While I’ll admit that about 50 per cent of 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is.. .something of a write-off (you know, the half with Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak), the other represents some of director David Lynch’s best work. The movie – which formed a prequel to the 1990 ABC TV series – was a critical and commercial disaster upon its release, but I like to think we’re all sober enough now to re-appraise and appreciate it.
The show had essentially faded away by the time the second season came to a close. Having resolved its central mystery, Twin Peaks was critically and commercially forgotten by the time the movie found its way into cinemas, save for the loyal, marginalised crowd of Peaks fans that still celebrate the show to this day.
Looking back, however, none of the factors that provoked such a heated reaction towards Fire Walk With Me really matter any more. The show’s reputation has been gradually restored with the years – we’re now in the position where we can cherry pick Twin Peaks’ best qualities, like its pioneering, well-constructed serial storytelling and perfect characterisation, without dwelling on its later downfall.
We should do the same with Fire Walk With Me. The movie isn’t perfect – it’s a structural mess, for one – but it shares the same unique characterisation as the main TV show. Plus, it’s one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen, not least because the subject matter (child abuse) is layered beneath disturbingly constructed scenes of murder, corruption of youth and insanity.
I’d love to end this with, ‘all in all, a ripping good yarn!’ Really, though, it’s not. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a validating watch, but it is, in many ways, impenetrable. Lynch is a polarising filmmaker and Twin Peaks: FWWM, aside from, perhaps, Inland Empire, represents his most disparate piece of work.
Fans of the TV series should appreciate what it tries to do, however. It takes themes that were handled with a PG-13 mentality on the show and tackles them with bravery and maturity. A perfect companion piece to the series, even if the absence of Chris Isaak and a bow-tied Jack Bauer would’ve done it the world of good.