Published in The Guardian, Friday 16 November
In cinemas nationwide last night, legions of fans gathered to watch the five films from the Twilight franchise, amounting to almost 12 hours of vampiric viewing. Legions of fans, plus me. In Norwich.
4.45pm. I arrive late – some of us have jobs, you know – and the first film, Twilight, is almost over. To save you some time, the plot seems to be: girl loves vampire. Compared to the Twihards, assembled en masse, I’m definitely a Twilite. I tell a lady in the queue for popcorn that I’ve not read the books and she physically reels.
4.47pm. I assumed that at 26 I’d be at least a decade older than the average viewer, but there are plenty of students wearing onesies, clutching travel pillows and beer, plus a handful of middle-aged women with Thermoses. There’s a mother-and-daughter pair drinking tea and not speaking. I’m surprised to see several boyfriends too, who look almost undead themselves.
4.49pm. A quick chat with a group of cinemagoers reveals that most of them have come “for a laugh” or a “girls’ night”, rather than as die-hard fans. I’m glad I didn’t dress as a vampire now.
5pm. Just before New Moon starts up we are “treated” to interviews from the previous night’s premiere of the final film with proper, grade-A Twihards. One has red contact lenses and a giant toy wolf. Another says the end of the franchise will be like a bad break up. Her friends nod, vigorously.
5.14pm. A few minutes into New Moon, the main character Bella is, like most teens, not entirely satisfied with her life. It’s hard if you’re 18 with a clear complexion and 0% body fat and all the boys love you.
7.05pm. Judging by the surrounding giggles and sighs, the audience are pretty keen on whichever werewolf of them has his shirt off at the time. I chat to some students in the row behind me as they eat Burger King chips. One of the students says her boyfriend refused to even pick her up afterwards; I reassure her he’s probably a keeper. I ask if Kristen Stewart‘s recent indiscretions (cheating on co-star and real-life boyfriendRobert Pattinson) have put them off her at all, but they say they never liked her in the first place, so it hasn’t made much difference. (I suppose readers/viewers are meant to imagine themselves as Bella, so Kristen is just white noise to them.) They tell me to look out for Bella’s awful wig in the next film, Eclipse.
7.10pm. More filmed interviews; this time a girl with her fiance. “We’re going to have a wedding just like Bella and Edward’s!” she says. He grins, sheepishly.
8.20pm. What’s this in my bag?
8.21pm. Mmm, brownie.
8.45pm. Around me Thermoses are a go-go, and someone, weirdly, pops a champagne cork. There’s no sign of anyone napping, and the chewing is relentless; I start to wonder if someone is passing around cud.
9.05pm. The loos are a hive of activity, as fans discuss yet again why they don’t like Bella – ranging from being too “muttery” to too thin. It’s unanimous that Jacob the werewolf should take off his shirt more.
11.07pm. Part way through Breaking Dawn – Part 1, I wake up with a jolt during the most traumatic birth scene ever. The surrounding Twihards squeal. Regret brownie.
11.45pm. I follow most of the audience outside for a cigarette break. Their mood is high, although many are concerned there isn’t enough plot content left for the final film (an accurate prediction). Team wolf vs team vampire split roughly 50/50, with lots saying they’d happily go for either. (Obviously these people have better circulation than me – who would want to get in bed with someone who has no blood in their feet? Idea for novel: girl cannot be with the vampire she loves because of Raynaud’s disease.)
12.03am. Yet another pre-filmed “treat”: a shot of Pattinson himself, looking like a man who’s just lost his last Malteser down the back of the sofa, telling “UK audiences” to “have a good time”. Poor R-Patz, it’s been a tough year. Silence from the audience – I guess they only fancy him when he’s a bloodsucking demon.
2.05am. It’s over. None of the Twihards in the audience are crying, and I feel a bit let down. The one with the red lenses would have cried. There is, however, a lot of noise, partly from people discussing whether they thought it was true to the book, and partly the cracking of joints that haven’t moved for half a day. I ask the mother and daughter what they thought of the ending, and they say they aren’t sure. Frankly they’re just pleased to have got through it.
The cinema looks like a nerdy house party has wrapped up; students peel off their onesies and pile out into the streets. Their high-pitched cackling sounds like a pack of wolves. I’ve spent 10 hours in the dark. My car looks like a vampire. I think I need some sleep.