Comic-Con audiences sank their fangs into two hotly anticipated vampire projects Thursday, as the makers of Twilight, the movie inspired by Stephenie Meyer's best-selling young adult novels, and True Blood, the new HBO show adapted from the Southern Vampire Mysteries books by Charlaine Harris, showed footage, fielded questions from expectant, sometimes hysterical fans and tackled the enduring appeal of the undead.
Twilight is the story of a teenage girl, Bella (Kristen Stewart), who falls in love with a vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson). When Stewart and Pattinson took the stage, the deafening squeals of the Twihards Meyer's ardent readers, chiefly young and female reverberated through the San Diego Convention Center's 6,500-seat Hall H. With Meyer's 7th book due out in early August and the film opening in December, the Twihards are in a lather a phenomenon not lost on the film's stars. "This is kind of the first time I've seen any of them," said Pattinson. "It baffles me. I can't hear anything. It's unbelievable."
The screams temporarily died down when fans got their first look at a scene in the movie in which the vampire James (Cam Gigandet) attacks Bella in a ballet studio. Director Catherine Hardwicke confirmed some details about the sound track, including that Pattinson composed a song himself, Bella's Lullaby, and that the English rock band Muse makes an appearance.
When fans got their chance to pose questions, there was a mass sprint to the microphone to pitch such hardballs as, "I just want to ask, how is it to portray a super-hot vampire?"
Less shrieky and more geeky was the crowd at the panel for True Blood, Alan Ball's adaptation of Harris's series about a telepathic barmaid in Louisiana named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) who solves mysteries about vampires and werewolves. Ball showed a long teaser reel from the show, which struck fans of the series as "sexier than the books," "more violent than the books," "more sensationalistic." In other words, more like TV.
Vamp/human affairs became a hot topic of discussion at the True Blood panel. "Apparently sex with vampires is really kind of great," said Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under and writer of American Beauty. "Think about it if you had 100-200 years to learn how please your partner and you had the body of a 25-year-old, you'd be something of a catch."
Ball said he made a deliberate effort to avoid three big vampire cliches in True Blood: blue light, contact lenses and opera music. Otherwise, he said he was ready to dive into genre. "After five years of Six Feet Under, I was really tired of people talking about their problems and dealing with the fact that we all die and blah blah blah," Ball said. "I was ready for something fun."
Asked about a rivalry between the two vampire projects, Harris, a feisty Southerner, took the bait, imagining a bite-off between the vampire clan in Twilight and the staff of a vampire bar called Fangtasia from her books. "If it came to a Cullen Family-Fangtasia smackdown, I think the Fangtasia staff would win," she said, to whoops and cheers.
Concluding unofficial Dracula day at Comic-Con was a premiere that proves vampire movies really won't die. Twenty-one years after the original hit theaters, Lost Boys: The Tribe, a sequel to the '80s horror film about a gang of teenage blood-suckers, screened in advance of its direct-to-video release July 29. Climbing out of the coffin with it are Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, stars of the original and now reality TV regulars.
"Vampires are a metaphor for any sort of disenfranchised, misunderstood group," said Ball, explaining their cultural resilience, and also why vamps are perfect for Comic-Con, where outsiders are always in.