In the summer of 2012, Hollywood was in the grips of a major blockbuster-slash-miniseries-slash-game-changing-event. Summit, Lionsgate, and WB television were collaborating to bring the world of Twilight, written and directed by Stephenie Meyers, to life. The first film in the franchise, Twilight, was released in theaters across the country, and millions of eager audiences couldn’t get enough of the bloodsucking stories of young Bella (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and her werewolf transformations.
Three years later, the hype surrounding the Twilight series has died down. As a result, so has the lucrative business of producing films based on best-selling books. And while we’ve been treated to some truly inspired works of art in the interim – from Joe Berlinger’s Wolves to Kim Ji-sung’s Korean remake The Guest – the world of the Twilight vampire has largely faded from the public consciousness.
So what exactly is the post-Twilight world of vampire cinema, and is it worth your time and money? More specifically, is it worth seeing Robert Pattinson’s directorial debut, Davings, in theaters?
The Present and Past of the Vampire Film
It’s important to put the Twilight series in context. While we’re often treated to series such as Hunger Games and Suicide Squad, the humble vampire film has been around for more than a century. And yet, despite its long theatrical history, the world of the vampire film has changed considerably in the last few years.
The Twilight series is something of a reboot of sorts for the vampire film, drawing its subject matter from DRACULA by Bram Stoker rather than from the gothic horror novel Dark Shadows, written by L.A. Wells. But while the first film in the series may have focused on classic vampire tropes – fangs, thirst, and shadowy figures roaming the city at night – subsequent films have strayed further and further from those classic roots. The most recent film in the series, Eclipse, for instance, was one of the most critically panned entries, prompting Stephenie Meyer to leave the directing reins to Pattinson. Thus, the change in tone that you’ll notice upon rewatching any of the Twilight films.
Thematically, the series has evolved over the years. While the first film may have been a bit of an experiment, delving into issues such as mental illness and substance abuse, the series as a whole has since become more of a commentary on society and the ways of the modern world. So if you’re looking for something traditional in terms of plot, perhaps consider another franchise.
Key Story Points to Keep in Mind
While Twilight may be enjoying a bit of a revival in popularity, it certainly doesn’t mean that you should rush out to see the film just yet. Like many of Pattinson’s previous films, Davings takes a while to get going, and it will never be considered a classic example of the vampire film subgenre. But still, there are some interesting things to see in this modest drama.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is that while Davings isn’t completely barren of fangs and scary shadows, the cinematic presentation is decidedly low-budget, even by indie standards. Shot almost entirely in a studio, and featuring a largely unrecognizable cast, the sense of authenticity is quite palpable, which is a real tribute to the practical efforts of its young director. What’s more is that this effort truly does feel like a passionate labour of love, which is a rare thing these days, and a welcome relief from the usual Hollywood product. In fact, despite the low production value, the special effects in Davings are quite good, and they certainly don’t hurt either.
Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that, while the film was shot in 2012, the bulk of the action takes place in 1977. So if you fancy yourself a bit of a historical buff, this is the film for you. And speaking of history, while many of the supporting characters in Davings are composites, a number of them are based on real historical figures, such as Anne Marie Lefebvre, who was at the time one of the most notorious serial killers in French history. So if you’re looking for something a little more obscure, this is also a good choice. But still, while there’s no denying that Davings is a historical oddity, it’s also an extremely likeable and engaging one, which is more than can be said for a lot of films with a similar subject matter.
Who Is This Film For?
If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either a) interested in cinematography or b) know someone who is. Because while the cinematography in Davings is quite good, it’s not particularly unique, nor is it anything special. In fact, it’s quite plain and, in some ways, quite boring. So if you’re looking for some dazzling shots and fancy camera work, you might want to look elsewhere.
But if you’re into character studies and realism, then Davings is for you. While it’s probably not the best film to show to someone who is new to the world of cinema, it’s also not the worst either. Especially if you want to talk about things such as mental illness and addiction, which are handled superbly, and with a fair degree of emotional honesty, by the film’s modest cast. The supporting characters are also quite well-rounded, which is something that is often lacking in more sensationalistic narratives surrounding real-life villains and heroes alike.
So if you’re into character studies and psychology, then Davings is for you. But if you want something a little more upbeat and entertaining, there are a number of other films that you should consider, as well. Like I said, while it’s not a classic, it’s not a complete disaster either. So if you’re looking for a little bit of everything, this is a good choice.
Watch It If…
If you’re a fan of Robert Pattinson, or of films set in the 1970s, or if you just want to see how a directorial debut from a relatively unknown filmaker goes, then Davings is definitely for you. Otherwise, there’s really not that much here for anyone else. But if you are into character studies and real-life tragedies, then this is one worth watching, and discussing afterwards (in private, preferably).