By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 12:00 AM
It's every adolescent's fantasy: meet a fascinating, remarkably pale member of the opposite sex, fall in love, then realize that he or she is a full-on, blood-guzzling vampire. At least one has to assume this is a pretty common young adult fixation considering the nearly back-to-back DVD arrivals of the massively popular "Twilight," on DVD ($32.99) and Blu-ray (34.99) this Saturday, and "Let the Right One In," a critically acclaimed but little seen Swedish film -- released March 10 on DVD ($26.98) and Blu-ray ($34.98) -- that (ahem) sinks its teeth into similar narrative territory.
"Twilight," the first movie based on Stephenie Meyer's enormously popular, Harlequin-esque series of vamp novels, has the more buzz of the two releases. The Twilighters -- a passionate, borderline obsessive group of fans who, it should be noted, does include some individuals over the age of 14 -- will undoubtedly clamor to get their hands on a copy of the special-edition DVD when it goes on sale this Friday, with a flurry of midnight release parties.
As directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen"), the film stays pretty faithful to the book and, as such, plays at times like a cross between "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and a John Hughes teen flick. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But viewers who have never dipped a toe into one of Meyer's texts may find themselves plagued by questions of the more traditional vampire-movie variety. ("Why isn't anyone breaking out some garlic? Can't that Edward dude turn into a bat? When do Corey Haim and Corey Feldman show up with the holy water?") Keep this in mind: "Twilight" is not "Dracula." It's more "Romeo and Juliet, if Shakespeare Shopped at Hot Topic."
The DVD and Blu-ray releases come with a respectable helping of extras, which clearly aim to please those aforementioned devotees. But not all the pieces succeed. The seven-part documentary "The Adventure Begins: The Journey From Page to Screen" spends too much of its 54-minute running time allowing cast members to explain character motivations that are already patently obvious to anyone who has seen the movie or read the novel. The doc fares better when it reveals the mysteries behind the onscreen magic of, say, the baseball scene, which we see come to life with some grueling wire work and the tossing of Christmas ornaments, which sub in for the subsequently added CGI baseballs.
A featurette that captures the "Twilight" scene at last year's Comic-Con is, essentially, eight minutes of screaming and (let's be honest) often inane Q&A. Discerning fans will be happier with the 10 extended and deleted scenes, each introduced with a personal message from Hardwicke, and the casual, sometimes engaging commentary with Hardwicke and leads Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, both of whom sound much more at ease here than they have in any of their 8 million television appearances.
For those who prefer their vampire films disturbing and strikingly gorgeous, allow me to introduce you to "Let the Right One In." Like "Twilight," it's about a mortal outcast (Kåre Hedebrant) who develops a close relationship with a blood-sucker (Lina Leandersson). But in this case the gender roles are reversed and our protagonists are younger, each all of 12.
The imagery crafted by director Tomas Alfredson -- all that endless, pristine Swedish snow, not to mention the sight of the innocent Eli's mouth marred with blood from her latest victim -- embeds itself in the subconscious, even if the DVD's spare extras (just a featurette and some deleted scenes) aren't nearly as memorable. "Twilight" may set young hearts aflutter, but the more sophisticated "Let the Right One In" is the vampire film more likely to make hearts race, then break.
Bonus Point for Robert Pattinson Freaks: Seriously, Team Edward members, listen to that "Twilight" commentary track, in which Pattinson mocks his many "meaningful glances" in the movie and complains that he has "such effeminate hands." He's not just a hot vampire, he's a hot and self-deprecating vampire!.