Movie Review: “Twixt” (2011)

TwixtcoverHall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a mediocre horror novelist who typically writes about witchcraft. On a book signing tour, Baltimore stops into a quaint unnamed town with a peculiar and sad history of disappearances and unsolved murders.

Upon meeting the town sheriff, Bobby LaGrange–who we learn is a fan of Baltimore’s books, Baltimore is invited back to the police station (and morgue) to view an unusual corpse of a recently murdered young girl. What’s unusual you ask? Well, she has a 3-foot-long stake protruding from of her chest. Sheriffe LaGrange is an aspiring writer and proposes the gruesome crime would make a great story.

Baltimore declines seeing the deceased girl’s face and finds modest local motel to rest his eyes for the night. In a video chat with his wife, we learn that Baltimore has money troubles. He is searching for inspiration to write his breakout novel and the odd lore and scenery of the town are providing the right motivation he needs. Baltimore dreams that night of the town, meeting a handful of colorful characters, notable a ghostly young girl named “V” and also Edgar Allan Poe, whom Baltimore learned earlier in the day had once visited the town’s once majestic but now ramshackled historical Chickering Hotel.

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When he awakens, Baltimore is rejuvenated and inspired. He seeks out Sheriff LaGrange to collaborate on story ideas–dubbed by LaGrange as “The Vampire Executions,” but soon discovers he’s reached an impasse. Hoping to revisit the spectral version of the town, Baltimore takes several sleeping pills and falls back asleep. He again dreams of the town and learns more details of the town and its haunted history.

I won’t go further into the plot and divulge any spoilers, but I will comment that things resolve expectedly for me while also attempting to be ambiguous with the ending (I was satisfied with the ending but I suppose viewers can make up their own minds what happens). Also throughout the film, we see flashbacks of Baltimore’s daughter, who died tragically young in a boating accident.

Many people refer to this as Kilmer’s “comeback” role and what a disappointment it was. I disagree. Kilmer did a great job in this and he has also been in similar “under the radar” horror/thriller roles around the time Twixt was released (The Thaw [2009], The Traveler [2010], and 7 Below [2012]). There is a scene in Twixt that had me literally laughing-out-loud while Kilmer’s character is channeling his inspiration and spouts off some off-color impressions. Kilmer did as good a job as he could have with respect to Coppola’s heavy hand in the writing, direction, and production of the film.

Overall Impression:

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Bothersome is the dance between abstract and well-defined; there are some parts of this that feel reaching for symbolism, however, there are other aspects of the film that don’t try to be ambiguous. Take Edgar Allan Poe—he feels out of place. The fact that Poe lived and died in Baltimore, Maryland in real life I suspect is Coppola’s not-so-subtle reasoning behind our main character’s last name, however beyond that, I just didn’t get Poe’s presence in the film. Maybe I am reading too much into Twixt? Or maybe I am not reading into it enough? Overall, it is safe to say that this film is not for every audience.

In short, I wanted to like this movie–and maybe I would like it more if I watched it again. This type of film takes a lot of effort to sit through because every piece of it is deliberate, oozing symbolism. While I typically enjoy films like this, I just didn’t think Twixt was fully executed. I got the message (at least I think I got the message) but the continued effort of the narration felt overreaching and pretentious. Coppola’s direction, writing, and production felt almost in competition; I think this would have been more successful if Coppola had focused on one of these aspects.

Pros: atmospheric, gothic style, supernatural elements
Cons: narration, story feels forced and predictable

Mashup status: An air a little like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks/Fire Walk With Me mixed with Ingmar Bergman’s dream-like atmosphere, think The Swimming Pool meets The Secret Window only with decidedly gothic overtones.

Rating: 6.5/10

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