By Joe Viglione
Chief Film Critic
The good news for friends of vampire movies is that Twilight is a winner. It is creepy in the right places, spends lots of time on character development, and for those not familiar with the books by Stephenie Meyer, the author who initiated the idea in June of 2003, all the better as this novel approach to vampirism will suck you in. Director Catherine Hardwicke is almost out there in the Night Of The Living Dead realm with the absence of name actors, and this works to the film’s advantage.
Only vampire dad and doctor Peter Facinelli (the powerful human/alien, Karl Larson, in 2000’s Supernova) and Robert Pattinson (who was Cedric Diggory from the Harry Potter series) have any sort of marquee value, Kristen Stewart not yet a household name but someone who’s been busy piling up the credits in previous films with De Niro, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Diane Lane – all make for pretty much a clean slate which, to this critic, is the best way to establish a new series.
While no one really knew Daniel Radcliffe prior to Harry Potter – I mean, really, did anyone see him as David Copperfield when he was ten years old? – Pattinson is able to capitalize on his Harry Potter role and find himself emerge as a huge star among the teen girls of today who need a New Kid On The Block to talk about in the pages of Seventeen Magazine (he would’ve been on the cover of the old Sixteen Magazine but the times they change…). Just as James Cameron utilized a love story to propel Titanic to the top of the hit parade, it is the Pattinson/Stewart love tragedy that is the undercurrent to the supernatural drama.
It is a drama, and it has a real super villain – another unknown – in Cam Gigandet’s vampire “James”. Where Mathieu Amalric is just downright boring as the heavy in James Bond’s “Quantum Of Solace” (read review here on TMR Zoo), James is a bastard inflicting real pain on Kristen Stewart. These aren’t the predictable Fay Wray screams of Kirsten Dunst in the Spiderman movies, the “bad” vampires (as opposed to the “good” vampires) are out to cause mayhem and that delicate balance of heroes, villains and the people in between, placed in lush settings in Washington state with lots of mysticism grabbed straight out of Harry Potter, makes for a movie that will have viewers buying multiple tickets. Twilight reinvents the vampire.
They can enjoy the sunlight and the day, they do have superhuman powers, they do drink blood, but they don’t sleep in Bela Lugosi’s basement nor do they deteriorate like Nosferatu or the ex-lovers of Catherine Deneuve in 1983’s The Hunger, the last vampire film to actually add to the myth in a stylish and smart way. Twilight is the true son of The Hunger, and for those of us who felt cheated by the injection of Tom Cruise into Anne Rice’s 1994 epic Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, well, it seems every ten years a good creepy movie has to come out that isn’t the tired-old “Saw” or “Friday The 13th” or “Texas Chainsaw” in-your-face violence.
There is violence in Twilight but it is not out of place and the character set-up that generates empathy is superbly done so as to keep the viewer watching this soap opera from start to finish. It is the new Dark Shadows, vampires you can sympathize with, and want to visit in their mansion on the hill.