Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Cinema File #244: "Twixt" Review

Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director of The Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and, lest we ever forget, Jack AND Captain EO, produced the film Twixt based on a nightmare he had all the way back in 2011. Appearing only at a few film festivals here and there, it wasn't released widely until fairly recently, and only then punted unceremoniously direct to DVD. Going only by the director's reputation, one might have cause to wonder how any film he makes could be given this kind of treatment, but should you bother to sit through this weird tale of post-cognitive dreams and prepubescent vampire ghost things, you might have more cause to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to release it at all, or even make it in the first place.

Twixt follows Hall Baltimore (played by Val Kilmer), a horror writer dubbed "the bargain basement Stephen King" who finds himself trapped in the very kind of hackneyed story he himself might have written, filled with stereotypical characters, cliched situations, and nonsensical twists. With its inside baseball look at the industry of bad fiction and the people who make it, I want to believe that this movie was trying for the same sort of meta genre awareness of a previous Kilmer film, Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but as it came to a close, I realized that I was clearly reading too much into it. Twist is a bad horror movie masquerading as a satire of bad horror movies, with just enough of a wink at the camera to make you think they're doing it on purpose.

I mentioned above that, at least according to Wikipedia, Coppola has said that he based this movie on a dream he had, and I can easily believe that considering how much dreams and dream-like imagery play into the narrative. Baltimore spends a good 75% of the movie asleep, being told the plot by the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe if you can believe it. The problem is, the movie wants to connect the events of the dreamworld with the supernatural investigation of a mystery in the real world, but the two never really meet up until the very end, and when they do, its in such a half assed and nearly inexplicable way that the whole exercise feels like the kind of dream you only half-remember, and are just sure has some great significance, but when you finally explain it, wasn't actually all that interesting.

I know this is really messed up, but seeing Val Kilmer get fatter and fatter in every movie he's in anymore is just kind of depressing. I wouldn't normally hold something like this against an actor, especially considering that I myself am a larger gentleman and should have more sympathy for it, but this guy was Batman at a time when I was just growing up and learning to love Batman, and even seeing one of the lesser Bruce Waynes with a double chin just makes me sad, and more importantly, takes me out of the movie. Elle Fanning plays a mysterious girl named V who may be a ghost, or a vampire, or the ghost of a vampire, or something, and while admittedly she is much better than the last time I saw her, that's only because the last thing I saw her in was The Nutcracker 3D.

Oh, and don't bother trying to follow the mystery at all, because none of it makes any sense once everything is said and done. We're presented with a murdered girl staked through the heart as one might kill a vampire, and a whole bunch of random elements like a seven faced clock that never tells the right time, a gang of goth kids who I guess really were vampires, and even a Ouija board come to life. None of it means anything or comes together in a way that feels satisfying. You never find out who killed her, or maybe you do, and its just so stupid and poorly executed a reveal that I can't bring myself to accept that the half-assed explanation in the closing text crawl has any more bearing on the plot as any of the other pointless crap in this movie.

Towards the end, in what I'm pretty sure is either the third or fourth extended dream sequence, Kilmer begs the ghost of Poe to give him the ending of the story he's writing, because, see, we're all so engrossed in this movie that we want to know the ending to it just as badly. It's like all meta and shit. That's about as deep and profound as this movie gets, and it is almost immediately followed up by a scene involving a ridiculous torrent of fake blood and the goofiest onscreen death in recent memory, which may or may not have also been a dream. This kind of dreck might have simply been mediocre on its own, but somehow its made worse knowing it comes from someone so often heralded as one of the greatest writer/directors of all time.

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