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Would you believe that ECLIPSE, part three in THE TWILIGHT SAGA, will likely gross around $175 million by the end of the Fourth of July holiday? That the film franchise alone has taken in over a billion dollars so far? Like it or not, the horror genre (if you want to fit TWILIGHT in there) has not seen anything like it before.
I’ve never read any of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT novels, nor have I a great desire to do so. But I don’t piss on their right to exist, the movies they spawned or the legion of Twi-hard fans who follow them. People such as: my mom, who’s 78 and ate up all four books; my two married-with-kids-sisters; teen niece Amanda, who sees each movie at least five times in theaters; my cousins Ben (a Vietnam vet) and Joey (his restaurant manager son); and former Fango intern Jessica Leibe, who nearly fainted when she won the assignment to write about the first two TWILIGHT films for us. Those articles (and others) sparked a firestorm of outrage when featured in the mag and on the website, an outpouring of hate I can barely understand. Some people called for my lynching when I put NEW MOON on the cover of Fango #288 to goose circulation. It did, to no surprise, even outselling the issue with our exclusive Stephen King-penned article (King’s not a fan of Meyer’s either, by the way).
Why can’t we all get along? There is plenty of horror in the Fango universe, so why discriminate? Why trash another person’s genre passions? Live and let live, I say. One can make a case for the TWILIGHT SAGA not being horror, but the series’ obvious supernatural underpinnings have always warranted my interest when the movies come around like clockwork. I found the first TWILIGHT movie (directed by Catherine Hardwicke) to be a tedious affair and knew from an early screening that I was not the right person for the movie, as the audience of mostly teenage girls swooned en masse at the first glimpse of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. They audibly sighed again during Chris Weitz’s NEW MOON when superbuff Taylor Lautner as Jacob doffed his shirt (the actor is bare-chested again for most of ECLIPSE, even during a snowstorm!). For me, I fell asleep watching TWILIGHT and again at NEW MOON. During the latter, I snuck winks during the talky first act and at the mushy climax.
But something strange has happened over the course of the last two movies: They are getting better. NEW MOON started putting some intriguing conflicts in place with the Volturi “watchmen” policing the world’s various vampire clans, while the wan Bella (Kristen Stewart, not a very compelling actress, to put it politely) gets caught up in the ultimate human/vampire/shapeshifter love triangle. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT’s David Slade took the helm of ECLIPSE and injected lively doses of testosterone, action and, yes, horror to the franchise. And for the first time, not only did I not fall asleep, but I could honestly say that I would pay to see the movie again.
Unlike the previous entries, ECLIPSE kept me engaged for most of its running time (the first act, again, bogs down a bit with the soap-opera stuff). I also got emotionally involved in Bella’s trio of predicaments—Edward or Jacob; to become a vampire or remain human; sex or abstinence—and loved the visceral addition of the newborns, even if their violent attacks never threaten the PG-13 rating. ECLIPSE’s production values across the board are topnotch, especially Tippett Studios’ mostly convincing CG wolf FX. Most of all, Slade directs the film’s sweeping final confrontation between good vampires, bad vampires and werewolves with vigor and style.
Has ECLIPSE made a Twi-hard out of me? Not exactly, but I am more curious than ever to see how the drama will play out when director Bill Condon tackles the two-part BREAKING DAWN movie (first chapter out in November 2011). No stranger to horror (he scripted STRANGE BEHAVIOR and STRANGE INVADERS and wrote and directed the second CANDYMAN), Condon also sports an Oscar on his mantle for his GODS AND MONSTERS screenplay. And after helming KINSEY and DREAMGIRLS, you know he knows how to tell epic stories with heart. Just what TWILIGHT needs.
Of course, my enthusiastic feelings for ECLIPSE (three fangs from me) pale in comparison to my love for that other current vampire series, HBO’s TRUE BLOOD, which began its third season in June and has been kicking undead ass. Based on Charlaine Harris’ saucy Sookie Stackhose novels and adapted by Alan Ball, TRUE BLOOD is an adult horror show about the awkward assimilation of vampires and other beasties into everyday life in Bon Temps, Louisiana. This season has introduced intriguing new bloodsucker characters (like Denis O’Hare’s vampire king of Mississippi and James Frain’s mysterious Franklin Mott). I’m also diggin’ those biker dude werewolves, whose lupine states are convincingly played by real, beautiful wolves.
After a so-so second season (the “Big Bad” Maryann storyline played like old BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER reruns, and the allegory behind the Fellowship of the Son’s anti-vamp crusade bit too squarely on the nose), the third year of TRUE BLOOD may emerge as the best one yet. We can see a lot of different storylines developing this season, and each is more gripping than the last. Sexy and gory, TRUE BLOOD is Must Bleed TV. Unlike TWILIGHT, this one’s not for your little sister.
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