Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me is a dark and disturbing film that carries a lot of the same traits found in the TV show, Fire Walk with me combines wacky humour, drastic shifts in tone and horror to create a unique experience. The film is a prequel to the Twin Peaks TV show so you would think it would be full of fan service and references, but David Lynch doesn’t do convention he always likes to subvert expectations in the most bizarre and unexpected ways and I think this is what makes Fire Walk with Me so different from the TV show.
The story revolves around the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life leading up to her inevitable demise and the beginning of the TV show. But before we to get Laura the first act of Fire Walk with Me is focused on the murder of Teresa Bank’s.
The films opens with a close up on a static television that consumes the entire screen, the credits roll over this TV and Angelo Badalamanti’s ominous music backs up the scene. The credits seem to go for a very time and you would be forgiven for nodding off, suddenly the film jumps into life with an axe plunging through the middle of television accompanied with screams of terror from an unknown women.
Fire Walk with Me begins not with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) but instead we are introduced to FBI agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), Desmond is cool looking and very precise. He doesn’t say much but you would never think to push him around.
Chet is in the process of arresting a bus driver and some teenage girls in the middle of a field (this film is weird), he receives a call from FBI director Gordon Cole (David Lynch). Cole is hard of hearing so he yells every word into the phone to be heard, we cut back to Chet as he moves his ear away from the phone as the sound of Gordon’s voice blares through the speaker.
Gordon informs Desmond of Teresa Banks murder in a little town called Deer Meadow in Portland, Oregon. Cole runs through some brief details about the case and he orders Chet to meet him before starting his investigation. Gordon brings along Forensic Pathologist Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to the meeting and he assists Chet on the mission, a mysterious lady wearing a red dress provides them with some additional info about the investigation and after the brief concludes the two of set off towards the town.
Chet and Sam arrive at Deer Meadow’s police station where they encounter some resistance from the local sheriff and his deputy, to be honest the police are down right obnoxious and they try their best to interrupt the investigation. As I said Chet doesn’t take any crap from anybody so he has no issues putting the sheriff and his deputy in their place, they go to the morgue to check out Teresa Bank’s body and Sam makes some unusual discoveries during his autopsy on the dead corpse.
Both of them work on the corpse throughout the night before finally clocking off at 3am to get some damn fine coffee and something to eat, they decide to dine at Hap’s Café not just for the awful food but it also happens to be place where Teresa Banks worked. The café itself is rundown and filthy, the giant sign outside of the building flickers on and off like a Christmas tree.
Chet questions the owner but she doesn’t seem to budge, the owner herself is a stern looking who looks like she wants to murder Chet. She smokes a cigarette whilst explaining that Teresa was a good worker who was probably into some dodgy stuff. Chet continues to question the owner and she eventually gives them an address. Chet also questions some of the locals hanging out in the Cafe but he doesn’t get too far.
“I don’t know shit from Shinola” an old man says.
Chet and Sam go to Fat Trout trailer park Teresa’s place of residence, the park is owned by Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton). Carl is old and fed up and he doesn’t want anything to do with the FBI even though he still willingly cooperates with Chet and Sam. They search the trailer high and low but don’t find anything of interest.
Harry Dean Stanton only has a small part in Fire Walk with Me but his character is a big highlight on the comedic front, Carl just want’s to live a quiet life in his little trailer park but the poor man keeps being pestered by the FBI.
The first act of Fire Walk with Me is a jarring experience the first time you watch it, the film throws you into a completely different environment with new characters and some old ones we are familiar with. I like Chris Isaak and enjoy the chemistry he has with Kiefer Sutherland, Sam is the more introverted character out of the two but I think their different personalities complement each other nicely. The first act is a bit more light hearted and weird although David Lynch does a touch of his well known surrealism on top of it.
Next the film transition’s to the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia and we encounter Special Agent Dale Cooper for the first time, but he isn’t the Cooper we all know and love, he appears cold and lacks the charisma we are used to in the TV show. Special Agent Dale Cooper was such a likeable and endearing character and it’s a shame his personality doesn’t transfer into Fire Walk with Me, perhaps having Cooper perform his goofy antics woundn’t fit into the films darker tone.
Cooper approaches Gordon Cole and tells him about a vision he experienced in a dream and he believes it will occur right now, Cooper then walks in front of a security camera to prove if his prediction is right. The first time around nothing happens but Cooper persists, the second time around we see Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) walk straight through Cooper on the security camera, Jeffries paces into Cole’s office and he looks very confused.
“It was a dream, we live in a dream” he explains
What follows is a bizarre scene with choppy editing and David Bowie talking in a strong Texan accent, the scene is not great but it does explain some of the more supernatural aspects of Twin Peaks.
Chet returns to Teresa Bank’s trailer and he discovers a mysterious green ring hiding underneath the trailer, Chet bends down and reaches out to pick up the ring and he vanishes into thin air, Agent Cooper travels to Deer Meadow to check out Chet’s disappearance but he is unsuccessful with his search. Chet and Sam disappear and the film switches to a more familiar location.
One year passes and we finally arrive at Twin Peaks, the film introduces us to homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)and her best friend Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly), the two of them attend Twin Peaks high school.
Laura is romantically involved with Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and James Hurley (James Marshall) but she can’t seem to decide on who to go with, Bobby is loud and obnoxious while James is more romantic and soothing. Donna believes that James is perfect for Laura but her opinion doesn’t make a difference.
She lives with her father Leland (Ray Wise) and mother Sarah (Grace Zabriske) in a normal looking neighbourhood, on the outside everything seems to be ok but inside their family life is far from normal. Sarah has a distant relationship with her daughter and Leland’s behaviour is unusually erratic, which leads to some of the more disturbing scenes in this film.
Sheryl Lee is brilliant as Laura Palmer, she almost has to play two completely different characters due to Laura’s split personality, Laura appears to be constantly wrestling with the more darker sides of her life and on the surface she seems fine, but we quickly see that underneath she has a lot of problems. Cocaine, prostitution, depression, loneliness and even incest, the film really delves into some very dark themes.
Laura is frequently haunted by BOB, an evil entity who has a weird obsession with possessing her, BOB is also connected with Leland and this has a massive effect on his character. Ray Wise is also a highlight as Leland Palmer, Leland clearly cares about his daughter but he is also fighting with personal demons that also consume him.
I think Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is an underrated masterpiece that was misunderstood on it’s release, the film is a emotional experience that is funny, scary and genuinely disturbing. Fire Walk with Me also has a wonderful soundtrack and includes some well known characters from the TV show such as the log lady, Shelly Johnson and Norma Jennings.
David Lynch fell in love with Laura Palmer’s character and this affection is clearly displayed on the screen, Laura goes through a lot of suffering in the film but in the end she has a happy conclusion. Fire Walk with Me is a much darker experience compared to the TV show but I actually think it is better, if you are a fan of dry humour, symbolism and surrealist horror I would recommend Fire Walk with Me, the film is a wild rollercoaster.