US 2011, 88m, American Zoetrope
DVD: Metrodome (UK) - Cert 15
The career of writer Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is on the decline. When he arrives in a small town as part of his latest book tour, the local sheriff (Bruce Dern) manages to sell him on the idea of writing about a local murder mystery involving a young girl. In subsequent dreams, he encounters a mysterious young ghost named V (Elle Fanning), not to mention none other than Edgar Allen Poe... His bedtime encounters lead him to the realisation that the story is more intertwined with his own history than he thought...
I couldn't help feeling that this was director Francis Ford Coppola getting back to his film making roots, with a small-ish, modestly budgeted horror flick which he also wrote. I also get the feeling that this is quite a personal film, so it's sad to report that it isn't especially outstanding, However, it's not a total loss either.
Firstly, it looks great. The production design is super, with a quite enchanting look to the nocturnal sequences, and one or two scenes have a nice David Lynch-ian feel to them. There are apparently a couple of 3-D sequences in the film, but from the 2-D version I viewed it really doesn't need such a gimmick.
The casting is good. Val Kilmer puts in a good turn, and casting his ex-wife Joanne Whalley as Baltimore's nagging spouse is a very funny touch. Bruce Dern is always good value, and injects just the right amount of eccentricity into his portrayal of the local lawman. Ben Chaplin, meanwhile makes a pretty good Poe, and the supporting cast are solid.
The real problem here is the story, or rather the lack of a coherent one. It feels as though the script needs at least another rewrite. If only the author had given it over to an outsider to take a detached view and make some kind of critique before the cameras rolled. The ending feels hurried and unresolved, and leaves too many things unanswered. I don't expect to be spoonfed a story, but do at least like all the parts in some form to piece together.
Still, although Coppola has obviously made better movies, he's arguably made worse ones too - there's actually a pretty good film struggling to get out of Twixt. I would love to see it. As it stands, what we end up with is partly entertaining, but equal parts frustrating.