Cinematic legend Francis Ford Coppola returns with to goth territory with Twixt, a comedic thriller of sorts that is both homage to Edgar Allan Poe and Coppolaâ€™s deceased son. At first an art house gallery of moody tone and cheeky laughs, Coppolaâ€™s latest flick quickly peters out to a tired exercise of frills and nothing more. Instead of the exploration of an artistâ€™s pain over the loss of a child, the film becomes an accomplishment in apathy.
Val Kilmer stars as Hall Baltimore, the author of a series of dime store accounts concerning witch hunting, described as a bargain basement Stephen King by one of the characters. A bloated, ponytailed man in need of some quick cash (during Skype conversations with his ex-wife, played by real ex-wife, Joanne Whalley we find he is in danger of losing a precious copy of Walt Whitmanâ€™s poetry) Baltimore comes up with an idea to cover a real life vampire story while doing a book signing in a strange, gothic town called Swan Valley. There he meets a quirky town sheriff (an incredibly campy Bruce Dern) with aspirations to write a novel of his own, and a ghostly little girl named V (Elle Fanning) who relates a dark secret concerning the townâ€™s past. V reminds him of the daughter he lost recently to drowning. All the while, the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, who once stayed the night in Swan Valley, schools Baltimore on how to move forward with his next project. Meanwhile, some gothic kids â€œacross the lakeâ€ may or may not be vampires, dressed in the great tradition of 80â€™s gothic vamps like those from The Lost Boys (1987).
Thereâ€™s certainly a notable degree of atmosphere built in Twixt and some tongue-in-cheek humor, but the narrative capsizes before its midpoint. A very somber Ben Chaplin as Edgar Poe does little to enliven the proceedings and the not-so-threatening bad kids across the like seem more pretentious than frightening. While Bruce Dern gets some kudos for scene-chewing, poor Kilmer limps on through as gracefully as he does in much of his straight to DVD filmography as of late. It certainly doesnâ€™t help that in two instances a pair of glasses lash across the screen to cue the audience to put on spectacles for some brief 3D dreck, which only further interrupts the lollygagging narrative. Rumor has it that Coppolaâ€™s plan for the film is to put it on a road show with an accompanying orchestra, each night changing some of the scenery. While this is quite a lofty idea, itâ€™s too bad that the crux is such a wearisome exercise. Whatever the homage, whether it be to Poe, Roger Corman, or his dead son, Twixt plays like the ramblings of a drunken sot who can barely brace himself on a bar stool—you end up tuning it all out after a while. So maybe the traveling orchestra can keep you awake.
Reviewed on September 18th at the 2011 Toronto Int. Film Festival â€“ Special Presentations Programme.