Two based-on-the-best-selling-novel vampire movies—one stars adults but is aimed at 12-year-olds, the other stars 12-year-olds but is aimed at adults—have arrived simultaneously. Good news for those who want nothing more than a sip of somebody’s blood.
First up is Twilight, an otherworldly bad, accidentally hilarious vampire movie, which—though based on the first in a series of junior chick-lit novels by Stephenie Meyer—seems as if it could have been penned by Sarah Palin, it’s so full of expensive-but-still-not-cool outfits, abstinence and incomprehensibly lame lines. The inexplicable recipient of a maniacal tween “craze” that must have sent shares of Hot Topic soaring, Twilight aims for the production value of an especially bad CW show, yet winds up even lower, feeling like a Zoolander sequel that doesn’t know it’s a joke.
The action revolves around Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a charmingly clumsy high school junior who, due to family matters, moves from Arizona to the drizzly northwestern town of Forks, Wash. to live with her police chief father. There she begins a tentative romance with a pale young man named Edward Cullen, about whom something is not right. (Edward is played by the ridiculously good looking Robert Pattinson, who, with his 90210-era coiffure and perfect features, is the catalyst for much of Twilight’s Tiger Beat-set hysteria.) After a quick, wordless courtship that is a veritable ballet of lip quivers and puckers, Bella seeks to unravel the mystery of her beau’s clammy flesh, while her new BFFs unwittingly prepare for prom and her father investigates a rash of mysterious animal attacks that have left several townsfolk dead.
Edward is a vampire, it’s true. But he’s a good vampire—part of a family who, through moral considerations, eschew human blood, drinking animal blood instead, despite temptation. Edward, knowing that a relationship is based on trust and honesty, wants Bella to see the real him. And so, in a particularly telling scene, he puts her on his back and, through the powers of some what-the-hell-were-they-thinkingly bad special effects, flies her to a mountaintop where he exposes himself to a ray of sunlight. Edward throws open his designer jacket and the results are startling. Where gray-dead flesh was expected, one finds, instead, Edward’s alabaster skin, sparkling and luminescent. Vampires, apparently, wear Victoria Secret’s shimmering body lotion. Bella is rightly shocked.
Still, evil, human-blood-drinking vampires lurk. A crew of them, who must have suppressed their bloodlust when they went on their shopping spree at Urban Outfitters, appear at the good vampires’ baseball game. Led by a Lil Wayne-look-alike, they emerge—seriously—from a puff of smoke to their own special soundtrack. And so Bella faces the specter of having her life drained. The same would be true of the audience if it wasn’t laughing so hard.
If Twilight culls laughter from its poseur cheesiness (and is, therefore, worth seeing), the new Swedish vampire movie and insta-classic Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson and drawn from the novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, elicits rounds of hearty laughter through its mixture of surprising tenderness and near-perfect scenes of choreographed violence. This is a horror movie that has nearly as much crossover potential as Silence of the Lambs.
Revolving around the relationship between a bullied, blond 12-year-old boy and an unkept girl with no need for shoes in the snow, Let the Right One In (which draws its title from the vampiric dictum that vampires must be invited into a home before they can enter) is so delectable it’s best not to spoil how it unfolds. But if a seamlessly told tale of young love mixed into a jump-inducing vampire movie with top-notch acting and cinematography sounds appealing, give in to your desire. You’ll like the taste.
Let the Right One In
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
With Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson
114 min., R
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
With Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
122 min., PG-13