This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Paul Lister’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"Do you think that if you were falling in space... that you'd slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?"
"Faster and faster... until after a while you wouldn't feel anything... and then your body would just burst into fire. And the angel's wouldn't help you, 'cause they've all gone away..."
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a prequel to the cult classic show Twin Peaks, created by Mark Frost and David Lynch. The show itself is primarily about the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), of more accurately the investigation into her death. Amongst other things the show was deeply disturbing, a tale of the evil that men do and the forces that transpire to lead us down that dark path. But Twin Peaks was more than just the horrifying investigation into Laura's death, it also happened to be a soap opera, an incredibly humorous tale of a small town filled with odd ball characters just as much as it was filled with terrifying ones.
The soap opera element wielded some curious results and remain absent in the film to a large degree. What is a shame though is that Fire Walk With Me sheds a lot of the charm that the original show had, Twin Peaks was fun, amongst the terror was also light. Now to be perfectly honest the show does lose itself in these lighter moments as Season 2 wears on but at it's best Twin Peaks was able to balance the humour and quark with the mystery and more frightening elements of the show. Fire Walk With Me simply ignores this to give us a glimpse into the final days of Laura Palmer's life, one we already know the outcome to. The film shows the decent into darkness that Laura goes on and takes the darker elements of the show and magnifies them past the point that television could afford to do. This often produces nightmarish images but for me it does not necessarily mean they are more successful than ones shown in the series.
The simply terrifying Bob (Frank Silva) provided the most frightening stuff in the show and again when he appears here he simply scares the living daylights out of me, his grin is something you won't forget. But the man that he inhabits, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) was also very frightening in the show too, here the simple fact we already now what he has done means that he simply isn't frightening or interesting enough. Wise was tremendous in the show as a mixture of Leland's grief and Bob's maniacal evil created a character that was at times entirely pitiful and at others completely deranged. I will never forget the moment he is revealed as the killer of Laura Palmer. The surreal moments of him dancing with his golf clubs particularly are etched in my mind forever. In Fire Walk With Me he simply doesn't have that kind of effect - although the conclusion where he drags Laura and Ronette through the woods to the site were he would kill Laura was pretty damn chilling, with flashes of Bob and the Man from Another Place just making it even more horrifying.
Another issue - and it is a major one for me - is the portrayal of Laura by Sheryl Lee. Now understanding completely that this was a woman haunted by evil, slowly slipping down the dark path, I just found Lee's performance to be incredibly unsympathetic! She is hard to care about. Also add to the fact that the opening half hour or so is very difficult to connect with and Agent Cooper is relegated to a cameo role that adds very little the film. What it does do though, is remind you that he was instrumental in making Twin Peaks so watch-able in the first place. His scenes are largely redundant here but his presence is not.
Of course there are many characters that were committed, Sheriff Truman, Ben Horne etc etc. The most notable thing regarding the cast is the recasting of Donna. The shows eventual demise left a lot of scars and Lara Flynn Boyle was not interested in working with Lynch again. It isn't hugely troubling though, Boyle was never a character I liked in the show anyway. Another character that was in serious need of recasting was the role of James though! James Marshall returns in the role after fading out of the show, he is one of the least charismatic and boring characters I have ever seen in anything, ever! Not even riding in on a motorcycle looking like Arnie from Terminator 2 makes him interesting in anyway!
I guess the tone of this film being more adult also leaves me with mixed feelings. Twin Peaks was a television show that provided light and dark moments without swearing, excessive violence or nudity, yet Fire Walk With Me contains all of these things. Obviously I don't have a problem with these things at a rule but it does take me out of the world of Twin Peaks that I know so well. It's like an alternative Twin Peaks and it doesn't sit too well with me. Having said that, the sequence in the Roadhouse with Laura's naked flesh is disturbing and haunting in the way only Twin Peaks can be. It is one instance the nudity works, not least because we see Donna give in to the darker side of things too, Laura almost destroys here which is probably even more tragic than her own demise. Ultimately there are moments like this one that impact on my senses in the way I expect Twin Peaks to be able to do but the film is problematic, especially in the opening half. It's as if Lynch was exorcising his own demons regarding the feeling of the shows demise when making this film. It is a true decent into the dark side, one that forgets the roots of the show to some degree. I would have preferred to see a conclusion to the show properly done as the show famously leaves a lot in the balance, frustratingly so. I can appreciate why Lynch wanted to avoid going there but some times I feel like the demise of Laura Palmer should have been left in the past too.