Francis Ford Coppola’s latest directorial effort is a strange mess of a movie. Both written and directed by the Hollywood legend, Twixt is a confused blend of genres and half-baked horror ideas. It is telling that the 2011 film, starring a bloated Val Kilmer past his prime as a leading man, barely saw theatrical release and was basically released straight to video in 2013.
Press materials heavily market Twixt as a horror film, which is misleading at best. The plot does involve ghostly visions and a vague murder mystery, but the narrative feels like a third-rate Stephen King story by way of Tim Burton. Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a writer and novelist on the topic of fictional witchcraft, primarily aiming for the teen market to make a living. He ends up in the very small and odd town of Swann Valley on his latest book tour, forced to promote his latest book at a local hardware store. Coppola does his best to make sure the viewer immediately knows that Swann Valley is a weird place.
Local sheriff Bobby LaGrange comes up to the author with a murder mystery and possible book idea. Bruce Dern plays the kooky sheriff, intent on writing a book with the well-known novelist as co-author. LaGrange adds a bit of levity to Twixt. As the two investigate the mysterious death of a young girl, Hall begins to experience disturbing nightmares in his sleep. Hall meets the ghost of a young girl (Elle Fanning) in his visions and begins to learn a confusing back-story about the town he is visiting.
Coppola repeatedly uses Hall‘s dreams as a storytelling device to propel the narrative forward. These surreal scenes are tacky and poorly written, flashing back to the story of a local pastor and then the story of random Goth kids across the lake. Hall even meets Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost in his dreams for flimsy reasons. It feels as if Coppola watched Twilight and one of Tim Burton’s recent movies, deciding to somehow mash them together.
Twixt would not be a bad first effort from a rookie director, but expectations of Francis Ford Coppola sour the piece. Sadly, any two-bit hack could have directed this train wreck. The script is unpolished, and Val Kilmer was poorly cast in the lead role. Twixt’s central idea likely could have been refined into a decent film with certain changes. The best bit in the entire movie is when Kilmer gives his Marlon Brando impersonation.
Twixt is an odd-looking film, due to extensive usage of color correction in Hall Baltimore’s nightmarish dreams and inconsistent digital cinematography. Twixt runs a tick over 98 minutes on a BD-50. The main feature is presented in the unusual 2.00:1 aspect ratio, as the AVC video averages nearly 36 Mbps.
Twixt did not have a massive budget and was shot with mid-level digital cameras below the standards of the latest Hollywood blockbusters. That introduces a wicked amount of aliasing in certain scenes, which could easily be mistaken for halos. The digital cinematography has questionable shadow delineation, leading to a slight crushing of black levels. Contrast is generally strong with an adequate amount of clarity. High-frequency content is occasionally impressive in the very sharp close-ups, but all too often,actual resolution is merely average in longer shots.
The biggest problem with the picture quality of Twixt is extreme color grading in dream sequences. Dream are nearly monochromatic, drained of practically every color except an unnatural moonlight. I hope this was a conscious decision mocking some of the more extreme color grading of modern teen horror, because it makes VFX look amateurish. If the color palette was an earnest attempt at creating a spooky atmosphere, it failed miserably.
Twixt features an acceptable 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The mix does not employ the rear speakers nearly as much as other horror films these days, mostly confining noises across the front soundstage. It is not a bombastic presentation, though the mix does allow dialogue space to breathe. There are no major issues to note with the music or its balance with the rest of the soundtrack.
Three subtitle options have been included for Twixt: English SDH, Spanish, and French. All three are displayed in a white font that remains inside the framing of the movie.
Some trailers and a documentary consist of all the special features for Twixt. An UltraViolet copy is included, which can be redeemed on VUDU or Flixster.
Twixt: A Documentary by Gia Coppola (37:42 in 1080i) – Francis Ford Coppola’s granddaughter gives us a very intimate look into the making of the film. On-set footage and interview clips with the cast and crew fill out typical behind-the-scenes material. Francis reveals how he came upon the idea for Twixt in Istanbul and some other interesting tidbits. In some ways, this documentary is more coherent and entertaining than the movie itself.
Trailers (Various times, all in HD) – Killing Lincoln, The Americans: Season 1, Phantom, 12 Rounds II: Reloaded, Stoker, Carrie (2013)
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