“Twin Peaks” dominated the culture in one quick burst.
Created in equal parts by David Lynch and Mark Frost, “Twin Peaks” tooks viewers into a wild world that, at the time, was utterly new to television. The show boasts a strong cast of strange characters who swagger around to jazzy beats, all talking nonsense about coffee and pie, and whispering secrets about some darkness hidden away in the woods. It all centers around a murder, Laura Palmer’s, whose squeaky clean prom queen image covered up a life of drug abuse, prostitution and murder.
The identity of Laura Palmer’s killer is never really the driving force in “Twin Peaks,” but rather a method to get to know Lynch and Frost’s strange and wonderful cast of characters: a space cadet FBI agent, a sheriff named after a president, a one-eyed woman with super strength.
Even at its darkest, the backwoods town of Twin Peaks always feels fun, cozy and welcoming—making getting wrapped up in the town’s various intrigues all the more enrapturing. When it originally aired, millions of people tuned into “Twin Peaks,” and the show’s popularity went kind of nuts. Eventually, the public’s appetite for the identity of Laura’s killer became so great that the network forced Lynch and Frost to resolve the story line prematurely. The show-runners went with the most troubling outcome possible: that the Laura Palmer’s father, Leland, had raped and murdered his own daughter; wrapping her in plastic and then dumping her in the river.
After the troubling reveal of Laura’s killer, “Twin Peaks” petered off in popularity. The show went on to build a complicated mythology around other-worldly forces of good and evil competing for lost souls, and things got a little too weird. But just as the show began to regain its footing, CBS finally pulled the plug, cancelling it after its second season.
Shortly after its cancellation, David Lynch directed a feature version of the TV show, a prequel that follows Laura Palmer during the last week of her life. When it came out, most people hated it, writing it off as incomprehensible and lacking the charm of Lynch’s television series.
In truth, the movie, titled Fire Walk With Me, bears little resemblance to the television show that preceded it.
Made without the grounded hand of Mark Frost to contain Lynch’s dark aesthetic and knack for pretentious bullshit, Fire Walk With Me reveals, in full, the extent of Laura Palmer’s torment: untold amounts of sexual abuse, an addiction to drugs, and some severe psychological issues brought on by her life of incest, rape and murder.
This is a major overstatement, but, with Fire Walk With Me, Lynch rips “Twin Peaks'” black heart from its quirky body and holds it out, bloody and steaming, in the face of everyone who derived so much joy out of such a painful tale.
Fire Walk With Me comes with a steep learning curve. It’s practically impregnable to anyone who’s unfamiliar with the show’s greater mystique, and Lynch never pauses to remind viewers about the complexities of The Black Lodge or its backward talking denizens. There’s no refresher on the show’s crazy mythology, and it’s probably a bit of a drag for people who just wanted to see Kyle Machlachlan talk about donuts.
The best part about this movie, though, is how Lynch unapologetically alienates his own audience. Lynch practically reinvents the show’s entire aesthetic. This is a more twisted and haunted version of “Twin Peaks,” one that’s populated by ugly people with even uglier motives. Even the show’s music takes on a more somber tone, marked with mournful saxophones and fuzzed out guitars.
Most of the show’s most popular characters don’t appear in the film cast goes —no lovable Sheriff Truman or cooky Dr. Jacoby. No crazy sexy Audrey or nutso kid in the Indian headdress. For this story, Lynch sticks with the town’s seedier characters: abusive drug dealers, disgusting smugglers, and, worst of all, Leland Palmer.
In “Twin Peaks,” Laura represents a lot of the darkness that dwells at the heart of the show, and while the series repeatedly delves into this darkness, Lynch’s film practically wallows in it, casting the characters, locations, and practically the entire show into shadow.
Familiar locations like the local watering hole transform when Laura saunters through the doors, turning the place into this ridiculously awesome pleasure palace full of rockabilly girls dancing around naked with this fuzzed out cowboy band playing music so loud and raunchy that you need subtitles just to understand what anyone is saying.
The Pink Room
If anything, Fire Walk With Me is a confrontation. By stripping away what made “Twin Peaks” easier to watch, Lynch forces viewers to confront the brutality at the heart of the show. The revelation is disquieting. And, if anything, Fire Walk With Me succeeds most of all in making you feel terrible.
Fire Walk With Me is not a film for everyone. It’s not even a film for fans of “Twin Peaks.” It’s an incoherent, beautiful, and pretentious mess. But despite all that, Fire Walk With Me has the power to cut you right to the bone.
Come see Fire Walk With Me at Nitehawk Cinema, May 4th and 5th at Midnight. Preceded by an all out “Twin Peaks” bash.