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So Bad It’s Good #5 : Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me (1992)

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

Guilty Pleasures that we enjoyed – even though we don’t quite know why.

Movie Title : Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me
Released 1992
Starring Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan, Moira Kelly, Grace Zabriskie, Chris Isaak, Kiefer Sutherland, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie
Directed By David Lynch

What is it? It’s the feature-film spin-off of the wildly popular – but short lived – TV series “Twin Peaks”. Unlike the series though, this was quite a dark little effort – all the humour from the show had been expunged and in it’s place more of the wacky, wild and sometimes vividly ridiculous. Lynch decided to make a ”Twin Peaks” movie because, as he said in an interview, “I couldn’t get myself to leave the world of Twin Peaks. I was in love with the character of Laura Palmer and her contradictions: radiant on the surface but dying inside. I wanted to see her live, move and talk.”
Tracing the events before the series pilot, “Fire Walk With Me” jets back to the last seven days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the murdered prom queen of the series.
Out of control, hornier than ever and just begging for affliction, Palmer’s got herself mixed up in an interchanging reality where men find her alluring, she finds sex overpowering, and soul-sucking demon fiends possess those close to her, preparing for her looming death. Yep, Laura Palmer’s on a one-way trip to hell.
Following the inexplicable disappearance of colleague, Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), pro snooper Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is called into action to head up an investigation to pick up where his predecessor left off. Seems a body floating in the water, belonging to a woman named Theresa Banks, leaves a path of clues and insight into revealing the man responsible for such gruesome acts. Thing is, he’s a demonic spirit. Uh-oh.
Ultimately confusing and nauseatingly opaque, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” has earned it’s share of criticism. What people forget though is that this is a movie Lynch was forcibly made to edit several times over.

What’s wrong with it? : There’s a lot wrong with it. You could say it’s weird and incomprehensible because they’re the kind of films director David Lynch makes – and I will say, Mark Frost (who was busy filming his own movie “Storyville” at the time and so couldn’t fit this in) really should’ve been a part of it, because you really miss the humour of the series; too much of this thing is just ‘nuts for nuts sake’ – but in this case, I think it turned out the way it did because of studio interference.

Lynch’s cut was several hours long (try 5!) – and included a heap more characters, as well as plot points – and that rubbed the studio – always keen to fit in as many sessions of a film a day it can – up the wrong way. New Line decided to cut it down to a couple of hours long – but not only that, cut the film in a way that didn’t make sense at all. If you’ve ever read the script for “Twin Peaks : Fire Walk with Me” you’ll know that in paper form, it does flow a lot better, and that the film skips over huge plot points. Worst of all, the structure is all off – it’s like someone switched reels 3 with 1 and just went with it. There’s a whole chunk of the story – Kiefer Sutherland’s character has a lot more to do, as does Dale Cooper; not to mention many of the residents of “Twin Peaks” like Big Ed and Sheriff Truman, who don’t even show up in this cut – missing from the finished film and to this day, fans are still petitioning the studio to let us see the movie the way it was meant to be seen. Also disappointing is that Lara Flynn Boyle didn’t return – due to the nude scenes required – to reprise her role as Laura’s best friend, Donna Haywood. Though her replacement Moira Kelly was good enough, it’s Boyle that we signified with the part and therefore, couldn’t get past the change of face. Fans weren’t impressed that Lynch didn’t resolve the series’ cliff-hanger ending (with Cooper’s doppleganger free in the real world, whilst the real one’s stuck in the Red Room) either.

What’s right about it? If you loved the show, you’ll like the movie. It’s nowhere near as good as the show – for abovementioned reasons – but it’s still an intriguing and visually arresting film experience. Sheryl Lee gives an award-worthy performance as the demonised Laura Palmer, whilst there’s great (if even too brief) turns from the likes of Kyle MacLachlan (briefly reprising his role as agent Dale Cooper – – who, quite frankly, the film needed more of), Harry Dean Stanton, crooner Chris Isaak, Gary Bullock and a twitchy Kiefer Sutherland. The star of the show might be Ray Wise though – again brilliant as the maniacal Leland Palmer. The cinematography, music and production design is also excellent.

Why is it so bad it’s good? Most of Lynch’s films are fuckin’ crazy, but they look great, sound great, have great performances in them and are so imaginative that you can’t resist them – this one is no exception. Jack-all of it makes sense, but it’s still strangely appealing and fans were thankful that at least they did get a movie version of their favourite TV series…. Something many series creators talk about, but rarely get to do.

– CLINT MORRIS

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