular case. For the rest of us, especially vampire buffs, this movie will feel like a huge betrayal and a tedious exercise in setting up their relationship for future films. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who penned the first couple seasons of Showtime's crime drama Dexter, is no stranger to seeing blood fly and finding the dark areas in her characters. But in Twilight, all the traits she learned from Dexter, much like the rest of the vampire genre, have been drained away by an even more sinister force, more ruthless and savage than vampires: the Hollywood Suits. The books were already a hot item with the teen market, and of course, studio companies had to get in on the action, and with the Harry Potter era winding down, a new franchise aimed at young adults had to be found. Meyer's romantic novels, along with the money they were making, was all the motivation they needed to take the books and completely make them blander and more soulless than they already were. Screw the vampires, the real blood suckers are Summit Entertainment. who wake every year to feast on the wallets of every young girl in America, and around the world.

Little did I know, this was only the beginning.....

* 1/2 stars out of ****


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