Category: Vampires

As an aspiring entertainment journalist, for better or worse, it’s my duty to try and take in the aspects of pop culture currently capturing the popular zeitgeist. As someone who was constantly frustrated as a teenager by people who insulted the Harry Potter series but had neither read the books nor seen the movies (at least past the initial entries), I try to make it a point not to belittle things I’ve never watched. A couple of years ago, one of my co-workers in the dorm hoisted her copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight into my hands, and in the interest of knowing what all of the hooplah was about, I read Twilight (and eventually New Moon). While it wasn’t nearly as terrible as some men make it out to be, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch of the imagination to say that the Twilight books are roughly of the quality of above average fan fiction, and Stephenie Meyer’s notion of romance is perhaps more than a bit unhealthy.

Despite my complete aversion to her writing style and my utter lack of interest in the (perhaps) key romantic plot of the series, I would be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy some of the fantasy world building in the established Twilight universe. Had it not been for the introduction of the werewolves as well as the Volturri vampire hierarchy in New Moon, I would have likely lost interest in the series after that point. However, the addition of the conflict between Jacob and Edward and generally the addition of Jacob period (who makes Edward seem even more boring and uninspired of a character than he did at first) as well as the ticking time bomb of a showdown between the Cullen family and the world’s less sparkly vampires piqued my interest.

While I’m still yet to read Eclipse, I saw the movie which I thoroughly enjoyed without even the slightest hint of irony. It was a dark urban fantasy action film with plenty of mythology to pull from, and with the exception of the love story, it was a fun if flawed film. My family went to see Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 in theaters, and after all of the forward momentum that Eclipse made for the franchise, Breaking Dawn represented a frustrating step backwards into everything that makes this franchise childish drivel as well as a soap box for Stephenie Meyer’s bloated and self-righteous political and religious views which she has managed to hoist on a generation of impressionable young girls. With dialogue as insipid and stale as something you’d see from a first year film student and plotting so languid that I nearly fell asleep in the theatre (at least until the more compelling final 20 minutes), Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 is easily one of the most disappointing films of the year.

Set shortly after the end of Eclipse, Breaking Dawn picks up on the eve of Edward and Bella’s wedding. The Volturri have set an ultimatum that Bella must either become a vampire or die in order to protect the secret of the existence of vampires. Despite Edward’s own misgivings, Bella and Edward are marrying (mainly because Bella wants to have sex and Edward won’t til they’re married) and on their honeymoon, Edward will change Bella. Despite still being in love with Bella, Jacob had given his blessing to Bella’s transformation until he learns that Bella and Edward plan on having sex before Bella is turned into a vampire, which Jacob fears will kill Bella. Without wanting to spoil any of the plot (not that it’s a particularly plot heavy film), on Bella and Edward’s honeymoon, Bella discovers that she’s pregnant, and it’s growing fast and possibly killing her. Soon, war is on the verge of breaking out between the werewolves of Jacob’s tribe and the Cullen vampires.

It is painful to watch Kristen Stewart act in this film and not just because of the Gollum-esque makeup she’s wearing by the film’s end. Having seen her work in other films like Adventureland and Into the Wild, I know she’s a better actress than this. As Bella, she’s capable of about one expression which is a strange combination of pain and complete mental vacuity. There is hardly a moment in the film where she doesn’t look like she’s constipated and that Bella simply has no clue what’s going on around her. Unless this is a subtle commentary on how Bella was intentionally written as a blank slate for young teenage girls to project themselves onto, there’s virtually no excuse for a talented actress like Kristen Stewart to put forth a performance this lazy. Robert Pattinson has exactly one job which is to be good looking and make the female fan base swoon. In that regards, he succeeds but he also manages to bring at least more weight to Edward’s pain and angst than the script provides. Once again, Taylor Lautner is the saving grace of the cast as the hot-blooded Jacob, the only character with any flaws or personality in the franchise.

Outside of the simple fact that virtually nothing happens for the first ¾ of the film, the message that this film sends to little girls is absolutely reprehensible. Stephenie Meyer has made no secret that her fundamental religious beliefs have heavily influenced her writing, and there is even less subtle proselytizing on display in Breaking Dawn than a C.S. Lewis novel. To recount the anti-feminist themes on display in Breaking Dawn could fill up an entire essay. A short list includes that it is better to get married at the age of 18 than to experiment with one’s sexuality; a woman’s duty is to completely subserve herself to a man to the point of giving up her humanity for eternity; it is better to die than to have an abortion; men with Madonna complexes (the inability to view their spouses in a sexual manner) are to be fetishized; and last but not least, sex will kill you. While everyone is entitled to their religious and political beliefs, it is incredibly irresponsible for Stephenie Meyer to force feed this to the series’ legion of young female fans.

The film’s only real redeeming quality is its beautiful cinematography. In the moments where someone isn’t talking (which are too rare), director Bill Condon combines gorgeous on location shooting with a dark, moody vibe in the emotional moments. While he wasn’t able to elicit great performances from his two leads, his shooting managed to add some mystery and dread to the proceedings. The franchise has had a long history of hiring auteurs to direct the franchise, and Bill Condon gets to join the ranks of directors who added some artistry to an otherwise lifeless script (no pun intended). The scene where Bella is giving birth gets serious points for being quite unsettling and disturbing. For the series teeny bopper fans, that was probably quite graphic and terrifying. The final 20 minutes were just better because the film finally introduced a compelling conflict.

Other than the franchise’s consistently awesome indie soundtrack, there aren’t a lot of positive things to say about this train wreck of an entry in the series. My sister, an avid fan of the books, assures me that the book was a lot better than the disaster of a film and that part two should be much more compelling. As it stands, Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 stands as one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in ages. The film couldn’t go more than five minutes at a time without uttering a line so unnatural and forced that I nearly laughed, and Kristen Stewart’s horrendous performance is a stain on her otherwise interesting career. Only die-hard Twilight fans should see this entry. Everyone else can stay at home. Save your money for The Muppets which I plan on seeing when it premiers.

Final Score: C-

Forget Twilight. Forget  True Blood, and forget Anne Rice (I can now see hordes of rabid Anne Rice fans wanting my head on a platter for putting her work in the same category as those other pieces). If you want a thought-provoking, artistic, and downright beautiful film about a vampire, you need look no further than what is easily and single-handedly the greatest vampire film ever made. I am, of course, referring to 2008’s Let the Right One In, an import from Sweden and a film that makes you thankful we live in an age where it’s simple to have access to great foreign cinema.

Let the Right One In follows the tale of 12 year old Oskar, a boy who lives with his mother in a small apartment in Sweden. Oskar is viciously bullied at school and is not, generally, of the healthiest mental state, as he has an unnatural pre-occupation with grisly murders and acts out revenge fantasies against his tormenters at home with a knife. Eli (played in one of the best children performances that I can think of by Lina Leandersson) is a girl that has moved in next door to Oskar who is hiding a large secret. She’s a vampire. What follows is one of the most heart-breaking and sincere tales of childhood, loss, one’s first love, and growing up that I can possibly think of. While this is a horror film about a vampire, more than anything else this is a film about what it means to be a child and to love, and those themes mixed with the dark and horrific nature of the vampire tale leads to easily one of the best horror films of all time.

I can’t begin to say enough good things about Lina Leandersson’s performance as Eli. Her stage presence and natural delivery skills (as far as I can posit from a performance in a language I don’t speak) are absolutely astounding. I really hope that she is a future huge star in her homeland. Her performance ranks among the all-time great performances by a non-adult like Anna Paquin in The Piano, Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine, or Haley Joel Osment in A.I. or The Sixth Sense. The same can’t be said for Oskar’s actor but anyone would look less than stellar compared to the performance of Eli.

The only thing keeping this film from perfection for me are the scenes that don’t focus on Eli and Oskar’s relationship. They distract from that beautiful tale and are unnecessary at enforcing the major themes of the film. That’s probably one area in which the recent American remake Let Me In actually succeeds more than this one. Really, I can’t think of a single type of person that I can’t recommend this movie to. It’s dark and atmospheric for the people who prefer that, but it also tells a hauntingly beautiful take of love and loss as well.

Final Score: A

The Lost Boys

There’s a certain paradox in my tastes in movies. I adore art-house films and things that can be described as thinking-man movies. My favorite movie of the 2000’s was There Will Be Blood, a slow-moving character drama that played out like a Tolstoy novel on film. Yet, if a crowd-pleasing popcorn film is well-made and genuinely entertaining, I have no qualms in admitting that I enjoy them as well. A movie doesn’t have to make me think or look at life in new ways in order to be entertaining, and I think that is something film snobs often forget. With that in mind, I just watched The Lost Boys for the first time since, I believe, middle school and it was an entertaining nostalgic thrill rider back to the ridiculous excess of the 1980’s.

The film’s plot is pretty simple. Corey Haim and Jason Patric have moved to a new town that is crawling with vampires. Jason Patric gets involved with a vampire biker gang led by Kiefer Sutherland, and he starts to turn into one. It’s up to Corey Haim and the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and an actor I’m not familiar with) to fight off the forces of evil and save Jason Patric along with Jami Gertz, another local who is being turned into a vampire. What makes the film the cult classic that it has become is the fact that it seems like a perfectly encapsulated bit of 80’s Americana in the way it captures so much of what made the 80’s the 80’s from the fashion to the soundtrack to other little things that let you know this is from the Reagan Era.

I’m not saying this is one of the best movies ever made, but there’s a reason this film’s popularity continues long after the 80’s have finished. If you like vampire movies or campy teen horror flicks, check it out. I’m honestly surprised I enjoyed this film as I did since it’s a Joel Schumacher movie and he managed to single-handedly nearly destroy the Batman franchise. It’s not a perfect movie and I don’t even know if I would call it a great movie. But it’s entertaining and sometimes isn’t that enough?

Final Score: B