And it’s back. The fourth but fortunately not final (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) installment of The Twilight Saga hits theaters today, and wow, is it something. Did you ever think you’d hear the words “embryonic sac” uttered in a movie about teen vampires? Most of the audience at my 12:01 AM screening last night seemed to know these technical birthing terms were coming, but it was still hard for the entire theater not to laugh when Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) deadpanned, “The fetus is incompatible with your body!”
In one way, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 succeeds where the first three movies failed: it’s so incredibly terrible that it’s good. Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse never found that magic mix of camp and melodrama that makes something awful fun to watch. Those movies, at least for me, are pretty much only enjoyable when alcohol and a complicated drinking game are involved. But Breaking Dawn is different: the bad parts are so ridiculous that they’re super entertaining. There’s a hilarious montage where poor Bella (Kristen Stewart) fails to seduce Edward (Robert Pattinson) on their boring-looking honeymoon, and a bizarre werewolf meeting which–no spoilers–my friends and I agreed was possibly the best, worst two minutes in the history of all cinema. And let’s not forget the amazing Jessica (Anna Kendrick), who now seems to function as the voice of the incredulous audience: “Wonder if Bella will be showing? I mean, why else would you get married at 18?”
To bring you up to speed, Part 1 is about Bella’s wedding to her glittery vampire prince Edward, who looks inexplicably more addicted to heroin as the series progresses. She wants to have hot glittery sex with him, but he refuses to give up his 100-year-old V-card unless they’re married. On their honeymoon, they finally do the nasty, but surprise! You can get knocked up from vampire sperm. So now Bella is carrying a child of unknown species that is rapidly deteriorating her body.
Here’s where it gets weird. Director Bill Condon argues that his movie is actually “horror for women.” While it’s debatable whether or not this movie really qualifies as horror (you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking the scariest thing about it is those creepy gold contacts the vampires wear), it’s definitely an interesting thing to think about. One of my favorite horror movies, Rosemary’s Baby, deals with a similar subject: the invasion of the womb by a possibly demonic child, and the desire to save it even though it might kill you. Even if you don’t have a womb, that’s a terrifying concept, so maybe Condon is right. Bella also has several other threats coming at her from outside her body: the werewolves, who want to kill her demon child before it kills anyone else; the Volturi (vampire council), who want to kill her before she spills all the vampire’s secrets; and some of the Cullens, who want her to abort the killer fetus. This all sounds pretty horrific.
This is why Breaking Dawn is ultimately more interesting than its predecessors: it’s a movie about vampires and werewolves that is actually kind of scary. Yes, the vampires and werewolves have always been there, and they’ve had to save Bella’s life like a million times, but it’s not until now that you feel afraid for her. You can argue about the feminist implications of the movie all day long (call me, I’d love to!), but at least in terms of horror, it seems that Condon and company are finally ready to freak out the tweens, and that makes me happy. Here’s hoping they get excited about horror and decide to buy millions of copies of Jennifer’s Body on Blu-ray!