David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks changed my life. It was a series that managed to make me feel every major emotion: joy, fear, anger, surprise, sadness and disgust. I loved certain characters and really hated other characters. When it was all over, to say I was upset would be an understatement. It only ran 2 seasons and Netflix allowed me to greedily gobble them up without thinking. But then I saw there was a film! It was a prequel leading up to the murder that catalyzed the whole series. I was overjoyed. Then I watched the movie. I forced myself to. Because Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is basically the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. And I feel like a better and braver person for bullying myself into watching it. Here are five things I learned for my trouble.
1) When investigating murder, make sure to get all the basics about the ongoing local investigation from an interpretive dance performed by lady dressed like a clown.
If you work for the FBI, why waste time with things like reading files or doing research? You have more important things to do, like greasing your hair and making sure your bow tie is straight.
The agents in the film, portrayed by Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland, certainly don’t fall victim to something so dumb as making simple phone calls to get information they need. Why should they do all that when they can just meet up with a kook named Lil who’s going to dance like a drunk bird and make a sour face and a fist?! From one dance done by a circus escapee, they learn all they need to about local authorities. In fact, why don’t more people communicate like Lil does? It’s so much easier to convey complex information without words. Just don’t forget to match your wig to your dress to your shoes, or you’ll just look like a damn fool.
2) You can replace a key character with another actress and at first I’ll hate that until I realize the new actress was in one of my favorite movies from my childhood.
In the television series, the character of Donna was played by Lara Flynn Boyle. Imagine my surprise when the movie starts up and Laura Palmer is suddenly calling this strange girl who is clearly not Lara Flynn Boyle, her best friend. At first I was furious. This new girl seemed mousier, her eyebrows seemed hairier and she just plain flat-out seemed shorter. She didn’t even deliver her lines in some weird breathy voice for no apparent reason like Lara did. New Donna reminded me of Marcia’s best friend from The Brady Bunch Movie. Yeah, The Brady Bunch Movie. I mentioned it. Then suddenly everything was okay. It was more than okay. I realized why this new Donna seemed so vaguely familiar, so on the tip of my brain’s tongue. She was in The Cutting Edge - a film I rented weekly for most of my childhood.
The Cutting Edge is a movie about a world-class figure skater who is forced to skate with a hockey player in order to try and go to the Olympics. And they fall in love. It’s amazing. I could fully enjoy Twin Peaks once again; maybe even enjoy it more because every time new Donna was onscreen I could only imagine her in my favorite The Cutting Edge scene. She does The Pamchenko, a move wherein her partner whirls her around by her skate blades and tosses her in the air and she somehow manages to go from horizontally laid out to twirling vertically in the air to landing on one foot. It’s an astounding feat of overpowering physical laws and the human heart all rolled into one.
3) Don’t accept paintings of doors that are ajar from old ladies with kids wearing masks.
How much creepier could two people be? Not much. This kid wears a mask with a long nose and no eye holes. That’s basically as bad as a kid gets in my book. These two jerks waddle up to Laura Palmer while she’s packing her car to go deliver Meals on Wheels. They give Laura a painting and she takes it but then she’s so freaked out by them she totally abandons her prior commitment to Meals on Wheels. How is everyone stuck in their homes going to get to eat? How!? These are the things that haunt me from this film. Way to address that, David Lynch. Then, of course, Laura idiotically hangs the painting in her room. Of course we go through the door in the painting and get to hear from Agent Dale Cooper and the hilarious dancing backwards speaking midget. Wonderful! Laura then somehow sees herself in the painting and also has a horrific vision of a bloody dead girl in her bed who proceeds to talk to her. Just as a rule, how about don’t take a painting that’s actually a portal to hell or whatever from strangers?
4) Don’t pick up and put on your friend’s jacket during your first date as a prostitute. She’ll totally freak out on you then you won’t get to finish your job as a ‘tute. Lame.
We all know Laura’s a prostitute, but Donna’s too much of a good girl to do anything so tawdry. Right? Wrong! In the film we get to see Donna’s first and only foray into prostitution. First Laura tries to stop her but then’s all like, “Whatever, that’s cool.” So what happens is that Donna, Laura and two guys I guess Laura was originally going to have to service herself go to the dirty sexy strobe light ridden club and have a gay old time doing drugs and dancing topless and getting sexually explicit with gross strangers. But then Donna makes a grave error. Laura had dropped her jacket on the floor and later Donna picked it up and tied it around her waist. Big mistake. Huge, as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman might say. Once Laura notices Donna has her stuff she drops her sexy topless time and runs screaming like a banshee over to Donna who is writhing around topless on a table with some dude. Laura shrieks at her never to wear her things and gets her nasty prostitute agent to get Donna sent home. The mystery remains whether Laura was more upset at her drugged-out naked friend getting felt up in public or if it was concern that her jacket would get all stretched out that moved her to totally ruin Donna’s prostitutin’ good time.
5) David Bowie is magic!
So Agent Dale Cooper is weirding out over a security camera trying to catch himself on camera. He goes in front of the video camera then dashes into the room next door where it’s recording and he obviously will never be able to see himself on the monitor because that’s just nature, folks. Until David Bowie appears. Because he’s magic! David Bowie stalks up behind Cooper during his last attempt to catch himself and when David Bowie goes by him Cooper’s image freezes! He’s able to see himself and David Bowie. That’s amazing. What’s more bloodcurdling than amazing is what happens next wherein David Bowie goes into the next room and Cooper joins him. David Bowie starts speaking in some weird Southern twang and shouts and we see images of a bunch of disturbing characters including the old lady and the kid, as well as the midget. Then POOF! Bowie is outta there. Because he’s magic. I had suspected as much, and this film finally hammered that last nail into the camel’s back.
A final warning: Please do not watch Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in a dark room, by yourself, without breaks, while pregnant, with a heart condition or with a full stomach. You might think it will help curb your all-consuming dread at what’s happening on screen if you clench all your muscles and curl into a fetal position while covering your face with your hands. It will not. Your next thought will be to comfort yourself with cookies. That thought will be misguided. It will not help. But it will be delicious. Good luck.