A record-breaking number of filmgoers have been bitten this weekend by the film New Moon, the latest instalment in the Twilight saga. Teenage hearts on both sides of the Atlantic have been set fluttering by the vampire tales featuring British actor, Robert Pattinson.
His co-star, Kristen Stewart, has her own, growing following of fans. She reprises her role as Bella Swann in the new film, continuing her celibate on-screen love affair with Edward Cullen, a vampire with a heart.
The couple's chemistry – and the fact their passion is unlikely to be consummated – is driving the film's success as it did the multi-million selling books they first appeared in.
The 19-year-old actress is the latest to play a long line of heroines who fall for a leading man with a dark, not to say supernatural, side. They include FBI agent Clarice Starling, who in Silence of the Lambs, finds it hard to resist the charms of a cannibal doctor, even when he is strapped in a strait-jacket and wearing a face mask.
Vampires feature heavily in the list of celluloid seducers, their hypnotic stares hard to resist, even for the damsels they devour. Werewolves too are no slouches when it comes to movie romance. Jenny Agutter, in An American Werewolf in London, found it hard to resist amorous advances – even when they were made by a slavering creature of the night intent on ripping her throat out.
The film critic Barry Norman explained the attraction behind these hits. "It's the appeal of the rogue; women think the power of their love can transform hopeless material into something better, whether it's a bloke, a beast or a vampire. There is also an element of danger involved. It helps that good-looking guys tend to play the parts."
Then there's the noble nature that lies beneath the fangs and the fur. Obviously only a woman can heal his hurts. "He is capable of great love, like King Kong's for Fay Wray and the rest who followed her, which strikes a feminine chord," added Norman.
The rights to the Twilight series were owned by Paramount Pictures. But in a move that still rankles deeply at the studio, someone decided the series was a dud and let it go. In stepped in Summit boss Robert G Friedman, formerly vice-chairman of Paramount. Summit Entertainment was for years was an overseas seller of movies that also dabbled in production. Now it is a fully-fledged studio and is backed by $1bn from a group of investors.
Additional reporting Rupert van den Broek