The Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga: The Most Baffling Film Experience of My Life twilightzonemoveposter

Reviewed by Anton Snoot for HumbleHeckler.com.

(Editor’s note: Film critic Anton Snoot is currently enduring an aggressive course of antipsychotic medications which often leads to a state of utter confusion. Please keep this in mind when reading the following review, which is for entertainment purposes only.)

First of all, I realize that this review is incredibly twilight2late. Thanks to an unfortunate break with reality that led to a prolonged stay in a certain kind of healthcare facility, I have only just recently been made aware of the pop-culture phenomena known as The Twilight Saga. Now that I have witnessed this so-called “saga,” I have to admit that I find myself at a complete loss, as the seven films that comprise the universe of Twilight make absolutely no sense at all. Even the way the films are marketed is scattershot and confusing. But I’ll get to that later.

For starters, the films lurch back and forth twilight_1998_film_posterbetween completely different casts and filmmakers, while simultaneously mining utterly disparate narrative terrain. For example, the first film in the series is an anthology comprised of four science fiction tales that feature everything from Vic Morrow being hunted by Nazis after time traveling to Scatman Crothers as the world’s all-time greatest ambassador of Kick the Can to John Lithgow being tormented by a wing gremlin on a commercial flight. Okay, fine. This first installment is a pretty decent entertainment, but it makes no sense as the introductory film in this series, being that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the next five films, which form a bizarre collection of abstinence propaganda pictures that prominently feature the throbbing loins of teen vampires and werewolves who share a seemingly life-threatening affliction for shirt-wearing and subtlety.

That’s right, the next five Twilight films are nothing but eye candy for teen girls. So much about these films baffles me that I’m not sure I can even honestly review them. For example, right smack in the middle of one of these films there is a scene in which a family of vampires heads to a park on a rainy day to play baseball. Seriously. Baseball. And then we, the audience, just have to sit there like idiots, watching vampires play baseball for what feels like an eternity. But here’s the kicker, the remainder of these vampire films is so awful that by the time you’ve finished watching them, you look back at the baseball sequence with great fondness.

And then there’s the seventh and final film in the saga. This one’s a real headscratcher. For some reason, the creative geniuses behind this mess decided to move away from that whole vampire thing and close the saga with a detective thriller starring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, and Gene Hackman. Newman stars as a now-elderly version of Edward the vampire, but the film never explains why Edward has suddenly aged, nor does it explain why he has become a private detective and relocated to Los Angeles. Stranger still, Susan Sarandon plays an older version of Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan character, and Gene Hackman plays the older version of Taylor Lautner’s Jacob; however, for reasons unknown (and probably unknowable) all of these characters now exist under different names. Edward is now Harry, Bella is now Catherine, and Jacob is now Jack. I guess maybe they were forced to change their names to protect their true identities as vampires and werewolves, but even if that’s the case, the film never mentions it; in fact, this final installment of The Twilight Saga never mentions vampires, werewolves, or anything that could possibly be interpreted as connective tissue between these films.

So, what the hell, man? Why are these films so popular? Taken as a whole, The Twilight Saga simply makes no sense—none! Taken individually, these movies suck vampire ass. So what’s the deal? And why were these films marketed in such a strange manner? Why were the middle five films marketed so much differently than the first and seventh films? And why was seventh and final film (the one starring Paul Newman) released in 1998, a full 14 years before the sixth film (the final vampire film) in 2012? What sense does that make? None, if you ask me.

In conclusion, The Twilight Saga may be popular, but its narrative logic (or complete lack thereof) is baffling, its core concept is muddled, and its execution makes me want to crap. So if you haven’t seen The Twilight Saga yet, don’t. It will scar you forever. It will also fill your trousers with an unstoppable torrent of sudsy excrement. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I give The Twilight Saga a 9.3 out of 10, because that vampire-baseball sequence is so mind-numbingly stupid I kind of respect it.

 

Day 3: The Addiction

Halloween Every Day (for a month)

By Andrew Neil Cole

Day 3: The Addiction (1995).

Addiction

Abel Ferrara’s vampire film is a strange viewing experience, compelling and frustrating in equal measure. With its gloomy urban set pieces, stark black-and-white photography, hip-hop soundtrack, and a cast of rhetoric-spouting intellectuals, The Addiction feels like Bram Stoker by way of Noah Baumbach. Lili Taylor (one of my all-time favorites) stars as Kathleen Conklin, a graduate student who, early in the film, is attacked and bitten by a mysterious stranger. From that point onward the movie plays like a fever dream, riding the physical and emotional extremes of Kathleen’s transformation from likable Ph. D. candidate to insufferable narcissist/monster. For the most part, the film succeeds wildly. The story deftly appropriates vampire lore as an allegory for all manner of modern addictive behaviors. Subtle similarities between heroin addiction and vampirism are cleverly drawn: both require the penetration of flesh and an exchange of bodily fluids that leads to an altered or euphoric state in the user (addict) or the attacker (vampire). Of course, there is also an obvious sexual metaphor attached both to heroin addiction and vampirism, one that is also made manifest (and not by coincidence) through physical penetration and fluid exchange—a process that requires the use of phallic instruments (hypodermic needles for addicts) or dental anatomy (teeth or fangs for vampires) in order to attain completion. Okay, maybe some of this stuff isn’t so subtle, after all. But it is still immensely effective.

Kathleen’s academic pursuits are unpacked in a creative, thought-provoking manner that simultaneously illustrates her evolution as a killer and her de-evolution as a humanitarian. For example, early conversations between Kathleen and a classmate/friend named Jean (played by Edie Falco) suggest that the intense study of war atrocities has enhanced and sharpened Kathleen’s innate regard for the whole of humanity; she feels very deeply for those who have been victimized. However, after she is attacked and begins to change, it becomes apparent that the continued study of war atrocities has splintered Kathleen’s natural capacity for empathy or sympathy, perhaps even making her a more proficient predator. This portrayal of Good and Evil as two sides of the same coin is a recurring theme in The Addiction: Kathleen, the student of particularly violent atrocities, is inherently good. But when an atrocity is inflicted upon her, she steadily becomes more capable of evil. By becoming a vampire, Kathleen quite literally loses her humanity. In turn, vampires need to take human lives (or commit atrocities, if you will) in order to survive. And the continued survival of a vampire depends on the perversion of the natural world (or the perversion of all things Good). In other words, the sun nourishes human life but inflicts fiery death upon a vampire, who, unlike most of the natural world, thrives in the dark. (By the way, this ever-raging thematic battle between the forces of light and dark is also represented visually in the film’s the use of black-and-white photography.)

In the spirit of complete honesty and fairness, I will say that this film, though mostly excellent, does come with a ready supply of nits to be picked. By far my biggest problem with this movie is the dialogue. Consider a scene in a coffee house between Kathleen and one of her professors. After a prolonged silence, the professor asks if something is wrong. This is her response: “Silence has two aspects. One according to Sartre, the other to Max Picard. Why don’t you guess why I’m quiet?” The whole movie is like that—snotty, judgmental commentary delivered in disinterested monotone voices by pale, sunglass-clad self-proclaimed intellectuals. And that includes all of the vampires. Be prepared for a frenetic tirade performed by a vamped-out Christopher Walken, in which the myriad virtues to be found for newly transformed vampires within the drug-addled pages of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch are extolled with the subtlety of a coked-up giraffe in church. It’s as if the film is saying: “Here’s an intelligent idea—let’s jam it into the movie any way we possibly can, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it isn’t germane to the story, even if we have to use a tube of Vaseline and a sledgehammer to make it fit!”

Which brings me to another minor but annoying flaw on display in The Addiction: the characters constantly quote other people to make their own points. Whenever I see this in a movie or a TV show I’m reminded of something a creative writing professor of mine once said: “Simply quoting intelligent people does not mean that your characters are intelligent people.” She was right, and the characters in The Addiction spend way too much time playing the quotation game.

But other than these mostly forgivable quibbles, this is a fascinating, exciting, challenging movie that provides a truly unique filmic experience for the viewer. While this might not be what most casual movie fans and traditional vampire enthusiasts are looking for in a horror film, it is exactly what more discerning fans have been waiting for—a horror movie that is defined by substance rather than a need to pander to modern popular sensibilities. (For what it’s worth, casual fans who stick it out all the way to the end will have their patience rewarded with one of the greatest full-blown horror scenes of the ’90s.)