Spoilers can be found throughout this review, so BEWARE.
The end of Twin Peaks left millions of viewers clamouring for more – what was to become of Special Agent Dale Cooper, newly posessed by BOB? That was the question on everybody’s lips. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled and a whole generation of TV viewers were left hanging. When the news broke that David Lynch was to make a film that would delve back into the bizarre, densely-packed world of Twin Peaks for a one-off movie special, people thought that the film would mop up all the loose ends that were left dangling in the wind by the TV series. How wrong they were.
The film purports to show what happened in the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life. The first episode of the first season of Twin Peaks began with the iconic shot of Laura’s body, found in the river and with those immortal words – ‘she’s dead, wrapped in plastic’ – we were immediately entrenched in the mystery of the show. But how did she end up dead? How did she come to be wrapped in plastic? The show’s creator, David Lynch, famously never wanted to reveal the identity of Laura’s killer. He wanted the murder and subsequent discovery to act as a jumping point for the deeper secrets of the town to be revealed. But, in season two, it was discovered that in fact Leland Palmer, Laura’s father, had murdered his daughter while possessed by a demonic entity named BOB, who had been haunting her throughout her teens. The movie explores these events and how Laura came to be murdered in much more detail than the TV show, while keeping the same bizarre dreamlike atmosphere that typified the series.
For many, the film was a total failure. It is hard-going for people who aren’t borderline obsessive fans of the show, and completely impenetrable for those who have never seen it. Both lodges make an appearance, as do most of the characters from the series. Kyle MacLachlan returns as Special Agent Dale Cooper and is in the film for much too short a time. David Lynch himself returns as possibly the series’ funniest character, Gordon Cole, and Sheryl Lee returns as Laura Palmer. There are other familiar faces; Harry Dean Stanton, and a strange geeky nerd role for Kiefer Sutherland, which, post-24, seems very against-type but he plays the role with talent and enthusiasm. He’s also very funny.
The film keeps the vein of humour that ran through the original seasons, but ramps up the nightmarish tension and abstract imagery. One scene involving Laura Palmer receiving visions in her dreams, one of which is of BOB’s previous victims lying bloody in her bed, is particularly horrifying, and the same old Lynchian insanity courses through as the lifeblood of the film – two of the spirits of the Black Lodge, the old lady and the kid with the white nose/twig mask, haunt Laura throughout the film and the painting that they give her provides an especially chilling moment later on.
This film was hated on its release, and it has not aged well. Visually it looks just like an episode of Twin Peaks, or any American drama series from that era – there are definite visual cues taken from early episodes of the X-Files (the forest scenes in particular), which is to be expected. But for fans of the show who really just wanted to spend some precious few hours in the company of a cast of characters they love in a bizarre, haunted town that they came to call home for the duration of the original seasons, the film is a resounding success. If you understand Lynch, and understand the internal logic of the show, then Fire Walk With Me is everything you could want and more.
Best character: Gordon Cole. He’s barely in the film but he is hilarious.
Best scene: Laura’s dream, or the whole scene near the beginning with David Bowie and the security cameras.
This film was intended to be the first of a series of films delving into the mythology of the Black Lodge. The critical and financial failure of the film prevented this from happening.