As of today, we'll be typing U.S. President Barack Obama on first reference. I'm excited about that!
Moving right along...
Today is a good day I think for talking about my love... my love of vampires that is!
Vampires are awesome. I watch vampire movies and TV shows and I read vampire books. I loved Bram Stoker's Dracula, I loved Interview with the Vampire. I loved Shadow of the Vampire and From Dusk Til Dawn (parts one two and three) and Blade (also parts one two and three). I adored Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the new HBO series True Blood, which is based on a series of novels called the Southern Vampire Mysteries. I am hard pressed to find a vampire thing I don't love.
I will probably never understand the popularity of these books about a vampire (Edward) and the human doofus who loves him (Bella). There are also some werewolves and eeeeevil vampires and they get up to hijinx. For some reason, even though Bella is really hot for his undead bod, Edward is all like "No! We cannot!" Maybe because author Stephenie Meyer is mormon and the whole thing is one, big, mormon allegory.
I don't really care about that. I mean, good for her. Exploit that untapped section of the population.
But the thing that really bugs me about the series is that all the mystique and angst of being a vampire is absent. Twilight's vampires can go out in sunlight without burning to a crisp (But their skin sparkles. OH NO! NOT SPARKLES! Yes. I'm afraid they're... glittery.) they don't appear affected by garlic or holy water or crosses or anything, really. They never eat. They don't sleep. They're powerful and hot, they live forever, they drink animal blood, so there's no killing of humans involved, they don't have to be invited inside a house and they've started themselves a little vampire family to spend eternity with, so they're never lonely. There is literally no downside to being made a vampire. So of course, Bella's like "Sign me up! I want to spend my eternity with you!" But Edward's all "No!"
And that's where the comparison with mormonism falls apart. Because if a young, teenage girl expressed an interest in mormonism to a dude who was a super mormon, she would be encouraged to become a mormon. Not be told that being a mormon is like being a monster. A killer monster. With diamond skin.
Anyway, in the movie version, which was released late last year, there is a LOT of close-up tortured staring going on between Bella and Edward, a lot of bad wire work that looks really fake, plot holes the size of Bella's rusted pickup truck, a metric ton of leaden dialogue and one regrettable scene in which we see vampires play baseball. In old-timey baseball uniforms. I am not kidding.
So yeah. Before I went to see the movie, I looked up Roger Ebert's review. He's my curmudgeonly critic hero. Even if I don't always agree with him, I always appreciate what he has to say. Sometimes, after reading one of his reviews, I change my mind about a movie that I previously hated. So I thought "Hey. Maybe he'll ferret out some redeeming quality in this garbage and I'll be forced not to dismiss it out of hand." Wrong. In his review, Ebert all but says "If you see one vampire movie this year, see Let The Right One In, not this."
So I did go see Let the Right One In. I can vouch: It's awesome.
It's a subtitled Swedish horror movie set in a suburb of Stockholm in the 1980s. The protagonist is Oskar, a small boy of about 12. He gets picked on. A lot. Oskar's world changes when he meets Eli one night on the playground in their apartment complex. Slowly, he and Eli become friends. Slower still, he realizes she is a vampire. (If I have a criticism of this movie it's that it take a looooong time for anything to happen. But it's shot so beautifully, with lots of unconventional close-ups and wide shots and perspectives, that you don't really mind that it takes its sweet time getting anywhere.) When her vampirism doesn't scare him off, Eli encourages Oskar to stick up for himself. So he retaliates and is excited to tell Eli, but she's planning to leave and never come back after police discover several bodies drained of their blood.
Unlike the (un)lives of the vampires in Twilight, Eli's existence is a hard one. She needs human blood to survive and must kill to get it. She cannot go out in the sunlight without bursting into flames and needs an invite to come into somebody's home or, well, let's just say it's dire that she get one. She also appears to be about 12, so renting an apartment without an adult accomplice is difficult, especially when you have to do it at night. Making the decision to leave is smart and of course, Eli is wise beyond her years. But as much as she wants to go, she finds herself drawn to Oskar and returns to rescue him from the bullies who have regrouped.
It's haunting and disturbing on many levels, but it's also sweet and tender. What really makes it effective are the startlingly good portrayals from its child leads. Unlike Twilight, the awkward pauses and stilted dialogue on display in Let the Right One In are done on purpose.
After Oskar discovers Eli is a vampire he asks her "Are you old?" "I'm twelve," she responds. "But I've been twelve a long time."
Twilight has a similar scene. As Bella figures out that Edward is a vampire (by Googling it) she asks how old he is. The reply comes: 17. She gapes at him. "But how long have you been 17?" He smirks. "Awhile." It's weird. In Let the Right One In, I was mesmerized by the silences between question and answer as Oskar and Eli feel each other out. In Twilight, I wanted to smack them both.
Twilight is pure, stupid escapism. Though it should be noted that director Catherine Hardwicke really captures the self-absorbed passive aggressive bitchiness of high school girls. Particularly in Bella, who is loved and accepted by the popular crowd in her new school immediately, despite the fact that she is sullen, anti-social and generally needy and helpless. Not to mention a terrible friend who barely listens to the girls who hold her in such high esteem. She would interact with them, but she's just too busy pining after Edward, a guy with about as much substance as the empty Tupperware container currently sitting on my desk. He tells Bella repeatedly that she's his life now and spends a lot of his time watching her sleep. In her room. Without telling her he's there. Dreamy!
So see Twilight, if for no other reason than to mock it mercilessly. But also see Let the Right One In because it is one of the best movies made last year and will very likely not get much attention.
Both flicks are at the Bookshelf this month; Let the Right One In started its Guelph run last night and goes until Jan. 27th and Twilight starts Jan. 28 and runs until Feb. 1.
posted by: Tanis Fowler, firstname.lastname@example.org