(2008, Romance/Horror, color)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
In a Nutshell:
A depressed young woman dates her supernatural stalker.
High school junior Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves out of Phoenix, Arizona—one of the sunniest places in the United States—to give her newly-married mom some time with her new husband. Bella’s destination is Forks, Washington—one of the most overcast places in the United States (and yes, that’s foreshadowing)—where her father is sheriff. She’s depressed by her mom’s marriage, depressed by the move, depressed by the expectation that the kids at her new school won’t like her. She gets to school and is immediately accepted into a circle of best friends while half a dozen boys begin vying for her favor. Needless to say, all this instant good fortune depresses her.
The one fly in the ointment is her new Biology lab partner Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pale gentleman with red-rimmed eyes and Eraserhead hair. He is rude and dismissive the first day, disappears for a few days after that, and thereafter peppers her with friendly questions in a pointlessly hostile tone while intermittently stalking her. Bella reacts the way any angst-filled teen girl seeking the exact opposite of a healthy relationship might; she asks him to come to a beach party with her that weekend.
Edward is noncommittal for reasons that become clear at the party. The beach in question is on the Quileute Indian Reservation, and Edward’s family has an agreement with the tribe to stay off their land. Bella’s Quileute friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) spills the beans while hinting that the Cullen family might be more than human, but refuses to elaborate further.
Intrigued, Bella plans a visit to a bookstore in a nearby town to look up the old Quileute legends pertaining to Jacob’s story. She gets lost and ends up in the bad part of town, ending up cornered by a gang of ill-defined ruffians. Fortunately, her stalker is on hand to save her. Edward drives up and whisks her away. Their halting, intermittent conversation reveals a bit of mind-reading, but nothing beyond that besides a mutual interest in each other. He drops her off at home, where she reads her newly acquired book and looks up the legend online. She confronts him with it at school the next day. He is a vampire.
He admits his vampirism. Apparently, the reason he likes Bella so much is because her blood smells extraordinarily tasty, far more so than that of ordinary mortals. The sun comes out, and he takes off his shirt to show her why vampires don’t come out in daylight. (It’s because they sparkle like rhinestones). These appear to be reasons enough to begin a relationship.
Bella introduces Edward to her dad. Edward introduces Bella to his vampire parents, brothers and sisters. At this point I guess I should mention that the Cullen vampires only drink animal blood. This is important not only because it establishes the Cullens as “good guys”, but because a group of human-eating vampires show up during a game of vampire baseball. They just want to hang out and play, at least until a vampire named James (Cam Gigandet) smells Bella’s blood and decides he wants a snack. Edward hustles Bella away while the other Cullens try to hunt down James.
Bella flees back to Phoenix. James catches up and takes Bella’s mom hostage, warning her to meet him at a nearby ballet studio. Bella meets him there, and it turns out that James has only taken an old recording of her mother hostage. James tortures Bella until Edward and his family arrive to take him down. Bella’s been bitten by this time; Edward sucks the venom back out so that she won’t become a vampire too. They make up a story to explain her injuries and flight to Phoenix. Everyone heads back to Forks for prom.
Before anyone asks, I may as well admit that I’ve read the book and—despite the fact that I’m neither a teenage girl nor a middle-aged woman—I found it reasonably entertaining. Make of that what you will. Despite its theatrical release, the movie’s oversimplified characters, straightforward dialogue and obvious technological limitations give it a distinctive Direct-to-Video flavor, but it’s reasonably competent as well. Note that I didn’t call the movie “reasonably entertaining”. This is because it fails quite badly on one very important front.
Now, granted, teen love is fraught with awkwardness, angst and a whole host of other emotional discomforts. Yes, there’s usually suffering involved. What Twilight (the movie) fails to show us is the reason these two put up with the suffering. It refuses to satisfy any of the emotional and physical needs that might keep them together. Simply put, these two do not enjoy each other’s company. Physically, they can’t get it on because Edward is strong enough to squish her into jelly, and if they go too far, he’ll get excited and drain her dry. Emotionally, their conversations are either halting, incomprehensible affairs that trail off into nothing or intense, earnest talks about how their relationship isn’t healthy for either of them. When they gaze deeply into one other’s eyes, it’s to scowl, pout or twitch. I don’t care how many of their audible lines reference their undying love, the body language tells me that they can’t stand each other.
So, it’s a ridiculous and intensely angst-filled teen vampire movie with lots of long, unnecessary pauses. Add in its inexplicable popularity, and you’ve got perfect Rifftrax material. Mike in particular has a lot to say regarding the relationship model on display: “That look’s from the Guy You Alert the Flight Attendant About Collection;” “That look from the Guy in Car Peeping in Through the Yoga Class Window with his Binoculars Collection;” “He’s quoting from the Abusive Guy Handbook;” and “She loves him based on him not killing her. That’s healthy.” Bill has a few apt descriptions for Edward, including: “The love child of Matthey Perry and Powder” and “An off-brand version of Johnny Depp wearing body glitter.” When they start playing with the focus and the filters during the final confrontation, Bill complains of an acid flashback. The others respond that they see it as well, to which Bill replies, “You guys also see Jim Nabors riding a killer whale in space?” I laughed hardest during the car ride home from the book store, when the supposedly star-crossed lovers exchange panicked glances for far too long while the riffers whispered “Line?” to each other over and over again. When I have to quote more than one line per riffer, you know it’s good. I’m thinking it would be funny to round up my wife and her friends to watch it with me, and then see who laughs with me and who gets offended. Or maybe I’d just get in trouble with the missus. I’ll have to think about it.
(2008, Romance/Horror, color)