It's a rare film screening that's preceded by a reading of audience fan fiction and punctuated by spontaneous shouts of "That's our school!", but such was the case at the advance screening of Twilight, the first film based on Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular series of teen vampire novels. Actually, "wildly popular" is an understatement; when describing the success of Meyer's books with a certain cross-section of the female population, words like "rabidly obsessed," "hormonally imbalanced," and "certifiably batshit" might be more appropriate.

Regardless of what one thinks of Meyer's books (this reviewer thinks Meyer is no JK Rowling), the film is worth considering: Much of it was filmed in Oregon, including scenes shot at Portland's Madison High, and the cult popularity of the books ensures that Twilight is going to be a part of our state's cultural legacy for a long time to come.

Twilight introduces the floridly named high schooler Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart), who has just moved to a small town in Washington. The local boys are all over this hottie newcomer, but Bella finds herself drawn to the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, he of the Heathcliff glower and untamed eyebrows). At first Bella thinks Edward hates her, but it turns out he's only feigning indifference because he's a vampire, and wants to drink her.

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Edward is part of a tribe of preternaturally beautiful "vegetarian" vampires who prey on animals instead of humans. (Weirdly, for a movie made in Oregon, a vampire not drinking human blood is equated to a "human only eating tofu.") The best part? Direct sunlight doesn't kill them, but it does make them sparkle. Sparkly vampire Edward is so drawn to the smell of Bella's blood that he can hardly control himself, but he also loooves her, so he knows he should keep his distance. Throw in some evil vampires who want to kill Bella, and it's all very romantic and tragic. (Alternately, it's an insidious parable about the dangers of premarital sex—but that's only the, er, humorless feminist interpretation.)

For all the silliness of the storyline, Twilight makes a far better movie than book. Largely freed from Meyer's ponderous prose, the movie is surprisingly campy and fun, with a cheerful sense of humor about its own ridiculousness. The young cast is low-key and likable, particularly the supporting characters who make up the background of normal teenagers against which Bella's tragic love affair is set. For a film made in Oregon, it's no Goonies, but it could be a lot worse.

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30