Blu-ray Review: Twixt
The original conceit of Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt – newly released on Blu-ray – was an ambitious affair: Coppola, evidently, had shot several possible stories for his film and was going to “mix” the scenes together live in theaters, creating a unique viewing experience for every different audience. Coppola has always been a pioneer of new cinematic ideas, and several enterprising filmmakers and journalists have said that this live visual remixing of films is the next logical step in its evolution; why sit through a whole movie, when you can remix it to be a shorter experience with nothing but “good parts?” Frankly, this sounds like an atrocious idea to me, but I cannot deny that I would go well out of my way to see the experiment in action. Maybe there would have been something to this editing-on-the-fly. An immediacy afforded by quick digital tools.
Sadly, the experiment was not realized, Coppola was not able to find any support of the project, and the film in question is now only being granted a modest straight-to-video release, a sweep under the rug of a film by the guy who made The Godfather. The result is – reluctantly, lamentably – pretty insufferable. Twixt is a crisp and surreal mood piece that plays more like a low-rent riff on Coppola's Dracula than any sort of actual horror thriller. It is a painfully unfocused and aggressively odd affair that is so forthrightly bonkers and dreamy, that it leaves the viewer pondering the very sanity of the once titanic filmmaker. Obsessed with new ideas and new images, Coppola – perhaps admirably – swings for the walls in providing audiences with a startlingly original cinematic notion, attempting to fill the screen with a dreamy and profound and borderline absurdist vampire story that doesn't seem rote or trite. And while Twixt is most certainly not rote or trite, it also borders on the awful. Fascinating to be sure. But also pretty bad.
Val Kilmer – puffy and sporting a ponytail – plays an author named (sigh) Hall Baltimore, who has inexplicably been granted a book-signing in a town so small, the bookshop shares space with the hardware store. Baltimore's financing is flagging and his embittered wife (Joanne Whalley) is threatening to sell off his prize copy of Leaves of Grass. He needs inspiration for a new book soon. Luckily, Hall is given inspiration in his dreams by a long string of black-and-white phantasmagorias which feature a mysterious pale buck-toothed 13-year-old named V (Elle Fanning), the endless details of a child mass murder committed either a few months ago or in 1955 (it's never really made clear) by a local children's minister (Anthony Fusco), as well as actual practical writing advice from no less than Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin, sporting an implacable accent). In the waking world (which feels a lot like “Twin Peaks”), Hall also has to deal with an eccentric local sheriff (Bruce Dern) who has designed an execution device for vampires (?), a dead girl with a stake through her chest, and a mysterious cadre of Goth kids who live in some sort of free-love commune across the lake, and who are led by a Byronic clown named Flamingo (Alden Ehrenreich). Flamingo may or may not be an actual vampire. “Flamingo” is not a good vampire name.
At the center of town is a heptagonal clock tower that tells a different time of day on each of its clock faces, stressing that chronology is deliberately wonky around here. Fanning's V, as a result, seems to be playing three different roles simultaneously, including, bafflingly, Poe's real-life dead child bride. Coppola is making a comment on doomed beauty. But doomed beauty that has elongated, orthodontia-encrusted Nosferatu incisors. And who may or may not be a mere literary device, but also the inspiration for every single one of Poe's stories. And is being seduced by three generations of vampires. Maybe. It's hard to tell. I can say for sure that there is no moment of actual human behavior anywhere in this mess.
Twixt is not unwatchable, but it comes close. The cast is very game, and none of the actors can be faulted for the total lack of narrative clarity in this writhing pile of Ken Russell clippings. Only without the lurid sex and oddball fetishism that marks a true European sleaze. After 88 minutes, you'll find yourself bored, baffled, and a little scared that Coppola's career has reached such a strange low. Coppola has always been prone to long and dream-like sequences of horror (see: Apocalypse Now), but he has vanished so far into his own dimension that you cannot see him anymore. Twixt is chilling, but not in any way it intended.
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and co-star of The Trailer Hitch. You can read his weekly articles B-Movies Extended, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind. If you want to buy him a gift (and I know you do), you can visit his Amazon Wish List.