Many people regard Francis Ford Coppola’s prime as the period from The Godfather through to Rumble Fish, and think of the majority of films that have followed as predominantly misfires. This assertion is open to opinion, but it can be said that the three films Coppola has made since the turn of the century have been low budget (for Coppola at least) curios well worth checking out – Youth Without Youth, Tetro and now Twixt.
The main character in the film is Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), an author fallen on hard times dragging his latest novel through tin pot American towns and attending book signings in hardware stores where the clientele are more concerned with buying polyfilla. Whilst in the town of Swann Valley however he meets a fan in the shape of the town sheriff, Bobby La Grange (Bruce Dern) who immediately attempts to get Baltimore down to the morgue to check out a body. After all, perhaps a crime writer may be able to help the sheriff solve a local mystery?
Baltimore seems quite taken with this small town, more so when he discovers that Edgar Allen Poe once stayed there. At night he finds himself having frequent conversations with a girl named Virginia (Elle Fanning) who appears strikingly white with jolting red eye make-up. Her voice too carries an echo each time she speaks – is she a figment of Baltimore’s imagination or a ghostly apparition that haunts this surreal town?
As the film progresses, things get increasingly more bizarre including the dream-like sequence (or is it?) where Baltimore meets Edgar Allen Poe when attempting to find his way home. “Edgar Poe? Show me the way” mutters Kilmer’s character as if he’s stumbled across a member of the local tourist board. All this intrigue sends Baltimore straight to the local library where after carrying out some research he begins to feel that the town of Swann Valley may harbour some secrets that could well dissipate his creative malaise.
It’s hard to give a definitive analysis of Twixt because there are elements of it that cause some conflict. The essential question though as always is “is it a good film?”. Without hesitation I can say no, but it IS a film that somehow manages to lure you in and keep you both intrigued and gripped at the same time. Whether this, like a car crash is purely a symptom of morbid curiosity I’m still undecided. There are things to like in this film, the way its shot is excellent, and the film contains scenes which look absolutely stunning. The dream sequences with their almost monochrome appearance peppered with vibrant reds are lush.
My main gripe with it though was its near ADHD tendency to skip across the genres of gothic drama, hokey comedy and gruesome horror with some aspects even generating that TV movie sensibility. By not embracing any of these, the film felt very unsettled and failed to build any tension and suspense – two things you genuinely feel it was trying to achieve. With the casting of great actors like Bruce Dern, Ben Chaplin and Joanne Whalley, you can’t help think that even the switch from Val Kilmer to someone better suited to the role may have had some impact on the film’s success. Overall though, despite its creator being cinematic legend, it would be wrong to file this under anything other than ‘misjudged misfire’.
4 out of 10