“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” was the number one movie this past weekend, taking in a total of $161 million in its first five days of release. The movie pulled in $68.5 million on its opening day of June 30th, which is second all time high following the previous Twilight movie, “New Moon”, which had a $72.7 million opening day debut. People are writing about how the newest installment is not making as much as the last movie; but, it’s doubtful anyone at Summit Entertainment, the movie’s distributor, is complaining. One thing it does have in common with the other films is that critics are largely panning it while the fans are giving it a whole lot of love. From the standpoint of it being a vampire movie, a sub-category of the horror genre, how does the Twilight films rank compared to all the other vampire movies?
There is no arguing that the Twilight movies are the most SUCCESSFUL vampire movies of all time. They’re not even done yet, as the next book in the series, “Breaking Dawn”, will be taking a page out of the Harry Potter playbook and will be split into two films. Regardless of the box office success, some may dismiss the series as “The worst vampire movies ever made!” Are they? There are so many vampire movies out there and if you are going to call these movies the worst of all time, you’d better be ready to back it up. So let’s try to find out if they are or are not.
During the last Academy Awards telecast there was a little outrage within the horror movie fan community. The Oscars wanted to give a salute to horror movies and put together a montage of some of the best known horror movies of all time. Towards the end of that sequence, shots of “Twilight” were shown, which upset many horror fans because they felt the Twilight movies don’t qualify as horror movies. It is true you probably won’t find any of the Twilight DVDs in the horror section of your local store; but, they are still movies that involve vampires, which are a part of the horror genre.
Many write off these movies as vampire movies because of some of the rules they break. One that comes to mind is what happens to vampires when they are exposed to the daylight. Vampire lore teaches us that if a vampire is exposed to sunlight, they will die, burst into flames and become dust, or just explode; but, no matter which way you paint it, sunlight = death for a vampire. That is not true in the world of Twilight. Instead, the vamps kind of sparkle and crystal like forms come off their skin. If someone were to see it, they would know this person was not human.
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According to the myths surrounding vampires, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and the rest of his family should be dead as soon as they are exposed to sunlight; however, since vampires ARE myths, there is no one source that definitively states what is and is not a vampire. A great example is to look at the movie “Underworld”. The movie IS considered to be a good vampire movie. Coincidently, in these films, vampires and werewolves are enemies, just like in Twilight. In the first “Underworld” movie the vampire, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), enters the home of a human without being invited in AND she sees her reflection in a mirror. According to the myths, both of these should not be possible, yet most people didn’t say anything when they saw the movie.
Something else you don’t see in the Twilight movies are fangs. One of the first things we associate with a vampire are their fangs. What do you think leaves such a unique hickey mark on their victims? We do see the Twilight vamps go for the necks of their victims, we just never see any fangs on them. So does this contribute to making Twilight a bad vampire movie? You can say “yes”, but then we should take a look at a movie that is considered one of the best vampire films of all time, “Near Dark”. The 1987 vampire movie is considered a classic among vampire movie fans and was directed by recent Oscar winning director, Kathryn Bigelow. Not only do we not see any fangs on the vampires in this film, the word “vampire” is not ever mentioned? How can one of the most renowned vampire movies of the 1980’s become so without even saying the word? A lot of that goes to the movie’s director; but, the point is that we don’t need to see fangs for it to be a good vampire movie.
So something has to be off about these movies for them to generate so much hate among horror fans. A fan may say that the critics are jealous. That wouldn’t explain anything. Most critics don’t have a stake in these movies, so they have nothing to be jealous about. Can the hate be about how these vampires die? They break apart like statues made of crystal in the movies. No, that just falls into another myth about vampires. At this point, as far as how much or how little the Twilight films follows vampire lore, has very little to do with whether they are bad vampire movies or not. Strangely, one of the most influential contributors of why these are such bad vampires movies is a character who is not even a vampire, Bella (Kristen Stewart).
If the world of Twilight were infused with the “Blade” (Wesley Snipes) movies, Bella would be known as a familiar. In “Blade” familiars are humans who know of vampires and want to be turned into one. Bella is a human in love with a vampire who endlessly whines about how much she wants to be made into a vampire so she can be with her beloved Edward forever. Eternal love is a theme often found in vampire movies and it is usually the vampire longing for a human to turn them into a never-ending mate. The fact that Bella is a young, dumb teenager, who doesn’t know what she really wants from life yet, is also what makes these movies so intolerable. This young woman is warned by everyone around her about the terrible life that awaits her. Every warning goes unheeded as this young woman doesn’t even seem to contemplate or care the this terrible fate that awaits her. Not to mention, when she first meets, Edward he treats her badly. Edward is a monster after all. She falls in love with this handsome vampire anyway. He treats her better after a bit of time; but, how she comes to fall in love with him in the first place is just sad. What’s sadder is the message this movie sends. There are so many girls out there who wish they were Bella. There must be better role models out there for them, both in the world of fiction and in real life.
“Fright Night” is a great vampire movie. It was funny, clever, and scary and had a great lead vampire in the form of Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon). There is one scene in the movie where he is asking the movie’s hero, Charlie, to leave him alone. “I’ll give you something I don’t have, Charlie, a choice,” he tells young Charlie. We learn so much about this character in one scene. Not just through his words, but also through Sarandon’s great performance. In the three Twilight movies we still don’t know too much about Edward Cullen other than the actor who portrays him is not required to emote very much. You almost feel that the three different directors of these movies only told Robert Pattinson, “Stand over there and just look pretty. Do some brooding too, if you can.” Just because you have someone who is handsome playing your vampire lead, does not mean you are making a good vampire movie. There has to be more
To point a finger at Edward alone as the sole vampire responsible would be unfair. This point may raise some eyebrows, however; the vampires known as The Volturi also can take some of the blame. They may be vampire royalty, but they are also a bunch of hypocrites when you observe the last two movies in the series. In “Eclipse” some of the Volturi, including Jane, played by Dakota Fanning who many Twilight fans successfully campaigned to land the role, come to Seattle when the raising of the newborn vampire army begins to arouse suspicion in the human world. In the Twilight movies most humans do not know vampires exist and the Volturi do their best to make sure it stays that way. In “New Moon” the Volturi slaughter a large group of tourists. It’s hard to believe this is a one time thing for them to do. Wouldn’t the relatives of these people notify authorities about their missing loved ones? If you think that maybe the police or whoever, would not know where to look, a good spot could be a Twitter page of one of the missing. One of them could easily twitter, “Hey were about to go in this monastery in Italy”. Perhaps the Volturi are not hip to modern technology.
The question remains, are the Twilight movies the worst vampire movies ever made? They may be bad, and it may make the haters feel better by calling them so; but, any true fan of vampire movies would have to admit there are plenty of other vampire movies that truly do…. suck! Has anyone seen “Transylvania 6-5000” or “Once Bitten” which starred Jim Carrey (who was billed as James Carrey in the movie)? Okay, maybe you want examples of vampire movies that weren’t also comedies. How about the “Queen of the Damned”? That movie was also based on a popular vampire novel and was sheer torture to sit through. You can also go with the campy ones you never heard of before, like “Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter”. You never saw Jesus like this (and you DON’T want to). There was a vampire movie for kids once called “The Little Vampire”. There has not been a vampire movie for kids ever since. Dennis Miller was once in a vampire movie called, “Bordello of Blood”. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, you would be correct. Ask how many people rank “Van Helsing” starring Huge Jackman as their favorite vampire movie of all time, and you may be on a never ending search.
“The Twilight Saga” is compilation of bad vampire movies, for sure, but they are not the worst. If you want to look at them as romantic fantasy movies, then you can say they are pretty decent. If you change your point of view around, you can make anything look good. At the end of the day, or as dawn approaches if you will, you can’t argue with box office success. Twilight fans may believe that “Eclipse” will be the number one movie of the summer; but, these are the same people who said “New Moon” would be more successful than “Avatar”. Right now, it is looking like “Toy Story 3” will be the #1 film of the summer. “Eclipse” will certainly find itself in the top five and you will never find a studio upset with that kind of success. No matter what your opinion of these movies is, someone is laughing all the way to the bank.