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This week, Esquire is celebrating Halloween season with an ode to our favorite nocturnal creature: the humble vampire. Whether you want to relish in the beauty of What We Do in the Shadows's Nandor, relive the indelible camp of Twilight, or simply catch up on the best vampire novels and films, we’re here to provide a smattering of vampire-themed stories, made just for you. So grab your garlic and a stake, dear reader—we’re taking a trip to the underworld.
[Brady gasps quietly.]
SAY IT 🥴
[Brady grits his teeth in a constipated rage.]
OK, you've pulled it out of me: I've never seen Twilight. 15 years after the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's viral novel—which follows a horny vamps' pursuit of a sad Tumblr girl—debuted in theaters, is that a badge of honor or a cultural blind spot? When this information bubbled up during a brainstorming session for Esquire's Vampire Week, my fellow editors told me it was the latter. And they're right. The five Twilight films grossed over $3 billion (!) worldwide, made Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart both franchise-leading stars, inspired midnight screenings worthy of anthropological study, and even turned Taylor Lautner into Mr. Taylor Swift for a few months.
So, while my colleagues counted Nandor's abs and fondly remembered the time Anne Rice introduced aliens to the Vampire Chronicles series, I watched Twilight for the first time. Well, you better hold tight, spider monkeys—because my rendezvous with Robert Sparkles and Kristen Bon Iver left me thirsting for more.
(Kindly click here if you desire a musical accompaniment to the rest of this story.)
If you need a refresher—again, it's been 15 years!—here's the plot of Twilight, as best as I can describe it: We meet a teenage girl named Bella (Stewart), whose personality is so Arizona that she's holding cacti when we fist see her. She moves to Forks, Washington, because her mom is dating a minor league baseball player who's kind of a dick. Bella goes to high school, where everyone is obsessed with the fact that she's from Arizona, and quickly makes buddies with Ubiquitous Aughts Anna Kendrick Character and Suzie Crabgrass. One day, in AP Bio, during heavy discussion on flatworms and onion tip root cells, she falls in love with Edward (Pattinson), who thinks she's stinky but likes it. He's a vampire. She's OK with that. They eye-fuck a whole bunch. Another vampire threatens Edward's relationship with Bella, but he's defeated in a CGI battle that looks a lot like a Creed music video. Edward takes Bella to prom, which is a little weird because she's 17 and he's 104, but that's neither here nor there.
And that's about it.
I'm not sure if it quite hit this way in 2008, or if everyone couldn't see anything from their shutter shades, but Twilight is a really f*cking weird movie! It's less of a film, really, and more of a sequence of moving images that are sad and silent and CGI and baseball game, but also really horny?
Let me try again. Twilight is a film that happens to you. You're lulled into a this might be something! feeling when it begins with the new-kid-at-school cliché. Then Edward and his glittery gang join the show, which is funny until we have to endure an hour of his courting-creepo process. Just when you're about to suspend disbelief and buy into Belledward, the rival bloodsuckers hijack the movie, fight fight fight, and we get the inevitable tease that Edward will one day make Bella a vampire, too. By then, though, you're too busy wondering how Bella's mom would ever—in the collective lifetimes of several hundred vampires—think that she could physically fall down a flight of stairs with enough force that she'd launch herself out of a window.
An observation: Vampire or not, most of Twilight's main players speak in one-word questions and/or dubious declarations ("'Clair de lune' is great.") that inspire the next one-word question and/or dubious declarations ("What?"). If you haven't watched Twilight either, and you're somehow reading this, you're probably thinking, This is camp, dummy! But any time Twilight flirts with the level of self-awareness needed for camp (i.e. a bunch of vampires making an Italian dinner, wailing, "Bella! We're making Italiano for you!"), it queues up another disaffected Bella moment. ("Yeah... it's just that I know... I know you guys don't eat.")
Before I press on, here's a brief selection of my favorite quotes:
"It's like a human only living on tofu."
"Is she even Italian?"
"I'm Jacob. We used to make mud pies when we were little."
"It's... uh... anaphase."
"How long have you been 17?" ("A while.")
"I can read every mind in this room apart from yours. There's money. Sex. Money. Sex. Cat. And then you? Nothing. That's very frustrating."
"We matriculate a lot."
Twilight, I'll give you this: I can see how you struck some sort of listened-to-Sigur-Ros-once-wears-an-unironic-fedora-she-wears-high-heels-and-I'm-in-the-bleachers nerve. The late aughts were all about YA adaptations, outward angst, manic-pixie dream girls, and indie-folk as a personality. I'm fully convinced that no film better encapsulates that era better than Twilight. (At least anything not directed by Zach Braff.)
I'll admit, too, that I was morbidly fascinated by the whole thing. Watching Pattinson in Twilight is like looking at a generational actor's dopey high-school yearbook photo. And it's funny to think that a tale of Chat GPT-speaking vampires made for successful blockbuster entertainment, but I guess we have Marvel now. If I saw any Twilight movie on cable TV, I'd flick it on—especially to see the gnarly CGI baby everyone talks about. Sure, I was bummed that the Christina Perri song wasn't in this one, but what else can a mortal, 30-year-old man watching a movie marketed to teenage girls for work at 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning ask for?
Anyway, happy 15th birthday, Twilight. You're probably old enough to see yourself at a midnight screening without any parents around. Oh, and by the way, since you're asking...
Team Jacob, baby.
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