FEARNET Movie Review: 'Twixt'


No amount of bad "buzz" should ever keep you from avoiding a movie you want to see, especially when it's a film that comes from someone like Francis Ford Coppola. Not to overstate the obvious, but the director of The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and (the excellent) Tucker: The Man and His Dream has more than earned the benefit of the doubt, plus it's no secret that Mr. Coppola has a clear admiration for horror cinema; some of his other films include The Terror (1963), Dementia 13 (also 1963), and a fairly impressive 1992 rendition of Dracula.

Having said all of that, the filmmaker's latest -- a bizarre and languid horror mash-up known as Twixt -- is an appealing mess (if I'm being kind) and an eye-tickling analysis of how a writer finds his muse (if I'm being smart), but it's recommended only to A) Coppola completists, B) Val Kilmer fans, and C) Edgar Allen Poe fanatics. And even those folks should be in a charitable mood before settling in with Twixt.
The first layer of Twixt is about a semi-sleazy horror novelist called Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) who wanders into a tiny town for a book signing in a hardware store, but finds himself captivated by the various mysteries surrounding Swann Valley. Like, what's the deal with the creepy young woman who wanders the woods all by herself? Why is the local sheriff obsessed with a rash of murders that involve wooden stakes? What's the deal with the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe offering writing tips? And why does the Swann Valley clock tower need seven separate faces? 
If this sounds like a lot to squeeze into an artsy little 88-minute horror flick, you're only halfway to understanding how frequently (and almost happily) arcane this movie is. At some points Twixt feels like an earnest and literate attempt at something like Silent Hill, and at other moments it's little more than Val Kilmer moping around and staring at otherworldly apparitions that, quite frankly, talk too much. 
Taken as a weird but sincere little experiment from a veteran filmmaker, Twixt certainly has some assets for the film geeks to savor: the cinematography is often quite beautiful, for example, and it's nice to see Val Kilmer working on a film that's slightly more accomplished than his normal B-movie fare. Additional cast highlights include Bruce Dern as a horror-lovin' sheriff with a big mouth; Ben Chaplin as an oddly intriguing version of Edgar Allan Poe; and Elle Fanning as the spectral lass who hides a terrible secret. I'm not sure that any of it makes a whole lot of sense, but Twixt does deliver some legitimate horror flick roughage (aka murders and chills and gore, oh my) before wrapping things up in rather Gothic fashion.
Twixt is a tough horror flick to recommend, seeing as how it was always going to be super-weird and I don't think it turned out how Mr. Coppola intended, but true students of the genre will certainly want to give it a spin at some point. I don't think it's a very good film, but I did enjoy a brief trek through Francis Ford Coppola's affection for horror fiction and scary cinema.