“Twin Peaks” the series at its peak (the first season) was a different David Lynch than usual, one more toned down for television and focused on narrative – the result being a show that was offbeat, well written, visually interesting, oddly humoured and clever. Then the series second season went into the supernatural weird and lost its high production values as symbolism began to take over and the revelation of the killer halfway through meant a lot of the mystery aspect which drew us in was gone and all we were left with is storylines like David Duchovny in drag.
Nevertheless it was still quite watchable. Then came this, a feature film prequel which is quite frankly a mess and once again proves that I’m no Lynch fan when it comes to film (unlike the show there was no Mark Frost to help keep things under control this time around). Atypical Lynch, the film is spread with all sorts of funky visuals – some tying into the plot, most making no difference but look great anyway. We start off with a 15 minute intro with Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland investigating the initial murder a year before Palmer’s death, and quite frankly these scenes are just godawful – Sutherland is stuck with a weak character, Chris Isaak (whom I normally like) gives the worst performance of his career, and in the end nothing is resolved. Things pick up a bit thankfully when we move to the Peaks.
The strength of the film is Laura of course and in this we get to see her falling toward the dark fate that awaits her, and how in some ways she welcomed it and felt she could not escape it – even days before the events in the train car. The film is filled with scenes which fans of the series will remember being referenced before, while expanding on other elements including Laura’s foreknowledge of the killer. Be warned for those who’ve never seen “Twin Peaks,” this spoils everything about the series, and makes little sense without seeing the show first as its Lynch and therefore what little narrative there is relies on one’s knowledge of the pre-existing material.
Lee does an odd job, she’s certainly too old to play a convincing school student and some scenes (filled with a lot of open mouth gasping and breaking out into tears at the drop of a hat) are badly acted or directed – others though come off with finesse, but all in all it does establish her as a very complex three dimensional character which is no doubt what Lynch was aiming for. A few of the characters from the show return, none really expanding or improving on their parts – McLachlan, Ferrer, Amick, etc. just pop up and disappear – whilst Lara Flynn Boyle’s replacement isn’t much. The much touted David Bowie cameo as what looks like a ghost is all of 3-seconds long.
Amongst the confusing jumble though there’s definitely a few other strengths – sequences in which Laura dreams and tries to figure out Bob’s identity are quite fascinating as opposed to the Bobby/James love plots which fall apart. Storylines involving her promiscuity and her saving of her friend from a rather seedy club work well, and the great music from the show helps at certain points though its some truly great sound effects which really add to the atmosphere.
The film is quite dark, the murder itself filmed in a way that resembles the ultra gory ending of “The Doom Generation,” whilst other elements of rape and more make things tough too handle – sexuality and violence are not only overt but go hand in hand during some scenes. Critics hated it, whilst fans are divided on this and rightly so. This is a nightmare take on the show – much darker, no humour, much more surreal and graphic. Familiar faces pop up only fleetingly, new faces jump in there, and things are left unexplained. Only for the hardcore TP fans with a strong stomach.