Being a director of such high regard sure looks like it’s taken its toll on poor Francis Ford Coppola. After winning various Oscars for The Godfather (Best Adapted Screenplay) and The Godfather: Part II (Best Director, Picture, and Adapted Screenplay), it’s just never been the same since Coppola hit the ’90s. We can overlook the fact that his own daughter Sofia almost single-handedly ruined The Godfather: Part III, but after Dracula, Jack, Youth Without Youth, Tetro, and now Twixt, it appears that the once great American filmmaker should be hanging up his own cinematic cape.
Twixt begins as a fairytale of sorts, where, once upon a time, a downhill novelist, Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), arrives in the quiet town of Swann Valley. In town for a book signing, the only person interested in purchasing a copy is town Sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern). LaGrange asks Hall to come on down to the town morgue because he’d like to show him a dead body with a giant stake in its heart. LaGrange tells Hall that a string of murders has given him the idea for a book that he wants Hall to co-write with him called “The Vampire Executions.”
Hall goes back to his motel room to drink about it and winds up having a dream involving a teenage girl named “V” (Elle Fanning) who’s embarrassed about her buck teeth and wants Hall to find out who killed her and 12 other children. Now Hall must figure out if V’s murder has something to do with the maybe-vampire goth teens across the lake, led by Flamingo (Alden Ehrenreich), or if something bigger is afoot in Swann Valley. He also sees Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin) in these dreams, who may know more about what’s going on than any figment of Hall’s imagination should.
Twixt has one special feature, a 37-minute behind-the-scenes documentary “Twixt – A Documentary by Gia Coppola.” Gia explains that she has just graduated college and couldn’t decide what she wanted to do career wise so she came to help out her grandfather with his new movie. The on-screen ramblings she captures of Francis — age 74 — explains why Twixt is such a failure. Based on a dream Coppola had after a night of drinking in Istanbul, it’s no surprise that the film is so incoherent.
Full of atrocious acting from Kilmer, Dern, and the rest of the cast — Fanning is the only one who walks away unscathed — with just about the worst plotting and dialogue imaginable, you’d never believe that Coppola was so proud of his new film that he wanted to take it on a 30 city tour. Although, his original idea was to manipulate the film according to audience reaction live. Surely grueling for any director, there’s no doubt that the film itself is why 20th Century Fox canceled the film tour. Poor Fanning is far above the material, but considering her age, you can’t blame her for accepting roles in anything she can get. Elle Fanning is probably the best young actress aside from Chloe Grace Moretz working today.
Coppola filmed Twixt digitally and it shows. If you happen to suffer through the documentary feature, you’ll see that most of the film was shot during the day which may surprise you seeing how the film takes place mostly at night. With enough post-production tweaking to give Sin City a run for its money, Twixt looks, good enough, but not as good as it should. Since it wasn’t shot on film there’s obviously no grain involved, but we do get the pre-requisite amount of noise. There also seems to be tons of artificial sharpening on hand as well. Crush creeps in from time to time with shadows becoming nothing more than a black abyss, while there’s also some shimmer on a lot of Kilmer’s wardrobe. Just as bad as the video, the audio sounds mostly as if everyone is speaking their dialogue into tin cans. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track does what it can with surrounds, but they only kick in when necessary to give the effect of wind or to pronounce Dan Deacon and Osvaldo Golijov’s atrocious score.
Considering Francis Ford Coppola began his career with some small budget horror films — The Terror and Dementia 13 — I was hoping that maybe Twixt wasn’t as bad as its reputation. Twixt is actually worse than that and isn’t even worth a rental for the most curious. Coming across as a mix of Misery and In the Mouth of Madness, but nowhere near as entertaining as either, Dern’s Sheriff asks Hall how it feels to be a “bargain basement Stephen King,” and Sheriff LaGrange might as well be asking Coppola the same thing.
Cover art and photo courtesy 20th Century Fox