The latest instalment of the teen vampire saga Twilight is a "deviant moral vacuum", the Vatican said yesterday.

New Moon, which opened this week, is a "mixture of excesses aimed at young people and gives a heavy esoteric element", the Vatican warned.

Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council of Culture, blasted the film.

"Men and women are transformed with horrible masks, and it is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office," he said.

"This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern."

His attack came three weeks after the Catholic Church in Italy condemned Halloween as "anti-Christian and dangerous" and urged parents not to dress their children as ghosts and goblins.

In the past the Vatican has also attacked the Harry Potter books and films. Six years ago, Pope Benedict XVI criticised the "subtle seductions" in J.K. Rowling's stories, which could "corrupt the Christian faith" in impressionable young children.

And last year, Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran an editorial attacking the teen wizard as "the wrong kind of hero".

But four months ago it published an article approving of the latest big screen instalment, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, because it said the film managed to distinguish between good and evil.

Cardinals have also urged people not to see or read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which they said was an insult to Christianity.

The Vatican denied film crews access to churches in Rome when they wanted to shoot the sequel, Angels and Demons, last year.

Twilight, based on books by US author Stephanie Meyer, tells the story of a romance between vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart).

Social commentators have predicted the sex appeal of the teen vampire played by Pattinson was likely to have wider ramifications among Generation Y viewers, who were turned on by the image of the outsider.

Last year, when Pattinson first brought to life the character of Cullen, American film professor Joanne Detore-Nakamura predicted it would lead to the resurgence of the vulnerable man as a sex symbol.

And her prediction seems set to play out, with social commentator Mark McCrindle yesterday saying that the Cullen character in New Moon was the new pin-up boy for Generation Y.

"That particular character is a sign of our times. It's not the traditional pin-up hero of the past that people respond to, but in these post-modern times it's the outsider," Mr McCrindle said.

"And that's a sign that we've moved beyond the traditional clean-cut, blonde-haired, blue-eyed hero of the past to someone who can embody the complexity and in many ways the rejection of the traditional society."

"It's the rise of the anti-hero."