Hallowe'en may have been and gone for another year, but if you notice young people looking especially pale or wearing red contact lenses this weekend, don't be alarmed. Chances are they're simply die-hard Twilight fans, or Twi-hards, on their way to see Breaking Dawn Part 1.
The latest film release in the multi-million dollar Twilight series hits Irish cinema screens this Friday, and is bound to be as big a success as its three predecessors.
After all, this is the series of films that has spawned millions of fans worldwide, made household names of its stars and created the biggest buzz in teen culture, well, ever.
The draw here is the supernatural element mixed with romance, and is what elevates Twilight from your standard teen flick to super-hit franchise. Drama sells to teens, and standard issue romance isn't enough to float their boats -- they don't want ordinary, they want extraordinary. Take a love story with tons of angst and loads of obstacles, mix in vampires, werewolves and competition for an ordinary girl's heart, and you've got a recipe for success.
From The Lost Boys in the 1980s to Buffy The Vampire Slayer in the 1990s, vampires have long been objects of fascination for teenagers the world over. Perhaps it is the innate sexiness involved with neck-biting, blood-sucking and violent seduction, or maybe it's as simple as the forbidden love stories that often accompany human and vampire interaction.
Whatever the reason, vampires are firmly back in vogue, and it's thanks to Twilight. Teens have been captivated by the Twilight saga like no series before. The appeal of this particular young-adult phenomenon appears to be spreading, not waning, and Twi-hards are as desperate to sink their teeth into this fourth film as they were the first.
However, Twilight differs in comparison to other vampire stories in many ways. Written by a Mormon, it has a not-so-secret subtext that preaches abstinence and a distinct lack of traditional vampire iconography. No crosses, garlic or holy water here; these vampires cook Italian food, drive sports cars and even have a secret government whose job it is to keep their existence a secret.
Still, it contains the most vital element of any vampire tale -- a dangerously attractive man, and the virginal, mortal girl whose blood he lusts after. Teens relate to moody, awkward Bella who's elevated from average teen when this supernatural being decides she must be his.
Luckily in Twilight, unlike in other vamp tales, this vampire is vegetarian, old-fashioned and searching for his life partner, not just some thirsty immortal out for a quick drink.
Stephenie Meyer's young-adult novel Twilight was released in 2005 to critical acclaim, but nobody could have predicted the outright mania and hysteria the book, its sequels and the subsequent movie adaptations would create among teenagers. The first film opened the story up to a whole new audience who had missed the books, helped greatly by the handsome cast.
By the time the sequel New Moon opened in November 2009, the saga had gained an army of new followers and the media attention to match.
The franchise has spawned conventions, sex toys, dolls, perfume and millions of fans, and the actors involved have had to kiss goodbye to anonymity.
The Los Angeles premiere of Breaking Dawn Part 1 took place Monday last, with fans queueing and camping for a chance to see the stars from 6am four days previously.
The plaza outside the Nokia City was turned into a temporary campsite, with hundreds sleeping out in the elements for days. These are the lengths Twi-hards will go to just to see the actors in real life -- and similar scenes are expected at tonight's London premiere.
For some, Twilight is more than a book, film or franchise; it's a way of life and it remains to be seen how the Twi-hards will cope when the saga reaches its conclusion in 2012.