John Bruni reviews TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me135 min., 1992
Directed by David Lynch
My rating: ★★★★
IMDBNetflix • Amazon Instant • Hulu

So you want to fuck the homecoming queen.

[WARNING: If you haven’t watched all of Twin Peaks yet, you should do so before reading this review. In any other movie, what’s going to be discussed here would be considered spoilers. However, since this is a prequel, anything that would ordinarily be considered spoilers are actually not, unless you haven’t seen the show. You’ve been warned.]

All right! The TWIN PEAKS movie is here! Finally, it’s time to get all the answers you needed, and to resolve Cooper being trapped in the Black Lodge while Bob parades around, wearing Cooper’s body, right? Right?!

Wrong. This isn’t a continuation of the series. It’s actually a prequel. It details the short investigation of Leland Palmer’s first victim Teresa Banks (who doesn’t get mentioned a lot on the series) and then goes into the final days of Laura Palmer’s life. This pissed a lot of people off back when this movie first came out, but in all truth, it’s an essential part of the story, and it’s definitely not a story for the safety of TV. The show concerned itself with the picture-perfect surface of a small town while revealing the dark and evil underbelly of the very same place. The movie is about pure evil and one high school girl’s attempts to fend it off, and it just isn’t suitable for the smallness of 1990’s television.

We start out with Gordon Cole calling in two FBI agents to look into the murder of a young woman named Teresa Banks. The first is Chet Desmond, played with an odd impishness by Chris Isaak (yes, THAT Chris Issaak), and the second is Sam Stanley, played with an awkward goofiness by Kiefer fucking Jack Bauer Sutherland himself. (It’s worth noting that of the new characters we’re introduced to in the movie, Sam is the only one who is so much as referenced in the show. If not for Albert’s awesome assholishness, we would have had Sam doing autopsies in Twin Peaks.)

In a moment of sheer, unexplained lunacy, we meet Chet when he’s frisking and arresting a bunch of screaming school kids fresh off their yellow bus. It’s funny as all hell, and it never figures into the story. We never find out why he’s doing this. It’s perfect in its Lynchian way.

Chet and Sam are greeted by Gordon and Lil, the latter of whom does a very strange dance that at first seems like weirdness just for the sake of being weird, which is what a lot of the other writers did for a good deal of the second season of the show. But always have faith in Lynch. Later on, Chet explains the symbolism of Lil’s dance to Sam, and it all makes sense. It’s crazy, sure, but she’s there for a reason.

After some trouble with the locals, Chet and Sam take a look at Teresa’s corpse, and they find the first letter of Bob’s message under one of her fingernails. They also note that she is missing a ring. They investigate further at the diner she used to work at, and they find out that one of her arms would occasionally act up and start trembling. Is this the same as what we saw at the end of the series with several characters?

They go to Teresa’s trailer (at a park run by Harry Dean Stanton, who has a sign on his door that says not to disturb him EVER before 9 am EVER, which is promptly ignored), and they see, in a photo, what Teresa’s ring looks like: it’s green with one of the symbols from the hieroglyph in the second season of the series.

Sam leaves town with Teresa’s body, and Chet investigates the trailer park more thoroughly. He discovers, near a trailer owned by one of the deputies who gave them a hard time, Teresa’s ring. We hear a whooping sound just before we fade out.

We never see Chet again, because he has disappeared.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Dale Cooper is having problems with the security system at the Philly office. In a very strange moment, he stands in front of a camera and then goes to check the feed. He is not in the image. However, when he does this again, after he walks away from the camera, he can still see his image just as Agent Phillip Jeffries walks by.

First, it should be mentioned that the strangeness of this moment is foreshadowing of what will happen to Cooper in the series. Remember, time works differently in the Black Lodge. Secondly, Phillip (played with frantic intensity by David Bowie—yes, THAT David Bowie) supposedly vanished during an investigation. He has now come back long enough to warn them that Cooper isn’t really Cooper. We then see an image of all the denizens of the Black Lodge, as well as a few we haven’t seen before, as they sit around a table. Also present is the old lady from Donna’s meals-on-wheels route, along with her creepy son (now played by Lynch’s nephew, Jonathan J. Leppell). Phillip then disappears without a trace, leading us to believe that he’s actually in the Black Lodge, and he managed to escape long enough to warn everyone about Cooper, except since the nature of time in the Black Lodge is different, he couldn’t return to the proper temporal location.

Cooper investigates Chet’s disappearance and learns that an old lady and her grandson used to live in the trailer park. He also finds the words LET’S ROCK on the windshield of Chet’s abandoned car. The dwarf once said this in the series, and it’s never fully explained. This is a clue that Chet is also in the Black Lodge. We’ll never know about him and Philip, though, not for sure.

And now we return to Twin Peaks, where we see Laura Palmer hanging out with her best friend, Donna Hayward (sadly, not played by Lara Flynn Boyle but by Moira Kelly). We see Laura snorting coke in the bathroom at school. We see her fucking James at school. And then we see her get into an argument with her official boyfriend, Bobby Briggs, in front of the school. He’s pissed off at her and threatens to break up with her, and then we see her one true strength: manipulation. She puts on her smile and sweet talks Bobby out of his rage. It’s almost like watching a magic trick.

Laura goes home and discovers a page is missing from her secret diary, which surprises her. The only person who knows about it is Harold Smith, and he never leaves his house. The culprit can only be Bob. She runs to tell Harold about this, and poor, sweet Harold just can’t find it in his heart to believe in Bob.

And then Laura says, “Fire walk with me.” On the last word, her face becomes very pale and ghoulish, just like Windom Earle’s had become when he was on the brink of letting Bob into his body. She gives Harold her secret diary for safe keeping.

Laura runs into the old lady and her creepy, Cream Corn Kid grandson. They give her a painting of an open door, telling her it would look good on her wall, and the kid whispers warnings about Bob finding her secret diary. She runs home and finds Bob leering at her, searching the place where she’d hidden her diary. She flees from home, and outside, she sees her father emerging from the house. In that moment, she realizes that Bob and Leland Palmer are the same. She begins weeping.

During an uncomfortable dinner scene, Leland and Laura get into an argument over her not washing her hands. He grabs one of her hands and holds up a finger, saying there’s dirt under the nail. This is the nail he would later stick a letter under, to be found by Cooper & Co.

The painting of the door moves. The door opens, and Laura passes through it into the Black Lodge, where she sees Cooper and the dwarf. The latter says, “I am the arm.” This brings to mind two things: Mike/Gerard, who is missing an arm, and the trembling arm that several characters suffer briefly from. Keep both of these things in mind. The dwarf also says that he sounds like this: a whooping sound. Like the one we heard before Chet disappeared?

Cooper warns her not to take the ring.

Too late. She wakes up and finds the ring in her hand, and then it disappears. In bed next to her is a blood-covered Annie, and she says that the good Dale is in the Black Lodge and can’t leave. She begs Laura to write it in her diary, but we know she doesn’t.

Briefly, Laura sees herself in the painting.

Bobby goes over Leo’s head to Jacques in order to get cocaine, mostly for Laura.

In the meantime, Laura goes to the Bang Bang Bar, and Donna follows her there. Jacques is bartending, and he sends a couple of customers to Laura. They are interested in paying her for sex, and when they see Donna, they wonder if she’s a part of the package. Laura emphatically says no, but Donna wants to play. She wants to see why Laura does this to herself. Laura, in an attempt to scare her friend away, says she can come along.

They all go to a club in Canada, where everyone gets naked and starts dancing, drunk as all fuck. At one point, Jacques is so blitzed he says, “I’m as blank as a fart.” As if that means anything.

And that’s when Ronette shows up. She and Laura reminisce about the time they got kicked out of One Eyed Jacks. They mention Teresa Banks, who was murdered a year ago, and Ronette says that Teresa was supposedly blackmailing someone. Jacques speaks up and says it was him, for using high school girls as prostitutes.

Soon, a naked Laura Palmer is sitting next to Ronette, and they’re both having their pussies eaten out by Laura’s customer. However, the moment is interrupted when Laura sees Donna, topless, about to be fucked by the other customer. She freaks out, and they both flee. The next day, Donna remembers nothing.

Leland catches Laura and Donna sitting together on the couch, talking, and he imagines them in their panties, as if they’re about to start making out with each other.

Leland and Laura go out to meet with Sarah, and in the car, Laura can smell fire on her father. She hears a whooping sound, and in that moment, Mike pulls up next to them and starts shouting a warning at Laura that Bob is in her father.

Leland has a flashback, remembering when he used to fuck Teresa Banks. Also, he remembers beating her head in and killing her.

Laura tries to catch Leland in a lie, hoping to unmask him as Bob once and for all. It doesn’t work.

Bobby’s drug deal goes wrong. Horribly wrong. It turns out that Jacques wanted Bobby killed, and the guy who shows up with a bag of cocaine tries to shoot Bobby. Bobby, in turn, panics and shoots the guy three times, killing him in self-defense. Bobby freaks out, but Laura can only laugh.

That night, Bob comes for a visit with Laura and rapes her. In the middle of it, he shifts back to Leland, and Laura begins screaming. Tomorrow, he doesn’t remember this nocturnal visit.

On Laura’s wall, she has another painting. This one has an angel in it, and it vanishes before her very eyes. She takes it as a sign that she’s about to die, that Bob is finally going to kill her. For all of this time, she’s fought him as best as she can, but now that she knows the end is here, she’s ready to face her death, if only to get away from Bob forever.

Laura escapes from her bedroom the next night to see James. As the two of them ride away, Bob, still wearing Leland, appears at her bedroom window, furious that she’s gotten away from him.

Laura and James have a heart-to-heart, but Laura does her best to drive him away by saying some very ugly things. It hurts James, but he knows what she’s doing, and he refuses to not love her. She breaks down and finally tells him that she really does love him, but then she runs away from him. It would seem she was really using him to get out to the woods, where she meets with Ronette, Jacques and Leo. They all go to the cabin for their orgy. For booze. And look! There’s Waldo, the bird!

Leland has followed them, and he watches the whole thing through the window. Jacques steps out, and Leland kicks the shit out of him. So, it would seem that Jacques didn’t rightly recall what happened on the series. Remember, he thought Leo had done that to him. At any rate, Leo finds Jacques and decides something’s going on here that he wants nothing to do with, so he runs away, leaving Laura tied up.

Leland takes both girls to the train car, where we know he will murder one of them. Mike is after them, hoping to prevent Bob from striking again. Outside, he tries his best to get into the train car. Inside, the angel from Laura’s painting arrives and sets Ronette free. She escapes while Leland continues his murder of Laura.

Yet in a moment when Bob allows Leland to be himself, Leland begs him to not make him do this.

Bob makes him do this.

Mike realizes he’s too late to stop the murder. Inexplicably, he leaves, even though Laura is still alive. This makes absolutely no sense, unless you take into account one thing. We’ll get there in a moment.

Laura dies and is wrapped in plastic. Leland puts her in the river, and she floats away.

And here’s where things get really interesting. Leland goes to the sycamore trees and passes into the Black Lodge. Here, Leland stiffly drifts to the floor, and Bob takes his body off, leaving him to float motionlessly next to him. The dwarf and Mike are both here, and when the both of them touch each other, they speak in unison. At first, it would seem that the dwarf and Mike are the same, in much the same way Bob and Leland are the same. Yet, look at it a bit more deeply, and you realize it’s even more fucked up than that.

THE DWARF IS MIKE’S MISSING ARM. Remember, he is the arm. Mike cut off his arm to cast away the tattoo of Bob’s evil on it. His arm turned into the dwarf, and the both demand their garmonbozia back.

And what the fuck is garmonbozia? It’s pain and sorrow, and it looks like, you guessed it, cream corn.

Bob reaches up to blood on Leland’s shirt and removes it from him with a trembling arm. Then, his arm spits blood out onto the black and white zig-zagged floor, where it disappears.

We finish up with Laura sitting in the Black Lodge, Cooper standing behind her, gently resting a hand on her shoulder in comfort. The angel returns, filling Laura with brightness and light, and she breaks down, laughing and crying.

To quote Sam from earlier in the movie, “What, exactly, did that mean?” As with many of Lynch’s movies, it’s hard to puzzle through. All indications show that Bob, in pulling the garmonbozia from Leland’s body, is setting Laura free from the Black Lodge. The angel is here to take her to the White Lodge because she was courageous enough to knowingly face her own death. This is the only thing that could explain why Mike would abandon Laura to Bob in the train car.

It really is a grim, beautiful way to bring TWIN PEAKS to an end. Surprisingly, we get a lot of our questions answered here. We are given new questions, without answers, but they’re not as important because they’re not really a part of Laura’s story. When all is said and done, we’re only left with one unresolved issue: Dale Cooper’s predicament from the end of the series.

The only problem is with Chet and Phillip. Cooper, Gordon and Albert were all witness to Phillip’s disappearance. They all know about Chet’s disappearance. Why is none of this mentioned on the show? Plus, Mike clearly knows that Bob is in Leland. It’s fine if Gerard doesn’t know, but when he’s Mike on the show, he doesn’t seem to recall this fact.

But considering how many awesome things happen in this film, mentioning these slight inconsistencies is minor. All in all, this is the perfect ending to the series. It’s sad that not everyone could come back, but . . . well, everyone DID come back. It’s just that they got cut out of the movie. Apparently, the first cut was about four hours long, and there’s just no way that would have been feasible in theaters. It’s too bad. It would have been nice to see everyone one more time.

But wait! Remember, Laura said she’d see Cooper in 25 years. Technically, she already did, before the events of the show happened. (Yeah, wrap your mind around THAT.) But then there’s the fact that next year is the 25th anniversary of the show, and Lynch and Ray Wise have admitted to filming new material . . .

So maybe, just maybe, stay tuned for more.

[Here’s an epilogue for you. Mark Frost was once asked what would have happened if TWIN PEAKS got a third season. He said that Maj. Briggs would have led the charge to liberate Cooper from the Black Lodge, which would have been absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, Don S. Davis is dead, and we’re not likely to see something like that. These reviews are dedicated to his memory.]

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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4 Responses to John Bruni reviews TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME

  1. Pingback: NEW MOVIE REVIEW: TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME | Tabard Inn: Tales of Questionable Taste

  2. Joel Bocko says:

    I didn’t know that the little kid was Lynch’s nephew – I always thought it was a pity his son couldn’t play him again (too old, I guess, though it as only been a year since that episode was filmed) but that makes t a bit better. You also drew some oter eating connections with the late second season I hadn’t thought about, particularly the thing with the left arm echoing what happens to various townspeople near the end of the show.

    A couple minor observations: actually, Teresa was not blackmailing Jacques – she called him to get more info in Laura’s & Ronette’s parents so that she could blackmail Leland (based on his reaction to seeing them as prostitutes, she deduces that maybe they know him). Also, Leland is not imagining Laura & Donna in panties, he’s flashing back to that scene of Laura & Ronette as hookers waiting for him in the motel room.

    The ending if the film is perplexing in many ways, partly due – I think – to Lynch figuring out what he wanted to say as he was makin the film. For example, the ring is not in the shooting script (at least not in that final scene) and Laura takes little action at the end of her life, which makes her seem more passive. Some have speculated that Lynch didn’t incorporate the ring until the editing stage, when he realized he needed to give Laura more f a role in her own fate.

    As for he deleted footage, I wasn’t sure you were aware of this from the piece, but actually 90 minutes of deleted footage (labelled “The Missig Pieces”) will be appearin in just over a month when the Twin Peaks blu-ray is released! Very exciting – as for what Wise, Lynch, Lee, and Zabriskie recently shot, it’s a special feature called “Between Two Worlds” in which Lynch interviews the Palmer family in character. Can’t wait…

    Btw, I’m in the middle of a David Lynch Month on my own blog (which you can access by clicking in my name). Just put up a video essay today focusing on Lynch’s work up through Fire Walk With Me & last month I conducted a 4-part conversation with film critic Tony Dayoub on Fire Walk With Me, which you may enjoy reading. Both of us believed the film was extremely underrated & that there’s so much to discuss in it. Glad you liked it too.

  3. Nice to see so many people discussing Twin Peaks & especially Fire Walk With Me lately. There must be something in the air…

    (Btw, please publish this comment and delete my previous one with is numerous typos. Apologies – I blame my phone! – but I’ve fixed them all here.)

    I didn’t know that the little kid was Lynch’s nephew, and had always thought it was a pity his son couldn’t play him again (too old, I guess, though it had only been a year since that episode was filmed) but that makes it a bit better. You also drew some interesting connections with the late second season I hadn’t thought about, particularly the thing with the left arm echoing what happens to various townspeople near the end of the show.

    A couple minor observations: actually, Teresa was not blackmailing Jacques – she called him to get more info in Laura’s & Ronette’s parents so that she could blackmail Leland (based on his reaction to seeing them as prostitutes, she deduces that maybe they know him). Also, Leland is not imagining Laura & Donna in panties, he’s flashing back to that scene of Laura & Ronette as hookers waiting for him in the motel room.

    The ending of the film is perplexing in many ways, partly due – I think – to Lynch figuring out what he wanted to say as he was making the film. For example, the ring is not in the shooting script (at least not in that final scene) and Laura takes little action at the end of her life, which makes her seem more passive. Some have speculated that Lynch didn’t incorporate the ring until the editing stage, when he realized he needed to give Laura more of a role in her own fate.

    As for the deleted footage, I wasn’t sure you were aware of this from the piece, but actually 90 minutes of deleted footage (labelled “The Missig Pieces”) will be appearing in just over a month when the Twin Peaks blu-ray is released! Very exciting – as for what Wise, Lynch, Lee, and Zabriskie recently shot, it’s a special feature called “Between Two Worlds” in which Lynch interviews the Palmer family in character. Can’t wait…

    Btw, I’m in the middle of a David Lynch Month on my own blog (which you can access by clicking on my name). Just put up a video essay today focusing on Lynch’s work up through Fire Walk With Me & last month I conducted a 4-part conversation with film critic Tony Dayoub on Fire Walk With Me, which you may enjoy reading. Both of us believed the film was extremely underrated & that there’s so much to discuss in it. Glad you liked it too.

    • John Bruni says:

      Thanks for stopping by. These are great comments. I missed the thing about blackmail, and I guess I wasn’t watching close enough to notice the flashback. I will most definitely be taking a look at the deleted scenes when they’re released. If there’s enough merit, I’ll definitely be adding to my TP reviews here. The in-character interview sounds amazing!

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