'Twin Peaks': After a good start, it's all uphill

January 08, 1993|By Scott Hettrick


(New Line, 1992, no price set, rated R, Jan. 6 release date.)

If you've seen "Blue Velvet" or "Eraserhead," it will come as no surprise to you that director David Lynch is capable of creating some most disturbing cinematic sequences. But the fact that he has done so in a theatrical prequel to the ground-breaking television series that was unable to sustain its craze-like popularity is not only a surprise but a great disappointment. Especially since the 134-minute film is also nearly devoid of the trademark humor that one suspects was what most captivated TV audiences.

It's almost as if Lynch is somehow punishing "Twin Peaks" fans with this feature; making them suffer for liking his series too much, which pushed it from a quirky cult favorite -- familiar territory for Lynch -- into such a broadly popular program that it entered the realm of mainstream commercialism.

The penance apparently is enduring this often brutal and always laborious depiction of the seven days leading to the now world-famous murder of Laura Palmer.

Making this interesting was no small challenge, as fans already know all the characters and Palmer's murderer. But Lynch has managed to build a somewhat compelling prologue that features many of the same cast members (although it appears Lynch selected only those characters from the TV show who had no endearing or amusing quirky qualities) and a few interesting new actors in brief roles, such as Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, Chris Isaak and Keifer Sutherland.

His most fortunate stroke of luck was that Sheryl Lee (Palmer) can act (she appeared as Laura Palmer's cousin, in flashbacks as Laura Palmer, and, of course, as the blue corpse of Laura Palmer in the series). Lee carries this film as Lynch methodically takes us through her nightmarish encounters of sexual abuse by her father, which led to her drug dealings with Bobby and her sexual promiscuity at One-Eyed Jacks and other hangouts.

Although there is a near seamless transition between the end of this film and the pilot for the TV series (also available on video) in terms of characters, plot and chronology, there is a distinct and abrupt mood and tempo swing.

"Twin Peaks" may be one of the few examples of a situation in which the confines and parameters of commercial TV are actually an advantage to storytelling. Released from those perceived shackles, Lynch allows every scene to develop and taper off at a snail's pace and needlessly indulges his taste for excessive violence and sex.

After the enjoyable opening minutes with Sutherland as a jittery detective, there is not a single interesting new character introduced that will elicit even a smirk. Meanwhile, FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) isn't in the picture long enough to order a "damn fine cup of coffee," and the Log Lady has just a cameo.

Anyone who stuck with the series past the first six episodes should probably rent this simply for the curiosity factor. But the film is so dependent on the series for its premise that those who never watched the TV program will find themselves hopelessly lost.

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