Today, Francis Ford Coppola is celebrated, and justly so, for his work on The Godfather Trilogy, and being one of the 1970s wunderkinds who helped change the look of movies. But he’s also the same guy who cut his teeth on Roger Corman low budget genre offerings and he seems to have come full circle with Twixt.
Once more Coppola does it all: writing, directing, producing. Unfortunately, the results are visually stylish and emotionally empty. If the lead character is a bargain basement Stephen King, this is Coppola’s shoestring budget The Shining and neither looks particularly good.
Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) was a once-promising author reduced to writing occult novels with declining sales and readership, causing him to go wherever he can to personally sell his books. As a result, he winds up in a creepy small town, tucked in a corner of the hardware/bookstore when he is told of a serial killer by the local sheriff (Bruce Dern). Desperate for cash and reinvigorating his deteriorating career, he agrees to stick around and help the sheriff investigate, offering to share the sales, but secretly pocketing the advance from the hardnosed editor (David Paymer).
One reason he agrees is that he encounters an ethereal girl named Virginia (Elle Fanning) who claims to be a vampire and no one else can see. Audiences realize something’s up because the color palette is totally washed out except for Virginia in glowing white and red. Coppola cleverly plays with reality via color filters and digital trickery that gives the movie an interesting atmosphere and look.
Before long, though, the story spirals into lengthy expositions with flashbacks within flashbacks as we pick up the pieces about what really happened to the thirteen girls who mysteriously were killed in a now abandoned hotel. Baltimore’s investigations are helped along by the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin) who once stayed at the hotel. Their conversations about the craft of writing and storytelling is among the freshest and most interesting parts of the film.
Coppola neglected to give the characters any real personality. Baltimore’s unhappy wife (Joanne Whalley) is a desperate shrew; Paymer’s editor is tough, the sheriff desperate for fame, and Baltimore a stereotypical alcoholic writer, mourning the loss of his daughter. In the commentary and documentary accompanying the 1:28 film, now on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment, Coppola explains he dreamed about Virginia and woke up in 2009 and dictated his thoughts into a still-preserved recording. Clearly he decided the script should be as ephemeral so no character, alive or dead, is made three dimensional.
Kilmer’s distraught writer sleepwalks through the investigation, getting everyone around him to help with the investigation without a hint of gratitude. Whatever writing talent he had was many cases of whiskey back and he struggles to even begin his new manuscript without resorting to the very clichés his editor warns him against. The rest of the cast is never given much to work with and as playful and interesting as Fanning’s V promises to be, even she can’t make you care enough.
The film was shot in California and subsequently screened at numerous film festivals but could not secure a domestic distributor so audiences only now have a chance to see this thin, not terribly frightening misfire from a once great visionary. The movie has a so-so commentary from his grandson Gio or also shot the 37 minute Making Of featurette which is the sole extra accompanying the disc. The combo pack comes with Blu-ray and digital copy.