Archive for Twilight

Film Review: Let the Right One In

Posted in Cinema with tags , , on November 23, 2008 by davehurwitz
5 out of 5 Bloody Knives

5 out of 5 Bloody Knives

This weekend, hoards of young women have lined up to see the movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.  While I enjoy a good vampire movie as much and possibly more than the next man, I often long for something a little less commercial.  If you agree, skip the multiplex in favor of your local art house and buy a ticket to Let the Right One In.

Superficially, the two films would seem to have much in common.  Like Twilight, Let the Right One In is based on a highly successful first novel.  Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s premise may sound similar too.  The lonely, wispy Oskar finds friendship and perhaps even love with the immortal Eli.  But these similarities are deceptive.

Oskar is not merely lonely.  He is completely cut off from all human contact.  He has no friends and is constantly picked on at school.  His divorced mother treats him like an annoyingly mobile piece of furniture.  There is a scene in which Oskar visits his father.  They play tic-tac-toe with perfect contentment.  But when a friend drops by with a bottle, it is as though Oskar ceases to exist.  His happy face closing up in disappointment is perhaps the saddest image in the film.  In his way, Oskar is not so different from Eli, who has “been twelve for a long time.”  Both are cut off from the human world by circumstances neither can change.

Eli spattered in blood (a rare scene in the film)

Eli spattered in blood (a rare scene in the film)

Running counter to all of this is Eli’s deteriorating relationship with her aging, incompetent Renfield.  While she obviously loved him once, she grows less tolerant as his bungling deprives her of blood and exposes her to the police.  In the end, she kills him with a certain tenderness, but with little remorse.  As the movie draws to a close, Oskar is forced to flee with Eli.  He does so happily enough, but we can see the life—and the death–that await him all to clearly.  We are left to wonder how many times Eli has been through this cycle, and if this is what she had in mind for Oskar all along.

Let the Right One In makes beautiful use of Sweden’s bleak winter landscapes and institutional apartment blocks and schools.  One of the film’s central images is a pathetically small jungle-gym crusted with snow.  The gore is minimal, but shocking when it appears.  Most of Eli’s powers are suggested by artful misdirection and some animalistic Foley effects.  The climatic confrontation between Eli and Oskar’s schoolyard tormentors is a masterpiece of cinematic understatement that put me in mind of Val Lewton’s Cat People.

Both the young leads, Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli, are superb.  Like the film itself, their performances are subtle, never splashy.  They are a darker Peter Pan and Wendy, a tiny thread of nascent sexuality running through all their awkward interactions.  While superficially a love story, Let the Right One In unfolds with the inevitability of a tragedy.  It reminds us that there is a price to be paid whenever human and monster meet.

Dave Hurwitz

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Edward Cullen, Angel, Louis, Barnabas and Blacula (The Evolution of the Caring Vampire)

Posted in Rotten with tags , , , , on November 16, 2008 by davehurwitz
Jonathan Fritz as Barnabas Collins

Jonathan Fritz as Barnabas Collins

It all started with a mistake. Vampires were supposed to be evil. Spawns of the night. Supernatural fiends. At least this had been the norm for a great deal of the genre. This all changed in the spring of 1967, when a third rated ABC sought to boost ratings on it’s soap opera Dark Shadows by introducing Barnabas Collins, a vampire.

He was intended for only one season, and like his predecessors, was to be villainous. Afterward, torrents of mail kept the character alive. A Van Helsing type character, Dr. Julian Hoffman, was added to hunt and destroy the vampire. However a typo changed the character to Julia, filled by actress Grayson Hall.

The show finally developed a love triangle, with Julia in love with Barnabas (played by Jonathan Frid), and the vampire pining away for his reincarnated love, Josette (played by Kathryn Leigh Scott). Suddenly the vampire took the lead role, even entering hero status.

The first movie to capitalize on this new trend was Blacula. Yes, Blacula. Sure it’s filled with incredibly dated attire (the vampire hardly stands out in his cape), but it also had the superb acting of William Marshall to hold it together. A similar storyline of a lost love reincarnated drives the vampire. Ultimately, his love perishes. Rather than go on living without her, Blacula destroys himself through exposure to sunlight.

William Marshall as Blacula

William Marshall as Blacula

Now, there could no more sympathetic vampire than Anne Rice’s Louis. Suddenly the entire story revolves around the vampire. He is the main character, the hero, the reason for the story. Louis (played by Brad Pitt) struggles with his vampirism. In the “Special Introduction” to the DVD for Interview with the Vampire, she states, “I wanted you to fall in love with the vampire and see things through his eyes.”

Brad Pitt as Louis in Interview with the Vampire

Brad Pitt as Louis in Interview with the Vampire

Fast forward to a new television series setting a teenage cheerleader against hordes of vampires. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was born. Angel (played by David Boreanaz) is different from the spawn that seek to drain humans like so many Capri Suns. He is cursed, giving him a conscience of sorts. Additionally, he becomes a romantic interest to Buffy, though it is a relationship they can never consummate. The curse that keeps Angel tame would also be reversed should he ever achieve true happiness.

Angel and Buffy

Angel and Buffy

This tortured relationship is the main thrust of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novel. Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson) is a self-proclaimed “vegetarian” vampire, feeding only on animals (much like Louis). He and Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart) engage in a boiling romance that can never come to fruition. Edward must fight every instinct not to eat the girl (falling into much the same trap as Angel and Buffy).

 

Edward Cullen sparkling in the sunlight

Edward Cullen sparkling in the sunlight

So when you read or watch Twilight, think about the vampires that came before, and led to development of the caring, hunky vampire that is Edward Cullen.

Chris Kalidor

Visit this related post by Dave: “Can Sex with a Vampire Get You Pregnant

Can Sex with a Vampire Get You Pregnant? (Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series — Breaking Dawn)

Posted in Rotten with tags , , , on August 16, 2008 by davehurwitz

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as the vampire Edward Cullen in the December 12th film version of Twilight.

Shortly after midnight on August 2nd, 1.3 million readers, mostly young women, began reading Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final installment of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, a saga of romance and general sweatiness between the mortal Bella and the dreamily eternal Edward. Somewhere in the hours before dawn, a million women paused in shock and confusion. “Bella’s pregnant?” they asked in astonishment. “I thought sex with a vampire was… um… safe.”

Setting aside the obvious physical dangers of getting naked with vampires, sex with the dead seems like it shouldn’t require a condom. After all, if vampires are animated corpses, how can they have live seed? Bella’s pregnancy doesn’t feel logical. That said, is there any precedent for a human women finding herself in a family way after dallying with her dark prince? Believe it or not, there is.

The most infamous pregnancy in vampire literature (or perhaps I should say the most infamous up until now) occurred in Poppy Z. Brite’s 1992 novel Lost Souls. Side character Ann Bransby-Smith, tired of protagonist Steve Finn’s drinking, dumps him in favor of one of her college professors. Steve rapes Ann in drunken retaliation, a scene made all the more disturbing by Ann’s ambivalent reaction. She gets her own revenge through a one-night stand with Zillah, a green-eyed vampire with an axe to grind against Steve. Ann becomes pregnant. In desperation, she poisons her invalid father and flees to New Orleans. The remainder of the novel details the efforts of Steve and his childhood friend Ghost to find and save Ann. An attempt to induce a miscarriage finally kills her.

Critics and readers raked Brite over the coals, accusing her of hatred for her own sex. Few of them seemed to notice that Ann’s pregnancy is actually the second one in the book. The prologue tells the story of Jessy, who carries another of Zillah’s children. She dies giving birth, but her son survives. The child of a human mother and a vampire father is called a dhampir, a word and a concept that go all the way back to Slavic folklore. A dhampir has all the powers of a vampire with none of the disadvantages. Dhampir are the ultimate outcasts, reviled as monsters by humans and shunned as aberrations by vampires. Both traditionally and in literature, dhampir are vampire hunters.

Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D

While my favorite dhampir is the enigmatic Jen from Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue novels, the most well known is surely Vampire Hunter D. Familiar to Americans as the central character in a pair of animated movies (thanks to poor translating, the word dhampir is consistently mispronounced in both films), the story of D began (and continues) in a series of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi, ten of which are now available in English. D hunts vampires through the nightmare landscape of post-apocalyptic Earth. A heady mix of Lovecraft and Leone, D’s adventures bear more resemblance to early Clint Eastwood westerns than to traditional horror stories. Though convinced that his vampire kin deserve extermination, D often struggles against his own dark longings.

So, what can we take away from all this? One obvious conclusion would be that if you’re going to sleep with a vampire, you really should use birth control. Beyond that, what do the stories of Ann and Bella say about the women who read them? It’s a serious question, and I’m not at all sure I like the answer.

Lost Souls remains Brite’s most popular book, largely due to the ‘appeal’ of Steve Finn and the more compassionate Ghost. Despite their early outrage, fans still pester Brite (who has left horror and moved on to kitchen mysteries) for a sequel. I suspect alienated fans of Stephenie Meyer will do the same. Right now they feel hurt and betrayed, but like Bella herself they’ll stick around, despite the pain.

Dave Hurwitz