TWIXT. F.F. Coppola’s peculiar, dreamlike horror

Francis Ford Coppola is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in American cinema, which is why much more is expected from him than from any random craftsman or debutant.

Filip Jalowski

23 January 2024

TWIXT. F.F Coppola's peculiar, dreamlike horror

His projects electrify the public and capture the attention of hundreds of thousands of fans and critics alike. Right after the premiere, an countless number of viewers gaze at his films with the enthusiasm of a scientist losing sight over a microscope eyepiece. Coppola, therefore, is not easily spared; he cannot count on any leniency. The balloon of expectations inflated by the upcoming premiere and the audience’s rigorous approach has somewhat harmed his previous projects – Youth Without Youth and Tetro. Although they are not outstanding films, they still remain solid, well-executed, and well-acted cinema that one should not be ashamed of. The situation is quite different with Coppola’s latest production – Twixt is one of the worst (if not the worst) films in the director’s career.

The concept of Twixt was incredibly interesting. After twenty years, Coppola returns to the themes characteristic of horror cinema. There are unexplained murders, apparitions, and in the background, through dirty windows, the pale faces of vampires peer in. The hearts of Dracula fans surely beat a little faster. In the cast, there is Val Kilmer, who looked then as if he had been stung by an exceptionally venomous bee, and Bruce Dern, a man who acts well even in the worst films. Coppola’s ideas and choices intrigued and inspired enough to occupy one’s mind with the question of what Twixt would be several times before the screening. Twixt Val Kilmer Elle Fanning

Unfortunately, it is a showcase of wasted potential, boiling in its first few minutes. Kilmer plays the role of a second-rate horror writer who specializes in witchcraft and spells. Dern is Sheriff Swan Valley, the breathless town famous for its ominous clock tower, a series of strange murders, and a hotel where Edgar Allan Poe once stayed. The paths of the two men intersect when Hall Baltimore (Kilmer’s character) arrives in Swan Valley to promote his books. Fascinated by horror literature, Sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Dern) tells him about local murders and proposes collaboration on writing another book. The writer is initially skeptical, but his opinion changes when Edgar Allan Poe appears in his head during sleep. Or maybe there’s no talk of sleep?

Twixt Alden Ehrenreich

If someone has read old, good Stephen King novels, the mentioned first few minutes must have evoked a sense of nostalgia and excitement. Swan Valley is a town pulled straight from the world of the American writer. Small houses that seem more like hideouts than the havens of a hearth, a gloomy clock tower towering over the town (supposedly the devil himself appeared in it), an eccentric sheriff, and that strange atmosphere that immediately strikes newcomers, whispering that something is wrong, and one should leave. Coppola perfectly doses the atmosphere and consciously refers to King’s prose – in one scene, Dern asks Kilmer what it’s like to be the “worse version of Stephen.” Nevertheless, from the first vision involving Edgar Allan Poe and a certain pale-faced girl, everything starts to crumble like a poorly constructed house of cards.

Twixt Elle Fanning

First and foremost, the dreamy atmosphere maintained in the writer’s visions undermines the film’s pace, not at all harmonizing with the whole. They are visually pleasing but quickly become tedious and even irritating. Their slowness effectively kills the atmosphere of Swan Valley, which we got to know at the moment of crossing the town’s borders. Coppola is too indecisive about which direction he wants to take. On the one hand, it’s hard to take seriously a screenplay in which the main character debates with Poe, and at times, it’s evident that the director is aware of this fact. On the other hand, Coppola’s distance is strongly conservative. The film is made too classically, literally, to become a genre play or a pastiche of a certain style. Twixt is afraid to sail into deep waters, and exploration of the seemingly familiar but still mysterious shore also scares it. The result is stagnation in a creative quagmire.

Despite Kilmer’s decent performance and Dern’s good portrayal, the promising introduction, and an interesting visual side, Twixt is definitely disappointing. It’s a secondary, uninteresting film with wasted potential. Hopefully, Coppola will bounce back from the bottom as soon as possible and sail back into open waters.