Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Horrible Non-Horror! The Twilight Edition

I did it. 

It hurt. A lot.
Why you ask, would someone with such refined taste as myself (said as I dust off the cover to The Refrigerator) possibly embark on such an inevitably ill-fated journey into the realm of tween romance and Mormon metaphors growing like weeds in the Twilight saga? No, it wasn’t peer pressure stemming from the fact that several coworkers have prominent screensavers highlighting the cheekbones of starring minors. A more noble cause, I promise.
I don’t like to trash something I haven’t seen. For all I know, Maid of Honor is a charming romance, The Backup Plan should win J-Lo an Oscar, and Nicholas Sparks is this generation’s James Joyce. As much as I allow my eyeballs to make a full ecliptical roll when I hear these kinds of trailers, I try to stop myself from actively criticizing if I have yet to personally experience them. That’s part of why Saw has such a bad wrap and I simply don’t like it.

Neither does Costas.
And thus, with beer in the fridge, pizza in my belly, and dear friend Erica (and gleeKast cohostess-Episode 2 now available!) supplying the DVDs, I sat back and entered Forks, Washington, population: angst.

Quick Plot: 
You pretty much know it, but for the uninformed, here goes: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to a small town to live with her sheriff dad Chris. Despite the fact that her classmates seem to be very welcoming, Bella prefers to be miserable by stalking Edward Cullen, her pasty lab partner who spends about 65% of his life angrily walking away from people, 30% trying not to vomit, and the remaining 5% ensuring that the height of his hair puts Luke Perry’s circa Season 1 of 90210 to shame. They eventually fall in love (I guess; neither’s voice ever registers more than a sprinkle of emotion so it’s not easy to detect) and about 80 minutes in, experience CONFLICT.

Not in the form of Edward’s vampirism (remember, he’s a vegetarian who only eats animals...which-nevermind) but rather, a feuding tribe of glowering undead who really dig the scent of unpleasant 17 year old girls. And thus a hunt proceeds and the prom happens. Then there’s a Stabilizer-ish music video recapping the greats screen shots for end credits and I cry a little inside.

Onto New Moon, an amazing feat of utter boredom mixed with hilariously cashed in -on opportunities to display young men sans shirts. We catch up with Bella and Edward as their relationship has progressed to serious staring into each others’ eyes territory. Upon her 18th birthday, Miss Mopey gets a paper cut (in slo mo) and the Cullen clan realize her delectable potential puts her in danger of becoming soup. Edward and Co. exit town, leaving an even more sedated Bella to pout, her now miserable life only uplifted by the presence of yet another mysterious and handsome peer named Jacob’s Six Pack, the adrenaline rushes she gets trying to kill herself (and often tells us about, leading us to wonder if it paid for product placement) and the occasional Obi Won Kenobi-ish glimpses of floating Edward heads. Mostly though, Bella likes to moan about how there’s nothing to live for now that her former prom date is on the road.

Doesn’t this kid have SATs to prepare for? College applications? An afterschool job at the local diner? She has friends--admittedly rather obnoxious and chirpy, but nice enough--but Bella is, essentially, a feminist’s worst nightmare. A pretty young woman who cannot function without the support of a man, be it an emotionally abusive vampire or concerned werewolf with a crush. When Edward leaves, Bella’s as good as dead. When Jacob goes, she proceeds to cry again over Edward. “You can’t break up with me,” she pleads, even though nothing in their relationship ever suggested the fact that she and Six Pack were dating. Sure, he was willing to whip off his t-shirt to clean up a spot of blood on her head, but does Bella have to be the center of everyone’s universe? Especially when she has the personality and spark of a corn nut?

Finally, 90 minutes into the film, we get some news of something somewhat potentially interesting happening. Edward’s in Italy, about to sparkle under the Tuscan sun with the Volturi high council. I’ll confess that I dozed off a minute or two here, during which I assume I missed Bella googling visa protocol and finding a great flight deal on 

Anyway, Italy, stuff, Edward, windchime sound effects, Dakota Fanning in contacts, old men grumbling, slo-mo speed fights, and in the film’s only real saving grace, the great (and genre-supportive) Michael Sheen as Aro, head over-the-top vampire boss who seemed to learn a few lessons in spangles and stares from Sheen’s Underworld costar Bill Nighy. In case you can’t guess, it ends moodily happy with thinly veiled metaphors regarding chastity until marriage.

I accept that I am not the target audience for the Twilight saga. Perhaps 15 years ago, when my nose was permanently lodged into a V.C. Andrews saga, I would have been mildly interested in a mashup of young love and undead limitations but in as objective as a voice as I can muster, this is indeed a horrid, horrid world of offensive melodrama. As a young teenager, I enjoyed the adventures of Cathy Dollanger in Flowers in the Attic not because she was beautiful, loved, and the target of abuse, but because in the face of devastating events, she maintained a spirit in overcoming it to protect herself and family. 

The vampires and Bella are utterly selfish and despicable beings. Observe how they watch as an extended tour group--complete with children--marches into certain death via vampire festival right before the final scene in Italy. “Keep walking,” Edward instructs Bella who, of course, listens to everything he has to say and does. I don’t require my protagonists to be heroic, but these are, essentially, supermonsters who we as the audience are supposed to be enthralled by. Why oh why should we have ANY investment in their fate when they clearly care so little about anything but their own?
Bella, meanwhile, is defined entirely by the men who pass into and out of her life. Yes, many 17 year old girls prioritize relationships, but by 18, don’t you start to consider the direction of your life? Can’t suicide wait for graduation or the sequel to Face Punch?
There’s room for intriguing plot points. I like the idea of a barechested gang of young muscle men representing a certain analogy for homosexuality (sample quote “It’s not a lifestyle choice. I was born this way.”) but knowing Stephanie Meyers’ conservative Mormon leanings, I don’t imagine that’s the way this turns out.

Random Relish (not worthy of actually being High Points)
Can’t help but love the fact that in Italy, elevator music = operatic muzak
For awkward third wheel date night, Bella chooses the movie “Face Punch” and we get to hear a few bits of dialog. Also, I realize I would much rather be watching Face Punch.

In a movie filled with mumbling actors, one must turn on some subtitles, something that often brings out the best in scriptwriting. My favorite example refers to a motion of Edward which my screen read “Sighs Exasperatedly.” The best part is that there was about nine times more emotion in that line than there was in Pattinson’s actual delivery
Winning Lines
“Hold on tight, spider monkey.”
So many victories in this sentence. 1) It’s the dumbest pet name ever 2) It’s followed by a piggy back ride that recalls Luke’s training montage with Yoda wrapped around his shoulders and 3) It’s insanely ridiculous

“I wish I could explain but I literally can’t.”
Maybe if these kids spent more time paying attention in English class as opposed to bulking up, they would be able to explain. And understand the definition of ‘literally.’
“Is it possible that everything is true? The fairy tales and horror stories?Is it possible that there isn’t anything sane or normal at all?”

What does this even mean? The kid’s already witnessed her boyfriend sparkle and her friend morph into a CGI infused werewolf. Can’t she just accept that yes indeed, Santa completes his duties in one night and leprechauns like shoes?
Stake In the Heart
Dear Twilight: I’ll forgive some of your inanity, but do not, do not DARE to make any sort of reference, however passing it may be to Dawn of the Dead

Lessons Learned
You can google a lot of things, including the word “adrenaline rush” and how to find a book about a legend, where to purchase said book, and directions to take in reaching the place of purchase. Yes, we get a whole sequence devoted to Google Maps. 
In order to woo the pretty weird new girl, make sure you treat her like shit and constantly walk away while she’s talking. Chicks dig that.
The name ‘Bella’ is Italian

Ain’t no adults cooler than lingo-spouting Native American paraplegics!
As I stated before, I don’t approve of anybody mocking any movie until an actual watch. When it comes to something like the juggernaut of Twilight, you almost have try it in order to properly criticize the dreadful messages the saga sends. I wouldn’t feel so much anger towards a mere high school romance if I didn’t think this series is positively awful when it comes to portraying women, something particularly dangerous to the sensitive tween audience eating it up like Jelly Bellies. As I explained, it's worth catching ten minutes of to at least mount a solid defense against your cubicle neighbor, babysitter, or random subway rider you feel the need to educate. I take no real pleasure in announcing my opinion that Twilight and New Moon are painful experiences in both film and feminism. As a responsible masochist, I suffered through it and admit feeling a tad stronger as a result.

Even Tony Blair is proud of me!

Now let us never talk about this mess again.


  1. ....I'm still laughing. That was hilarious, and you're my new hero.

    And I simply cannot even force myself to believe someone actually tattooed that mess on their back. (Probably more than one someone!)

    Well done:)

  2. Oh Chris, there are websites-emphasis on the plural--devoted to Twilight tattoos, and the one at the top is nowhere near the worst. It's a fascinating Google image search but also incredibly depressing...

    Much like so many moments of Twilight. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. Eh... "Twilight" - I seriously don't understand what all the fuss is about. I mean sure there's gonna be fans, just like every other thing in this world, but I just can't seem to comprehend what made it so popular. I'm guessing it's the actors, or at least part of it. It definitely wouldn't have had the same effect had Edward been played by a different actor or Belle by a different actress.

    I have seen the first one in the series and it wasn't that bad, I have to admit. Average at most, but it was much better than what I had expected. That being said, it still remains a mystery to me how it became so popular. I'm definitely gonna see the second one, even if only so I can have a solid case when I'm arguing with someone about it. Not looking forward to it, though.

    Nice entry, I really enjoyed the humour. Cheers!

  4. Pure gold, Emily :D

    Thank you for mentioning the femimism fail in this movie. I've actually only read one other review that mentions this.

    Of course, when you go to your co-workers and attack these now-witnessed travesties, you do understand that their instant reaction will be "well if you'd read the books...".

    Sorry ;P

  5. Boo frickin' hiss! Now I have to watch this for myself.

    I've avoided it for every, single issue you've raised. But as you said, if I were 10 years younger I probably would've latched on to this series like a hungry newborn on mamma's teet. More so for the vampiric element and I fear my reaction to the actual motivation of Bella and lack of foresight into what is being called the flattest acting ever.

    The author being a mormon sounds familiar. Is that true?

    *slaps forehead*

  6. I don't know Atroxion. I think the books were actually quite popular before the films. Nowhere near the level of insanity now, but still strangely beloved by a lost generation.

    I think the first film was slightly better than the second and I'm all for stepping back to say 'it's made for a particular audience that I am not a part of' (I'm still the gal who gave a pass to Beverly Hills Chihuaha) but both the Twilight movies just irked me on such a deep level.

    And Rachel--Exactly on the feminist rant. Sure, not all characters sing Helen Reddy, but Bella is just absolutely useless and awful. Chris (commenter two above you) just wrote an interesting article about the books on her blog, I haven't read them, don't think I can really bring myself to do so, but from my understanding, the plot (or lack of) remains close to the books. I think another crime of the films is that both filmmakers were probably too scared/not allowed to add any of their spark to the actual material. From what I understand, even characters' clothing is identical to some of the text.

    Ashlee: I have faith that you would have been a wiser teen capable of resisting Pattinson's constipated charms. Yes, Meyers is Mormon, and yes, the last line of New Moon is indeed "I'll bite you on one condition: you marry me first."

    But hey, Anne Rice turned uber Christian so maybe one can't write a successful vampire series without some form of church interference?

  7. "The author being a mormon sounds familiar. Is that true? "

    Emily made a typo. She meant to say "the author being a MORON".

    I mean...vampires that GLOW in sunlight? Holy crap, I made a shirtless clown, but even I think sparkling vampires is SUPERGAY.

  8. You take that back! Corn Nuts have plenty of personality. Mmmmmm, Corn Nuts.

  9. FYI The dad's name is Charlie, not Chris. Give the man some respect! He and his mustache certainly don't get any from Bell! :P

  10. That was some of the best reading I have had in a while. Maybe because it's not in my demographic, but I just don't understand Twilight. My wife drags me out to see them in the theater and like Bella, I do everything she says and does. Haha

    The premise of the books/films seem to be the author putting herself into a fantasy universe where men fight for her affection even though she is 100% broody and as fun as getting a root canal. Se should rename Bella Debbie Downer. Bella is such a loser and no dudes who look like that would be that interested in her. No I'm serious and I dispute this all of the time with my wife. During the "passing months" sequence where she is in depression due to Edward leaving, I told my wife (in the theater mind you), "What a whacked out desperate bitch! How pathetic can you be?"

    So Emily, I guess what I'm saying is that I liked your review and you allowed me to air my frustrations with the whole Twilight universe.

    BTW - there's a Twilight-themed cruise. Totally serious. You visit locations of the film. How lame. Sci-Fi and even Twilight get their own theme cruises but horror gets denied once again. I mean come on, a Twilight cruise?

  11. I can't believe you did it Emily. Actually, I have New Moon here. My dad's girlfriend wanted me to get it through Netflix so she could watch it. She likes the books, but hates the movies. Since I have New Moon here, I've been throwing around the idea of going ahead and getting Twilight, and reviewing both. I haven't added it yet, but I'm considering it.

    As always, enjoyed reading what you thought of the movies!

  12. Kangas: You're totally right about the typo, but wrong on the homosexual underlyings. Those are totally reserved for the werewolves who, I'm scared to say, make Shivers--with his half-bib teasingly covering that collarbone--resemble an absolute Puritan!

    PoT: I'm currently wiping off sodium dust from my delicious BBQ corn nuts (which I would never EVER compare to Bella) so you may be right. I've never had the original but there is indeed a good chance they're more interesting. Hell, rice cakes are more interesting.

    Erica: My apologies. I guess I valued Chris/Charlie's role as much as his daughter does. Also, notice how you're quite good at correcting my modern culture snafus?

    Geoff: Indeed! I was thinking about this while watching Repulsion, a fantastic film but also focusing on a pretty, but totally undatable woman who draws the attention of a nice enough young man. What gives?

    And wow Twilight cruise. Wow wow. I imagine that they give you sunscreen cut with glitter and lots of valium. Sounds kinda neat if that's the case!

  13. I just came. All over my computer.
    Thanks Emily, I needed that.

  14. I came too, but it only dribbled out onto my rug. I am getting old you know!

    Great review and I always support and commend a reputable horror fan taking on the task of watching and reviewing something that might hurt a little.

    For the most part, I am with you on the stance of don't make fun unless you have seen it, however, I have seen enough Roland Emmerich films to keep my distance from something like 2012. I shall not be duped again!

    I, never having seen a Twilight film or read any of the books, keep from trashing the property. I do get irritated that so many people are completely smitten by it, while a film like Let the Right One In are all but ignored by the general public. It also sucks that the films have and will have a major influence on horror in the next half decade or so, due to their popularity and the jump on the bandwagon mentality of Hollywood.

    I myself have wanted to watch and review the films at some point in the future and even before seeing them, I almost know how those reviews will come out. The movies are lame, yes, but are they for me? Nope.

  15. Heather: Ask that woman why she despises the films compared to the books please (how you like that I just gave you a homework assignment, by the way). I was under the under the impression that the movies were really close in spirit and plot, but perhaps I'm wrong. Actually, that never happens, but ask anyway.

    And BJ-C, you know that I live to serve! Just remember to let that keyboard sit awhile before typing. I don't want to cause any more dangerous accidents there.

    Matt: I still wonder if there's hope for Emmerich based on a strange little ventriloquist movie he made in the '80s called Joey. Always freaked me out and from what I recall, it didn't involve CGI or heroic family men saving the world.

    And talk about Twilight's effect: have you seen the terrible Blu Ray cover to Near Dark? Floating heads and all!

    Of course, I do secretly hope you watch them because like all that comes out of your body, I predict a review would be golden.

  16. I love comparing the dark operatic Catholicism of the Interview series to the squeaky clean yet somehow more disturbing Mormonism of Twilight.

    Catholic Vampires will destroy themselves to prove the existence of God to an unbelieving populace.

    Mormon Vampires will go on a picnic.


    Funny story before the Twilight broohaha was in full swing I noticed my little cousin reading the books. I asked her what it was about, she told me "vampires". I figured "Oh cool bonding experience."

    I blasted through that poorly written piece of shit in a couple hours (one thing not mentioned enough in all the criticism is how line by line incompetent the writing is. Snobs love to bitch about Rowling, but Meyers makes Rowling look like fucking Cormac McCarthey) I chuckled fully confident that I would never have to hear about this piece of shit again.

    I drove to the supermarket to get some alcohol to bleach it out of my brain, and came upon a PALLET being unloaded that contained nothing but Twilight books.

    The sinking existential horror that gripped me at that moment can not be defined.

  17. I would say that you saved me from watching Twilight, but unfortunately, I already have (thanks mom, wife and daughter!)... However, you may have at least saved me from watching the second one, which you should be proud of.

    And was there a Dawn of the Dead reference?? I think I missed it. I would've recalled the brain aneurysm...

  18. Bryce: Good point. Catholics are sooooo dramatic. Just, like, marry the girl and bite her already. Don't feel so guilty about it.

    Sheesh, the juggernaut that is Twilight is insane and I can't imagine how weird it must have been for someone like you to have read it before the hype, only to be so incredibly bewildered by its success. I can't even think of a comparison! Pacifier necklaces maybe?

    B-Sol: The DotD reference is in New Moon, when Anna Kendrick goes on a rant about how, like, zombie movies are just, like, silly because the people shop and complain and I don't remember the rest because I wanted to kill myself.

    But that's beside the point: your daughter watched these films? My gosh. Your parenting skills are questionable. Very. Questionable.

  19. I think that this millenial generation is growing up selfish and self-absorbed. They feel like they are the center of the universe, righteously self-entitled, and as if their every self-absorbed emotion is as powerful as the forces that move the heavens.

    With that being said, Twilight seems to perfectly suited to its demographic (or Moms who want to pretend they're their daughter's age).

    Also, that line about corn nuts was classic.

  20. I will get to them one day for sure...only to partially torture myself and also it should garner a bit of entertainment in review form!

    I have seen the weak cover art for that Near Dark release...I bought the special edition used on DVD for like $3 and it has the original cover, so I feel good! That is a good and only one of many examples of the Twilight influence that is sure to continue.

    By the way, after I read this post, I saw that exact same Flowers in the Attic book at a garage sale! I thought it was your house, but you live in NY, so no dice!

  21. Zed: Interesting point. My only issue is that this 'me' thing is new. Haven't we always been selfish lil bastards?

    Matt: That 2-disc Near Dark release is amazing in itself AND has better cover art. And you know, I did sell a bunch of my V.C.Andrews books to a used bookstore a few years back so that COULD have been mine, but I think I actually hung onto my FitA copy out of nostalgia's sake. I have passages underlined in that thing!

  22. You truly have gazed into the gaping maw of incomprehensible cultural poopery to take on both films at once! I've been trying to avoid this myself, but after reading your take on it I think I have to give it the ol' college dropout try -- like you said, if I'm gonna talk smack I should at least give it a shot. I guess what seems to bug me isn't that it's not scary (I mean, I like Dark Shadows, which is kinda my mental comparison, and there's nothing scary about that) or "vampire-authentic" or even well written, it's that I don't get the *payoff*. If vampire books are the English-speaking version of tentacle porn (in that I guess penetration is penetration) then what is the suburban teenage version of the money shot? To quote the film Slap Shot, if you were gonna underline the fuck scenes in Twilight what would you underline? VC Andrews totally makes sense by this criteria, as do other teenage faves (Go Ask Alice, for example), but is Twilight just so subtle (or context-dependent) in its suggestiveness that I'm just not seeing it? Anyway, the die is cast, I'll try to get up a review (or as much of a review as I can scream out before my mind shrivels up like a prune and goes silent forever) this weekend.

  23. This post is an insult to Corn Nuts! :)

    Seriously, awesome work Emily. Lots of full laughs in this one, and it's for the greater good.

  24. Thanks MIke! For that compliment, you deserve a bag of BBQ corn nuts!

  25. db: The money shot in Twilight, I think, is just the constant reassurances Edward makes that he loves Bella. Seriously, New Moon ends with an inappropriate marriage proposal to a, 18-year-old girl! It's wish fulfillment on some weird child-like Barbie dream wedding level.

  26. "My only issue is that this 'me' thing is new. Haven't we always been selfish lil bastards?"

    But we previous generations didn't live in a society or parental structure that supported and encouraged our selfish inclinations.

  27. Good point Zed. I guess in the age of "I'm so great, I can put myself singing to my hairbrush on youtube!" we do overestimate our worth.

    Says the gal who now writes a blog and records a podcast. Where's my vampire to make me the center of universe???

  28. I feel it is my purpose to keep you on track Em. Plus I have too much useless knowledge about pop culture. :(

  29. You can never have too much useless knowledge. For example, can you tell me--sans IMDB--which Olsen twin was featured in the hilariously abominable trailer for Beastly?

  30. guess without imdb: mary-kate.

    I just checked and am in fact right. I'm going to go punish myself for telling them apart now.

  31. Goodness woman, for that crime I sentence thee to 50 viewings of a much better twin-centered film, Dead Ringers! And no, you cannot fast forward through the gynecologist-gone-wrong scenes!