Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

David Lynch tries too hard to be David Lynch in this atmospherically dense but superficial mystery-horror film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review #720

Dir. David Lynch
1992 | USA | Crime/Mystery/Drama | 135 mins | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong violence, sex, drug content and for language

Cast: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Mädchen Amick
Plot: While investigating the mysterious death of a nightshift waitress, Special Agents Chester Desmond and Dale Cooper unravel the bizarre clues, mysterious disappearances, and strange happenings that lead to the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s troubled life.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)

Source: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: National Museum of Singapore – World Cinema Series
First Published: 10 Mar 2012
Spoilers: No

Note: It has been 9 years since I first reviewed this. I feel like I might like this more now. Hope to revisit someday again.

You could say that this is a surprise.  American auteur David Lynch has made his fair share of great films, some of them masterpieces in their own right.  Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, however cheesy or seductive its title is (depending on how you look at it), fails to compel.  

Made a couple of years after the success of the television series ‘Twin Peaks’ (1990-1991), also created by Lynch, Fire Walk with Me is sort of a prequel (or sequel) to the acclaimed series that sharply lost its lustre in its second season.

The film starts out as an unpretentious police procedural as two detectives seek to solve a murder case involving the deceased Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose body was found floating in a river.  

The plot then flips on its head when one of the detectives disappear, and with a little help from some bizarre time travel, viewers are taken to a week before the death of Laura.  We follow her like a curious stalker, only to enter the horrors of her final days as the lines between reality and surreality blur.

“Do you think that if you were falling in space… that you would slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?”

Fire Walk with Me cannot stand alone as a feature film.  It is incomprehensible to the uninitiated, especially those who have not seen the television series.  While I admit I am one of them, I do have the experience of watching and occasionally revisiting the films of Lynch, thus I know what I am in for.  

Lynch is an auteur in the purest sense of the word.  He makes the kinds of films no other director could effectively remake.  In Fire Walk with Me, he has made a film that is truly his – a nightmarish psychological horror film that is imbued with surrealistic imagery. In short, the film is a Lynchian experience.

Only that Lynch tries too hard to be Lynch and overwhelms his viewers with an assortment of visuals, and distracting editing (both film and sound) techniques that are more common with horror B-movies than Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), or Mulholland Dr. (2001).  Still, Lynch’s skill in racking up the tension through mood setting, sound design, and camera placement remains admirable.

Not for the first time, Lynch’s favourite composer Angelo Badalamenti delivers a fine score that invites us to join in the psychedelic, and occasionally perverse fun.  Perhaps the most memorable of parts in this forgettable film is a loud, thumping 20-minute sequence in a strip club that is as provocative as it is sensorial.  

But unless you are a die-hard Lynch fan like myself, there is little reason to catch this, for you will be disappointed, just as I was.

Grade: C



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