PLOT: A third-rate horror novelist (Val Kilmer) visits a small town, where the sheriff (Bruce Dern) convinces him to look into the recent murder of a thirteen-year-old girl, who was impaled with a wooden stake.
REVIEW: Oh Francis, what have ye done?
Yesterday, when reviewing BUTTER, I made the prediction that it would be the biggest fiasco of this year's edition of TIFF, and one of the few truly awful films to play what's so far been an excellent festival. Yeah, I was wrong. I was dead wrong.
TWIXT is Francis Ford Coppola's latest American Zoetrope offering, through which he produces, writes, and directs films, all financed through his profitable Napa Valley vineyard. TWIST follows TETRO and YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, both of which were highly obtuse art films. Coppola promised this would be his return to the showmanship of his earlier days, with it being a gothic horror film, his first since BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA.
Trust me when I say that the only thing scary about TWIXT was that some people may actually be drawn in to see this atrocious piece of work through Coppola's name. I absolutely despise having to slam one of his films, as when he was at his peak, he demonstrated an understanding of the language of cinema few directors have equaled. Just a few weeks ago, I had my own mini-Coppola marathon, watching all three GODFATHERS, APOCALYPSE NOW, and THE COTTON CLUB (a bit of a mess, but much better than it's rep suggests).
Watching TWIXT, I have to assume that whatever flair Coppola had is now gone forever, with him seemingly unwilling to play to his strengths, which I've always seen as epic storytelling, with strong family bonds at the heart. True to that last part, TWIXT does indeed have some sad parallels to the tragic death of Coppola's son Gio in a tragic boating accident years ago, but the grief Kilmer's character experiences could have been explored a lot more. As it is, TWIXT is just a ninety-minute wank, and after suffering through it, the only way I can explain it's awfulness would be if perhaps he was trying to prove he could make a worse film than his legendarily cheap debut, DEMENTIA 13.
The person I really feel bad for here is Val Kilmer, as, had this worked, it could have been the start of a comeback. He's been toiling in the DTV world for too long, and I know he still has a great deal of talent. He actually manages to play his role relatively straight as hack novelist Hall Baltimore. While he's still a little husky, and sports a ridiculous ponytail, he acquits himself nicely- despite the incredibly shoddy material he has to work with. Probably the film's only truly entertaining scene is when Kilmer sits in front of his laptop, and improvises for a few minutes- during which he does a spot-on impression of Marlon Brando in APOCALYPSE NOW.
The rest of the cast is less impressive, although the dialogue and staging makes it seems as though they're in one of those bad interactive movies that used to come out on CD-ROM in the nineties- so you can't blame them for being awful. Bruce Dern camps it up, and wrings a few laughs out of his part, while Elle Fanning earnestly does her best as a young ghost visiting Kilmer. Ben Chaplin also manages to infuse the film with a little life during his scenes as Edgar Allan Poe.
Now, there's been a lot of talk out of comic-con how this was supposed to be an interactive film, with Coppola DJ'ing screenings of the film. The version playing TIFF was just a straight ninety-minute film. As for the heralded 3D, there are only two brief scenes to make use of this gimmick, neither of which is even slightly memorable, and is reminiscent of the bad 3D demos we used to see a decade ago at amusement parks. The film also sports a hilariously goofy score by Dan Deacon, that sounds like the kind of music I used to thrash around to during my brief goth period about a decade ago (don't ask). Oh yeah, and Coppola himself sings the film's theme song, Nosferatu (or, it at least sounded like him- I was too anxious to leave the theatre to check the credits).
TWIXT really is a shockingly bad film, which to me is downright tragic, as I think all of us are rooting for a real late-career resurgence of this once-great filmmaker. Walking out of it, I was depressed how how completely and utterly this film failed- but sure enough, it's an out-and-out disaster. Heck, it's even worse than PASSION PLAY.