Twixt (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Twixt (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, Bruce Dern, Alden Ehrenreich, Ben Chaplin

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment

Though his output in recent years may have waned in both quantity and quality, there’s no denying that Francis Ford Coppola deserves recognition as one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever practiced the craft. From his initial Godfather outings, to the critically lauded The Conversation, to the absolute masterpiece that is Apocalypse Now (only recently seen for the first time and adored by this writer), Coppola’s body of work will stand the test of time regardless of its weaker entries (I’m looking at you, Jack).

But perhaps my own personal favorite of his films is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While that film isn’t necessarily brilliant, and cannot hold a candle to some of Coppola’s better films, this writer saw Dracula at a formative age and fell head over heels in love with it. I dare say it’s largely responsible for my enduring love of the genre, what with its gorgeous scenery and costumes, (mostly) superb actors, and – most importantly – Coppola’s insistence on treating what amounts to a gothic melodrama with the utmost respect, taking the story as seriously as any Vietnam tale or Mafia saga. Perhaps my only enduring issue with the film is the hunger it left with this fan to see the accomplished filmmaker tackle any number of similar yarns in our favorite genre. But alas! It wasn’t meant to be. That is, not until this year’s release of Twixt, a flawed if fascinating horror movie concerning the process of writing and the nature of grief, all awash in quirky horror and Hammeresque sensibilities.

Twixt opens with writer Hall Baltimore (Kilmer, very good here), a “bargain basement Stephen King” who has made his living churning out garish tales of witchcraft. As the film begins, Hall has arrived in the town of Swan Valley to peddle his newest book and evade his nagging wife and overbearing publisher, all while searching himself for a better story to tell while drowning his sorrows with drink (a recent tragedy looms large over Hall throughout the film). Inspiration eventually comes in the form of the town’s bloody history and recent murders, both of which fuel Hall’s dreams and the investigation he pursues alongside batty town sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Dern) – ostensibly to dig up material for his new book. Dreams and reality begin to converge for Hall as his attempts at playing detective bring him into contact with the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe (Chaplin) and a murdered young girl named Virginia (Fanning), before he eventually runs afoul of the town’s awful secret, the possibly supernatural denizens on its outskirts, and of the killer currently haunting its streets. It all provides wonderful fodder for Hall’s book, provided he can stay alive long enough to write it.

With its talented cast, beautiful photography, and its unique use of genre trappings (ghosts, vampires, murderers, etc.), Twixt might well be one of my favorite films thus far this year. With it, Coppola takes what might have been a fairly standard tale and turns it into a bizarre, witty, strangely charming look at a struggling writer attempting to find his muse, and a damaged man seeking redemption for a past transgression that indirectly took the life of a loved one. At times, Twixt can feel like a gothic horror film, a sharply funny comedy, a detective tale, and an episode of “Twin Peaks” (it’s also the best film about writing since Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.).

Helping Coppola juggle this array of erratic tones is his cast, led by Kilmer. With his well-kept ponytail and added paunch, the one-time Batman is perfect as Hall, giving us a character who uses his laid-back charm and wit to disguise the pain eating away at him. It’s an impressive performance from the actor, who hasn’t made much of an impression since his turn in Shane Black’s brilliant and vastly underappreciated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang a half decade ago. Here’s hoping the talented thesp manages to land meatier roles like this more often from now on.

Also quite good is Ben Chaplin, who tackles the ghost of Poe in the film. His is a restrained performance, forgoing any goofiness or histrionics that have plagued some previous takes on the man. Sadly, Chaplin doesn’t get much time on screen to essay Poe, but his performance ensures that he always makes an impact whenever Poe does pop up throughout. Add the lovably loony Bruce Dern and the creepy yet sympathetic Fanning (along with Kilmer’s actual ex-wife Joanne Whalley as his bickering spouse), and you have an impressive roster carrying the film.

The photography is quite beautiful too, delineating Hall’s reality with warm colors while presenting his dream life with a more monochromatic palate. Sadly, a good deal of dodgy greenscreen work has been employed to realize Hall’s dreams. While this can be justified by its placement in the story (one’s dreams hardly have to look realistic), the quite noticeable compositing work does ruin some otherwise gorgeous frames. Also worth noting is the quirky and darkly beautiful score by Dan Deacon and Osvaldo Golijov, which sets the tone perfectly for many of the film’s setpieces.

Oooh, but this is not a film for everyone. I should imagine Twixt will try the patience of those not interested in the film’s more experimental nature. While the genre tropes Coppola employs here are quite traditional, his presentation of them is anything but. And, sadly, the movie does occasionally get weighed down by its tonal variety, even as the pacing sometimes loses its momentum (particularly in the middle act). The abrupt ending, too, will likely infuriate some, even though this writer found it to be both appropriate and amusing.

Fox’s Blu-ray gives us a mostly sharp image and perfectly adequate audio track, but provides only one bonus feature – a thirty-seven minute long documentary from Coppola’s granddaughter Gia. It’s a fun watch, beginning with Coppola recounting the film’s origins as an unfinished dream in between setups during the film’s production. The doc is made up of mostly disparate moments from throughout the filming of Twixt, ranging from fly-on-the-wall behind the scenes clips to brief interviews with the cast and crew. While it’s a pity the film got a nearly barebones treatment, this documentary is well worth a look for those who enjoyed the film.

As noted, Twixt certainly isn’t for all viewers. But if you’re willing to give it a shot, here’s hoping you enjoy this adventurous foray into genre filmmaking from an aging master who really, really should’ve visited the fright film arena more often than he did.

Special Features

  • Twixt – A Documentary by Gia Coppola


    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 out of 5

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