The Twin, 2022.
Directed by Taneli Mustonen.
Starring Teresa Palmer, Steven Cree, Barbara Marten, Tristan Ruggeri, and Raul Talmar.
A family mourning the loss of one of their twin sons after an accident return to the father’s family home, but all is not well.
If you thought that the ‘horror as a metaphor for grief’ subset of grindingly slow melodramas that make up the bulk of streaming service options was on the decline, Shudder Original The Twin arrives on Blu-ray, just in case you missed/skipped it when scrolling through the menus.
So, let’s do a checklist of what we have: a title that gives nothing away yet tells you everything, a tagline that bears very little relation to what the movie is actually about and artwork that’ll appeal to casual viewers who may have seen The Omen or a Chucky movie. Turn the box over to check the run time and it’s 109 minutes long, so that’s nearly two hours of devil child capers to sit through. Should be good!
Except it isn’t, as the opening drone shot of a car driving through the countryside as ominous music swells in the background informs us. It isn’t bad on a technical level – on the contrary, the whole movie is shot quite beautifully – but this is the sort of movie language that has become so ingrained in these types of psychological horror movies that it becomes difficult to differentiate one establishing shot from another; one could almost call it a cliché at this point.
And then we are fed our information about the characters on the screen. We learn very quickly that the family – Rachel (Teresa Palmer), her husband Anthony (Steven Cree) and their young son Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri) – have suffered a loss after a car crash, the loss being their other son Nathan, Elliot’s twin. Rachel is sad, mournful and overly protective of Elliot, whilst Anthony is quiet and not on camera quite so much, so that tells us something straight away.
To help with their grief the family have sold their house and moved to Anthony’s native Finland, to a small rural village where the locals aren’t particularly welcoming to outsiders, as epitomised by Rachel’s interactions with Helen (Barbara Marten), a British lady who moved there years ago with her now-deceased husband and is treated like the token mad woman. At a party Helen tells Rachel that Elliot made a wish at a local spiritual landmark and his wish has been granted, which then leads to Elliot claiming that he is not Elliot but is in fact Nathan. How could this be, as Nathan was buried… wasn’t he?
Anyway, the locals know something as they keep staring at Rachel whenever she goes about the village, and Anthony does seem to be getting on quite well with the local doctor. In fact, it all seems a bit strange and so Rachel turns to Helen, who tells her a story about her past and why there are no churches in the village.
Anyone who has seen any horror movie involving a grieving mother/wife post-The Sixth Sense will know where The Twin is going way before the halfway mark of the overly long run time, and if those people have also seen The Wicker Man, Wake Wood or any other folk horror involving strangers in a strange town then it will probably happen a bit quicker, which makes sitting through the rest of the movie an exercise in ‘I told you so’ point scoring. It wouldn’t be quite so frustrating if the movie was about twenty minutes shorter but, for some inexplicable reason, the need for scenes of nothing happening to be dragged out for effect – that effect being one of tedium rather than tension – seems to take priority over narrative or plot.
For her part, Teresa Palmer delivers a believable performance of a mother trying to cope with the loss of a child, as well as the loss of familiar surroundings, as Rachel often comments that her new home is nothing like New York, but Rachel is a bland character and Palmer really isn’t given that much to work with when it comes to the script. Thankfully, veteran British TV actress Barbara Marten is really quite wonderful as Helen, whose backstory we get to see in short flashbacks and would probably make a more interesting movie than the one we got. Never mind.
Anyway, the pacing problems continue as once we get the full reveal of what has gone on it still doesn’t really make much sense and the exposition we are treated to goes on for far too long, stripping the dialogue of any sense of dread or terror and coming across like a student explaining their English literature homework essay; yes, there may be a list of horror movie tropes for you to soak up but sometimes less is more, especially when it is all presented in the most pedestrian and generic way possible.
The Twin feels like the Greatest Hits of Folk Horror Beats and Plot Points but made by a faceless cover band, and as with most cover bands, why bother when you can listen to the original?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★