Thursday, July 09, 2009

Culture Shock 07.09.09: 'Twilight' is the Lifetime take on vampire movies

There are things worse than "Twilight." Root canals, for instance. But when it comes to major Hollywood productions, "Twilight" is amazingly, stupendously awful.

How awful is that? It's somewhere between "Ishtar" and "Battlefield Earth" on the scale of movie awfulness. It's like a Lifetime Television made-for-cable version of a vampire movie, except it doesn't star Tori Spelling.

By this point, I realize, I've offended a lot of people. Millions, probably.

"Twilight" was the No. 7 theatrical release of 2008, grossing more than $191 million domestically. More than 3 million copies of the DVD sold on its first day of availability. And the four books that comprise Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga to date have sold a combined 7.7 million copies in just the United States.

The movie version of the second book, "New Moon," is scheduled for release Nov. 20, and it will probably be one of the year's top-grossing movies, too, because it seems a lot of people really, really love "Twilight," in all of its incarnations.

Now, I'm not one to idly engage in fomenting panic and hysteria. I'm the guy who usually uses this space to tell you not to worry, because video games, trashy TV, popular music and comic books will not turn your children into juvenile delinquents, teenage mothers or that most pathetic of social outcasts, game show hosts.

But I do worry that America is raising a generation that will think vampires sparkle in the sunlight.

Whenever I see some teenage girl reading one of Meyer's books, I feel like yelling, "When I was your age, our vampires didn't sparkle in the sunlight! They shriveled up and died! Why, some of them even caught fire! And the ones who didn't at least had the common decency to lose their powers during the day! And we liked it that way!"

Then I shake my fist and tell the girl to get off my lawn.

But not to be an old fogey, I recently subjected myself to "Twilight" — after putting it off as long as I possibly could.

Reading the book was out of the question. I skimmed a few pages, and that was about all I could take. People on the Internet are churning out Kirk/Spock fan fiction written with more style. So, I watched the movie, instead.

Did I mention the movie is awful?

Still, I learned a lot by watching "Twilight." For example, I learned that vampires are basically just superheroes who crave blood, except they don't have to drink the blood of humans. Only bad vampires do that, and the bad vampires don't show up — bringing the plot along with them — until the end of the movie. Also, vampires love baseball, which gives them a chance to show off their superpowers.

Is this a vampire movie or an episode of "Smallville"?

The rest of "Twilight" is like one of those Lifetime movies in which the girl is stalked by some creepy guy who turns out to be a serial killer. Only this time, the guy is the hero, and I'm supposed to like him because he's dreamy, plus he's a vampire. And the girl is, like, totally cool with him stalking her and watching her while she sleeps. Ick.

Did I mention the girl is a teenager and the vampire was born in 1901? But that's OK, because "Twilight" is the most sexless vampire movie ever. This is the only time that drinking blood hasn't been a metaphor for anything. Besides, the lead actors, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, have all the chemistry of a lump of lead.

Immediately after watching "Twilight," I felt like I needed to crack open my skull and scrub my brain with bleach. But instead, I watched a real vampire movie, "Dracula A.D. 1972," starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as the vampire-hunting Professor Van Helsing.

Dracula hates sunlight, and when he stalks you, it's not because he has a bad case of puppy love. Now that's a vampire.

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