During a frustrating book-signing tour, washed-up mystery writer Hall Baltimore ends up in a small town with a tragic past and an eccentric sheriff. Originally, Baltimore intended to leave that hell-hole as quickly as possibly, but a dream, the town’s past, and the body the sheriff shows him in the morgue all combine to convince Baltimore to stay and try to start the new book his publisher is so impatiently waiting for. But if Baltimore is merely looking for a good story, he may be getting far more than he bargained for…
When I stumbled upon the Twixt DVD at a local shop I was surprised and confused. A vampire film made by Francis Ford Coppola, the director of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and yet I had never heard of this film before? Well, now that I have seen it, I can understand why nobody is talking about it.
First of all, the vampire elements in this film are very few and far between, and are not integral to the story but feel like an afterthought. What we have here is a ghost story – no more, no less. On a different occasion I have complained about filmmakers creating vaguely-defined hybrid creatures that can be named either “vampires” or “zombies” even days before shooting, depending on what the marketing department regards as the better sell. Twixt feels like a similar case. It feels like a (pretty conventional) script for a ghost story which was then punched up with a couple of “bites” in order to be able to market it as Coppola’s next vampire film.
According to imdb, the script is based on a dream Coppola had one night. And he intended his convoluted and confusing story to be constantly re-edited depending on audience reactions, as a sort of experiment exploiting the speed that modern digital technology could potentially provide for making such changes. But since that experiment would have caused problems with the distribution model, Coppola had to give up on the experiment and settle for a “final” cut.
As it stands, the film is – narratively – hardly any better than many of the better straight-to-DVD vampire films that you find in the bargain bin from time to time. Like those films, Twixt seems too ambitious for its own good. This film tries to be “edgy”, to be Twin Peaks, but it isn’t. Yet the worst thing isn’t that the film fails to be Twin Peaks – the worst thing is that it is trying way too hard, and it shows. It is especially this “trying-too-hard” aspect that reminds me of many a straight-to-video B-movie.
The film’s story is overburdened with symbolism and with too many vague ideas, and the choice to entirely eliminate the boundaries between dream and reality is not helping either. Past and present are also intermingled in a way that is undermining the ghost story. But it is extremely difficult to describe the narrative approach; and to illustrate the film’s shortcomings with examples would be to spoil a lot of things.
To put it squarely, the blame for the disappointing final product lies entirely with Coppola, who wrote and directed this film and who is responsible for the ultimately failed “work-in-progress” editing approach.
The cast is not the problem. Elle Fanning is perfectly cast as the otherworldly entity. Val Kilmer is, for the most part, much better than you’d expect in the role of Hall Baltimore. Bruce Dern is also good, even though I am not really happy with the way he approaches his role as the sheriff.
Smaller roles include that of the dreamworld’s Edgar Allan Poe (perfectly cast with Ben Chaplin), and that of a mysterious goth hipster played very well by Alden Ehrenreich.
One of the few positive aspects is that Twixt is stylistically interesting and visually stunning. And from Coppola you wouldn’t expect anything less than a great-looking film. With its fever-dream like looks, Twixt might have worked if Coppola had had the courage to try to produce some kind of arthouse film. But instead he made the attempt to embed this fever-dream into a mainstream story that is situated somewhere between a second-rate Stephen King adaptation and an edgy David Lynch mystery. And this approach simply did not work.
Rating: 4 out of 10