Friday, October 29, 2010

30 Days of Fright - 28: Twilight

Horror comes in many guises. Some horror films are scary for all the right reasons, and some for all the wrong reasons. Some make you hide behind the couch, some make you throw-up behind the couch. Some horror films make you piss and/or shit yourself, and some just piss you off.

Twilight (2008) centres around Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a seventeen year old girl who moves from her home in Phoenix Arizona to the small town of Forks in the state of Washington as a result of her mother remarrying after divorcing Bella's father. Bella arrives in Forks in the middle of the school year, but as traumatic as that would be she manages to settle in quite quickly and makes friends with ease.

In school, she becomes interested in a boy in her class, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward is one of the adopted children of a local doctor, Carlisle Cullen, and like the other kids in his family Edward keeps very much to himself. The whole Cullen clan are considered unusual and are extreme outsiders in school and in town. This just fascinates Bella even more especially as Edward is her lab partner for Biology class.

As Forks is on the Pacific Northwest coast of the U.S. the weather there is nearly always bad and is mostly overcast, raining, or freezing, and on one cold day Bella is involved in a near-miss of an accident when a friend's van skids out of control on some ice in the school parking lot and nearly hits her. The van is only stopped by the intervention of Edward who jumps in the way of the van in the last moment and is able to stop it from hitting Bella, revealing Ed to be incredibly fast and strong.

Now Bella's imagination goes wild as she tries to figure out who and what Edward is, and her search for answers leads her into the myths and legends that surround the region. She soon finds out the terrible truth about Edward and the whole Cullen family after she realises that only certain creatures are deathly cold to the touch and avoid sunlight like their lives depended on it.

Bella confronts Edward about her discoveries but is surprised to learn that not only did she not figure out every aspect of the Cullen's nature but that she has fallen in love with him despite the truth. Edward and Bella's relationship develops, just as danger approaches Forks.

Bella suddenly realises what spending the night with a man who's deathly cold ALL over would actually mean

Where to start with this one? There are problems with Twilight on many levels so I might as well get the obvious stuff out of the way.

Vampires do not fucking sparkle in daylight, they fucking die!

In Twilight, the vampire myth has been largely ignored and the stuff that made it in has been twisted quite severely to fit with the neat idea that the film wants to peddle - that ugly girls can shack-up with girly looking pseudo-vampires and everything will be great.

Strangely though, I can see what they were trying to do with the character of Edward Cullen. Eddie was actually a feeble attempt at a Byronic Hero – the type developed by Lord Byron in his fruity poetry and defined by the phrase “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Building a love story about a soppy girl and a Byronic hero is actually a good idea but what went wrong was they made him a vampire and wilfully ignored all the inconveniences of being a creature of the night.

The thing is, in Twilight despite all the vampire lore that was removed the one truly horrific component of the whole business was left in but glossed over. In order to explain this, first a little history: the vampire myth has roots in religion, coming from the idea that those who died after being excommunicated rose from the grave to feast on human blood until the end of the world. Then they go to Hell. In Twilight, the “vampires” are immortal, so somewhere along the line someone had been kicked out of the Church and then kicked the bucket and came back all bitey and sucky. So, some vampire had been punished for dicking around the Church. So, the Cullen’s are vampire descendants of some poor bastard who knows for a fact that there’s a God. The point of the immortality in the vampire story is not that you get to stay young and attractive for ever, it’s a terrible punishment – the vampire knows God exists and they will never meet Him. The only reason the vampire avoids the release of death at the point of a stake (or carbon-tipped bullet if you’re new school) is that they’re trying to put off going to Hell.

The Cullen’s are all going to go to Hell, especially Edward, and Bella falls in love with the guy. Of course, this type of problem doesn’t get a mention in Twilight as, to be fair, the real goal of the film was to make a ton of cash out of teenage girls not promote the further development of a cultural archetype like the vampire. The reason purists get so pissed off with Twilight is that it pisses on the vampire myth and therefore contributes to a new generation of people who don’t understand it or even recognise it. Of course this has been going on as long as films have been made and trashy books written. There were probably a good number of purists annoyed when Bram Stoker got himself a publisher.

Once Edward reveals his nature to Bella by letting some sunlight make his skin all sparkly it’s best to try to ignore the vampire stuff altogether and judge the film on its other merits, of which there are very fucking few.

There isn’t much positive to say about the two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and so many negative things have been said that I don’t really have anything to add. Except, that Kristen Stewart is a long-faced misery of a girl who should have been in a werewolf movie not a vampire one (and without any make-up either, the dog) and Robert Pattinson is a weird looking girly boy who was completely unbelievable in a role where he played a man who’s attracted to women.

Bella and Edward exchange make-up tips. In the middle of the day. Vampire my arse!

The production quality for a film of this scale, i.e. guaranteed blockbuster, is surprisingly low. Watching Twilight in HD shows up all the terrible flaws in the special effects, make-up, and lighting that are present. The fucking lighting used in Twilight is awful! There are scenes, especially in the school, where characters move their hands in front of their faces and huge shadows are cast, caused by using powerful lights to create a washed out, pale look for the kids. Why not light the scene properly and put a filter on the fucking camera? Or change the colour in post production? Maybe that wasn’t an option as the computer was being used for the shitty effects – the bit where Edward runs up the tree with Bella on his back is cringe worthy. The quality of the production varies and I think that’s a result of the film being made by two units, one with a director of photography who had a clue, and the other with a director of photography who was a dipshit.

The surprising highlight of the movie was the music, surprising as the soundtrack mostly featured songs designed for young women to feel sad to, but also included some gems from bands like Muse. The incidental music was the best part of the soundtrack though and the musical cues, like the tinkling piano indicating "falling" in love, were excellent and well used.

I didn’t like Twilight all that much, but I can’t bring myself to hate it as vehemently as some commentators claim to. It was made in order to cash in on some trashy books that are more popular then they likely deserve (I haven’t read them – I base my opinion of them on the “slavish” film adaptation) just like the work of Dan Brown (the prick). Twilight is a crappy film whose sin is in the way it treats vampires not the audience, as far as I can make out the target audience for Twilight got exactly what they deserved.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Twilight.

If you have a reflection, don't sleep in a coffin, quite like garlic, don't need to be invited in, aren't bothered by Crucifixes or Holy Water, you might be a vampire! Check out these links for more info:

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