The last movie of this genre I watched had Christopher Lee as the Werewolf Hunter. In this movie, the Werewolves engaged in a periodic orgy in which a newly converted nubile female would would be converted into a wolf-like form to have repeated dog-like copulations with a male vampire-wolf counterpart under the observation of the king and/or queen vampire and a dwarf. Or something like that. I came in during the middle of the movie and never quite got it. But it was obvious, and this is always true in traditional vampire and werewolf movies, that the Catholic Church is very much in the business of killing the vampires and any spare werewolves that happen to be around.
So there are two things to know about vampire and werewolf movies. 1) There is always a Christian/Good vs. Satanic/Evil dichotomy, and the Christian/Good side always wins; and 2) There is always some kind of dumb theme such as werewolf sex orgies or the old guy in the castle inviting over the young couple theme or something in between. There are exceptions to this, but these two characteristics mark every vampire movie or book I’ve ever seen or read up to but not really including Anne Rice.
Twilight is post-Rice. The soul is mentioned, eternal damnation is hinted at, but there is clearly a great deal of uncertainty about an afterlife, no mention of god, and the prevailing philosophy seems to border on agnosticism among the vampires, werewolves, and in-the-know humans. We do not see a priest in either movie. Only the vaguest historical reference to the church is made (one of the vampires and his father were vampire hunters for the church, in the old days). That’s the movie. In the books on which the movies are based there is, I’m told, a lively discussion on the matter of god. religion, hell, etc. and there is a great diversity of opinion.
The socially appropriate response to Twilight and New Moon is, of course, to reject them and ridicule anyone who might watch them. There are certainly things that can be criticized (understatement of the month). But it is worth pausing to examine this reaction. I posted on my Facebook account that I was watching the DVD of Twilight, and the next day, I posted that I just came back from the theater having watched New Moon. The most common response was “why.” Most of the comments were snarky, funny, and I certainly appreciated them, but what I realized is that most commenters did not appreciate what I was doing watching the movie. I was watching a teenage movie with my teenage daughter. It’s not like I have to watch every teenage movie she might like, but now and then we go to a movie together and that’s what we did this time. (Watching the DVD of Twilight was my prep for going to the theater to watch “New Moon” … obviously.)
I found the overall negativity about Twilight interesting. First, it is obvious that all of my friends on Facebook are movie snobs. They probably think Leslie Nielson movies suck too. Huh. I am not a movie snob, which makes me a much much happier person, I assure you. I hardly ever regret spending the seven bucks entry fee. Movie snobs must be very unhappy people, going to all those movies then complaining about them later.
Of course, most of these people are not really movie snobs. They are just caught up in the cultural norm of not liking certain things, or more exactly, not failing to have certain kinds of negative comments about certain things. The thing, the comment on the thing, or the relevance of the comment (the “thing” about the thing) are never important. What is important is that you know what the comment is supposed to be and when to make it. Like grammatical rules. Social interaction has a grammar, it turns out. But that is another blog post, for another time, I think.
The point is that Twilight and New Moon are in fact teenager movies, as were all of the other pre-Rice vampire movies ever made. Twilight and New Moon are made more for female teenagers and sensitive males (we met some at the theater) including kids who want some serious monster action mixed in with their romance. Earlier vampire movies were made more for adolescent boys (and their immature 20-something counterparts) who liked a little gratuitous animalistic sex mixed in with their Gothic god vs. Satan themes.
Putting it a slightly different way: I’ve hardly ever seen a vampire or werewolf movie that did not have some significant element …. like most of the movie in some cases … that made me cringe. Twilight and New Moon made me cringe because of the teenage angst and the whole “how long before they kiss” thing. I did not cringe because of absurd orgy scenes, because of god-Christian-crossy-holy water themes, because of overacted Transylvanians or because of exploitation of dwarves.
So on Balance, Twilight and New Moon enter the panoply of movies about vampires and werewolves with two thumbs up from me. Relatively speaking.
Added: Buffy vs. Edward (Thanks Ana)
See also this review of Twilight.