Twilight / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | November 24, 2008 | Comments ()
You ever find yourself half awake at 1 a.m. on a Friday night conducting one last round of channel flipping before heading to bed and landing on one of those horrible blind-date shows where the producers find some sick enjoyment out of connecting an empty-headed Miami beach hardbody with an overweight bookworm, just to see how it plays out? You hate the contestants, you loathe the host, there’s absolutely nothing entertaining about the show, but before each commercial, they tease the one nugget of interest coming up, and you find yourself an hour later — bleary-eyed, mouth agape, and bored — still waiting for something to happen. And the more time you contribute to it, the more you need the satisfaction promised by all those “coming up on” teasers. But it never comes. It never will. But you’ll sit there anyway, until the marathon has run its course, and you’ll go to bed hating yourself.
That’s Twilight. It’s intoxicating. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s intoxicating like convenience-store malt liquor — you get a hangover before you’re even drunk. It’s addictive. Like crack cocaine, only you don’t get to experience the high, you just skip straight ahead to the blackout and wake up in a stranger’s bed with a matchbox car six inches deep into your rectum. But you can’t turn away. There’s nothing you want more than to get up and walk out, but you’re drawn in — like a moth to an industrial-sized fan — stuck wriggling helplessly in your seat, knowing that your body is slowly being dissected by a crushing tedium. Twilight is train-wreck theater, only the promise of a derailment, carnage, and mass dismemberment never comes to fruition. The train chugs along slowly toward a cliff with no rails, but the cliff never arrives.
It’s also a stupid movie. Unrelentingly stupid. It’s a Spanish soap opera without the accents crossed with a sexless porn movie where all the actors are petulant little bitches. We’ve already had a high-school set vampire movie, goddamnit. It was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it featured Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, a killer Toad the Wet Sprocket tune, and a prom crashed by bloodsuckers. It was awesome. Twilight has nothing on Buffy. It’s a vampire movie written by a romance novelist, which means that all the vampire lore is thrown out of the casket and replaced with cloying sentimentality and insipid gushiness delivered breathlessly by twats. “Oh, Edward! I’d rather die than stay away from you!” Oh, do, please.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is junior, who just moved from Arizona to rural Washington state, where it’s always rainy and gloomy. She’s the “suffer-in-silence” type, but immediately befriends a group of relatively obnoxious friends, typical high-schoolers who gush over prom and natter over crushes. They’re not important. They’re introduced and quickly fade into the background of the story (which is almost a shame, since Anna Kendrick is the one talented actress among the younger cast members). Enter Edward Cullen, a pasty bedhead with black eyes and thin crimson lips — part Edward Scissorhands, part Derek Zoolander, and part android. He’s one of the mysterious Cullen clan, who keep to themselves mostly, on account of them being centuries’ old vampires. Their father, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), is the town doctor, a vampire humanitarian who only turns humans immortal if they’re on their deathbed. The only people who seem to have any knowledge of their vampirism are the Native Americans on a nearby reservation. They know because they’re descended from wolves, see. Also, because it’s the stupidest thing Stephenie Meyer could imagine.
I’m getting ahead of myself. With Edward and Bella, it’s love at first sight. She sees him and her heart leaps. He sees her and he gags violently and leaves school for a week. It turns out, Edward — whose family calls themselves vegetarians because they only drink the blood of animals — has a monster blood erection for Bella. He wants to drink her red Kool Aid. Or fuck her. It’s all very confusing for him emotionally. Over a few dinners, a few life-saving moments, and a lot of stalking, Edward and Bella grow fonder of one another. They love each other unconditionally. Or whatever. Bella eventually discovers Edward’s secret, and he opens up about it. He takes her to the top of a mountain, stands in the sun, and reveals his true self. It turns out, the sun doesn’t burn this strain of vampire; it turns them into Ziggy motherfucking Stardust. Their skin is made of glitter! Oh, bother.
The catch in their complicated relationship is that 1) Edward never ages; 2) he’s kind of a dick; and 3) she’s co-dependent and fairly insufferable. Oh, and also, Edward and his entire family have to struggle mightily to keep themselves from sucking the life out of Bella. This is especially difficult for Edward — making out arouses his bloodlust and sexy-time is all but impossible; it’d be like only having one Lay’s potato chip. You can’t eat just one. But Bella isn’t scared of Edward, most likely because Bella is kind of an idiot and probably doesn’t realize what her menstrual cycle is gonna do to that poor boy. Anyway, everything comes to a head over a vampire baseball game (don’t ask — Meyer apparently couldn’t think of a Quidditch equivalent for vampires, so she decided to throw down some retardation), when a trio of carnivorous vampires enter stage right and develop a thirst for Bella. Then things get ugly.
For those of you who haven’t actually read any of the Twilight novels, but have developed a certain perception of them and this movie, all I can say is: That perception is 100 percent correct. It’s a vampire movie made for the Lifetime network. It’s cheesy, ham-fisted, and dumb, a complete mockery of the vampire genre, a mockery that Catherine Hardwicke, (Thirteen), to her credit, stays completely true to the spirit of. It’s a terrible movie, but it’s not one you want to be caught sitting in front of — you’ll never be able to bring yourself to leave and, when it’s over, you’ll hate yourself for developing a curiosity for characters and a story and an empty, boneheaded mythology that doesn’t warrant your interest.
But I’ll grant this: The audience for the movie — bookish teenage girls in puffy sweaters, hoodies, and horn-rimmed glasses — isn’t nearly as obnoxious as I thought they’d be. I attended a midnight screening, fully packed — on a school night, no less — with almost nothing but teenage girls. You can’t begin to know the humiliation that accompanies being not only one of three guys in the entire theater, but by far the oldest, and the only one without eyeliner. (I suspect that anyone that noticed me hidden in the back of the theater thought I was trolling for jailbait.) But in sheepishly eavesdropping on conversations in the ticket line, in the concession line, and in the theater, I realized that most of these teenage girls didn’t take Twilight seriously. They knew it was trashy. They expected the movie to be bad. They weren’t hopelessly in love with the idea of Edward Cullen. They didn’t want to be Isabella Swan. And during the film, they laughed in all the inappropriate places. It dawned on me, in fact, that for a lot of 16-year-old girls, Twilight is their Snakes on a Plane, and Edward Cullen is their Sam Jackson. And in that realization, my faith in the Twatwaffle Generation, or at least parts of it, was instantly restored. There is hope yet, folks.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives withi his wife and son in Portland, Maine You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.