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Twixt

Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt is an interesting mish mash of genres. Blending horror, drama, mystery, and a healthy dose of camp, it weaves a gothic spell that reminded me of the dark flip side to the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.

The film makes many references to Stephen King, and at times reminded me of a King tale. Val Kilmer play Hal Baltimore, a “Third rate Stephen King” who has gained some small success with a series of books about witches. He arrives in a small town, setting up a book signing in the local hardware store where he meets sheriff Bobby LaGrange, quirkily played by Bruce Dern. LaGrange wants Hal to collaborate with him on a book called “The Vampire Executions” about a serial killer in the area whose calling card is a wooden stake impaling the victim.  Slowly Hal is drawn into the town history as he hopes to write a book that is commercial while being personal to him as well.

It is not long before writer’s block leads Hal down a path of intricate dreams and fantasies. In these dreams, Edgar Allan Poe, who once stayed at the local hotel, is helping Hal with the development of the novel’s plot. He also encounters an ethereal, haunting lost girl who reminds him of his lost daughter. As parallels between history, current events, and Hal’s life arise, the journey to write the book becomes a journey to accept the truth of Hal’s past.

At the surface, Twixt may look like a surreal film with little distinction between dream logic and reality. However, with a little work on the viewer’s part, all the pieces are there for what are essentially 3 narratives that intertwine: Hal’s troubled past, The dream tale of the hotel murders, and the current staking murders. For example, central to the town in its dream version is a clock tower that features multiple clock faces, all at different incorrect times. As Hal moves towards accepting his tragedy, we understand Hal’s guilt ridden fear of not being on time, and how that is reflected in the town’s central feature.

The dream/fantasy scenes are sumptuous, with most color drained from the image except for the sharply contrasted reds. Often times the dream like images actually looked like the flickering images of film projected into the actual film itself..truly eye-grabbing.

I went into Twixt with little information other than it was a Coppola film that flirted with the horror genre. I was sucked into the tale, and later learned of the film’s experimental origins. Coppola intended the film to be seen as part of a tour, with him present. On the fly, he would be able to extend some scenes and shorten others to meet audience reaction. In addition, the film contained 3D segments which were “announced” with an image of 3D glasses covering the screen. I cannot comment on this presentation of the film, as I experienced it on a Blu-ray which contained no 3D or interactive options. I would love to see what this interactive experience would be like.

As for the version I saw, it is at heart the tale of a man coming to terms with his grief, filtered through lenses of gothic horror, skewed by surreal dream logic, and flavored with mystery. An inner journey masked by external ones, Twixt is a journey worth taking.

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