Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: David Lynch, Chris Isaak,Keifer Sutherland, Kyle McLachlan
Extras: Documentary, Theatrical Trailer

People will always want more of a good thing. Which is why, when ABC canceled the TV show "Twin Peaks" in 1991 after a 29-episode run, the ravenous fans of the show demanded more. Despite the fact that the central conceit of the show, the murder of Laura Palmer, had been wrapped-up (so to speak!), there was a clamoring for more adventures of the strange folks in that Washington town. And series co-creator David Lynch heard those cries. But, being David Lynch, he didn’t take the usual approach to continuing the story. Instead of showing what happened after the series ended, Lynch opted to show viewers what had transpired before the pilot episode. Thus, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" was released theatrically in 1992 to bewilder both fans and critics. The bizarre film is now available on DVD from New Line Home Entertainment.

"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" opens 53 weeks before the murder of Laura Palmer, the event which kicked off the TV series. A 17-year old girl named Teresa Banks has been found dead in Deer Meadow, Oregon. FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch) assigns Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Agent San Stanley (Keifer Sutherland) to the case. After examining the body, they find a small letter embedded under Teresa’s fingernail, a fact that would show up in the Laura Palmer case as well. Their investigation leads them to a trailer park, run by Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton). Desmond examines a trailer, finding a mysterious pile of dirt underneath it. The scene then shifts to Philadelphia, where Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) learns of the Teresa Banks case and predicts that another murder will occur sometime in the future.

The film then jumps ahead one year and the action moves to the sleepy town of Twin Peaks. There, we meet high-school student Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), who is beloved by all, yet is hiding some very dark secrets. Laura is dating football star Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), while secret seeing pouting motorcyclist James (James Marshall). Add to that the fact that Laura is involved in drugs and associates with some pretty rough characters. But, Laura’s deepest secret is her fear that someone named Bob is trying to kill her. She believes that Bob has already been in her room and taken pages from her diary, and that it is just a matter of time before he comes for her. The film documents the last week of Laura’s life as she is forced to confront all of her secrets — an act which leads to her untimely death.

"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" is a film which nearly defies criticism. For starters, if you haven’t seen both seasons of the show, the film won’t make much sense to you. (Then again, being a David Lynch film, even if you have seen the shows, the film doesn’t make much sense.) However, even devoted fans of the show dislike the film, because it diverges so greatly from the style of the series. On TV, "Twin Peaks" pushed the boundary of television standards with its portrayals of sex and violence. In the film, Lynch pushes the boundaries of the "R" rating with the explicit violence and sex. The strange vibe of the film is compounded by the fact that Lynch reportedly shot enough footage to make a 4-5 hour movie, which was then edited down to a two hour film. Because of this, there are noticeable inconsistencies, and gaps in the strangely edited film. To make matters worse, the first 34-minutes of "Fire Walk With Me" are excruciatingly boring. Lynch seems to be torturing the audience here, and one can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when the action finally turns to the town of Twin Peaks.

So, is "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" a mess and a failure. Despite the criticisms above, the movie is both fascinating, as well as frustrating. Although the film often struggles in the story/logic department, Lynch shows that he is a master of creating pure cinema here. While the TV series was more of a drama, "Fire Walk With Me" plays more like a horror film, and Lynch has filled the movie with creepy and disturbing images. The scene in which Laura slowly climbs the stairs for fear that Bob is in her room is handled masterfully and is suspenseful even after repeat viewings. Lynch has created a film, which is both beautiful and extremely ugly at the same time, as he explores the life of this troubled young woman. As with the show, most of the performances here are over-the-top, but Sheryl Lee is especially good as Laura. Those who admire the work of David Lynch, or who are fans of "Twin Peaks" should admire this film, while others may want to check out just to see one weird movie.

"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" has been burned onto DVD by New Line Home Entertainment, who have done a good job with the DVD. The film is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. The image here doesn’t look as good as some of New Line’s newer films, but it’s not without its merits. The image is very sharp and clear, although it does get a bit soft at times. A very fine sheen of grain is visible in most shots, but it is hardly distracting. The colors here look very good, especially the brilliant green trees which surround Twin Peaks. Fleshtones are noticeably well reproduced, as there are many extreme close-ups of Laura. Overall, this is a very good transfer. One interesting note, there is no chapter menu on this DVD, but there are chapter stops, unlike the recent release of Lynch’s "The Elephant Man".

The audio tracks on the "Fire Walk With Me" are some of the oddest that I’ve ever heard. Lynch supervised the sound mix himself (if you read the film’s credits, you’ll see that he was sound designer on the movie) and he’s made some strange choices. The dialogue is mixed very low, while the music and sound effects are much louder. This results in an incredibly inconsistent track, which will have you constantly reaching for the remote control. Granted, this technique adds more "shock" value to the disturbing scenes, but it’s frustrating when you can’t hear what the characters are saying. These bizarre qualities are present on both the <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 and <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 audio tracks, which are nearly identical in their presentations. Both offer some nice surround sound effects and a deep subwoofer response, but it is hard to get past the ups and downs of both tracks.

There are only two bonus features on this DVD. The first is the theatrical trailer for the film, which has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and is in Dolby Digital 5.1. This trailer is very effective, as those haunting first notes of the "Twin Peaks" theme play over the New Line logo. The other extra is a 30-minute documentary which explores the making of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" through interviews with the cast & crew. Someone had the clever idea to edit this featurette so that it resembled a David Lynch film. Unfortunately, that created a segment which is simply a mish-mash of sound-bites. One actor will start saying something and then it will immediately cut to another actor having a similar thought. This is frustrating because some of these people have quite interesting stories to tell, but we never get to hear the whole thing. Strangely, these interviews appear to have been shot by the same team that worked on the extras for the "Twin Peaks: Season One" box set. As with that DVD release, the extras on "Fire Walk With Me" suffer due to the lack of participation from Lynch.

Not unlike "Twin Peaks" the television series, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" is a daring attempt to outdo the "normal". However, unlike the show, the film suffers from the fact that it focuses solely on Laura instead of spreading the spotlight around the many denizens of Twin Peaks. The movie is a welcome addition to DVD, despite an unnerving audio mix and a disappointing documentary. The video transfer is very good, but unfortunately, the owls are not what they seem.