GO TO: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) dir. David Lynch

The final seven days of Laura Palmer’s life were terror beyond comprehension. Every facet and crevice of her life was filled with inescapable fear and danger. She screamed and ran and hid, a girl surrounded cyclically by horrors she, alone, was suffocated by. She could sprint out of her house, hide under the bushes, run all around town, and the evil would still be there.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me picks up the pieces of the grief that followed the terror of Laura Palmer’s death, the haze of evil that encompassed the town of Twin Peaks and its surrounding forest. It doesn’t clear up the cliffhanger of the last episode, but the show was never about the quantitative facts of the mystery. The threads that connect to where Laura went when she died are the ones to be unraveled.

Fire Walk With Me is a tragedy above all else. A father kills his own daughter, a white picket fence wrapping around the house she was attacked and terrorized in. The film strips all else from the story away: the soap opera side plots, idiosyncratic investigations, and business feuds, leaving only fear and pain – it is that which killed Laura Palmer.

Evils would continue to embed themselves in the lives of the citizens of Twin Peaks; Laura was just the beginning. Unknown dark entities hide their faces in various subconsciouses; they plague the town, push it from innocence and force its citizens to watch as the perfect illusion slowly, painfully crumbles. They pick the ear up from off the ground and delve into the endless mystery.

In theaters, Fire Walk With Me is terrifyingly arresting. The slow pans around the haunted Palmer house that reveal Bob’s invasion into Laura’s room is frightening, in rewatches just as much as first watches. The Black Lodge figures’ interludes are nightmarish insanity from the guts of the most austere moments of the show, plastered onto an inescapable screen in a theater, transferring Laura’s fears into audiences’ racing heartbeats and shortened breaths.

Lynch’s extreme close-ups provide the twisted intimacy of body horror, as the masks and painted faces adorned by those figures of the Black Lodge are reminiscent of the uncanny valley, terrifyingly realistic and threatening. Laura’s screams echo throughout the dark, empty void of every theater, audiences frozen in fear, unable to help.

Fire Walk With Me is still a Twin Peaks investigation, but it is one that delves into how we love, how we grieve, and how we deal with the unanswerable, indecipherable mystery of the afterlife. Even the soapiness of the original series is suddenly steeped in unfamiliarity, an unsettling energy enveloping the jokes scattered throughout. The moments of grace and kindness that Laura was shown, though not enough to save her from her fate, serve as a miniscule glimmer that there is occasional hope in all nightmares. For Laura, it was just not enough.

The horror and tragedy in Fire Walk With Me are so effective that being in the audience means wanting to do something to save Laura. The horror lies in that her fate was inescapable, she was surrounded on all sides by horrors unimaginable to her small, picturesque Washington town. The curtains her death opened would remain ajar, releasing evils to violently pierce through her home. Fire Walk With Me was merely the beginning of the forest of terror; its trees continue to grow, its owls continue to fly.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Dir. David Lynch
134 min.

Screening on 35mm Thursday, 12/8 @ Brattle Theatre – click here for showtimes and ticket info
Part of the series: Damn Fine Cinema: The Films of David Lynch

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