Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart), known as Bella to everyone, leaves her mother in Arizona to live with her father Charlie (Billy Burke) in Forks, Washington. At the local high school, Bella is intrigued by a group that seem aloof from the rest – and in particular Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). But Edward has a secret: he's a vampire.
It's not a spoiler to reveal that as you know it from the poster and trailer, even though Bella takes nearly half the film to work it out. Stephenie Meyer's novel (which I have read) is basically teen romance with vampires, and werewolves join in from Book Two. Twilight and its sequels New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn are major bestsellers in the young-adult market but talk of “the next Harry Potter” is misplaced. Their appeal is narrower – basically teenage girls, which is a huge reading market in itself, as the novels clearly tap into a powerful adolescent female fantasy. Their appeal to others is likely to be more limited: although you can't deny you turn the pages, many find the novels not especially well-written, overlong and insufferably coy about sex, particularly when you consider that the main characters are contemporary teenagers. (In short, Meyer avoids mentioning the subject altogether until Eclipse and you can sense the awkwardness.) Many find some dubious messages to teenagers in that Bella totally abandons herself to Edward in a particularly masochistic way and that Edward, described in adoring terms throughout, comes over as a creepy, borderline control freak.
Calling the novel and the film horror is a stretch: the emphasis is clearly on the romance, to an extent which flaws it. A threat is brought in at a late stage which brings about a violent climax which is most of the justification for the film's 12A certificate. However, Melissa Rosenberg's adaptation does fix a few problems: by dropping Bella's first-person narration for the most part, we are spared endless verbiage about how gorgeous Edward is. Catherine Hardwicke previously directed the 18-rated Thirteen (written by and co-starring Nikki Reed, who has a supporting role here) so teenage dark is not a stretch to her. She does try to add a little edge to this material, and to some extent succeeds. The special effects aren't brilliant, though.
Twilight is not terrible, but it falls short of being particularly good either. Ultimately it's at the mercy of its source material – it's watchable but doesn't leave much on an impression. However, following this film's success, the first sequel, New Moon, has now been greenlit.