Picks and Pans Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

updated 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sheryl Lee, Kyle MacLachlan

Edgar Allan Poe wrote that the most sublime theme in art is the death of a beautiful woman. Being made to sit through this film would have changed his mind. What started two years ago as a brilliant TV pilot, with Lee as velvety teen queen Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic on the banks of a lake, now ends up a nauseating bucket of slop. Fire Walk with Me (for explanation of title, query director and cowriter David Lynch) perhaps will make sense to those willfully perverse few who watched all 30 episodes of the ABC series about that strange town in the Northwest woods. The movie (which is billed as a prequel) doesn't spend much time on Twin Peaks actually, losing itself in a series of nightmares and hallucinations that amount to a surrealist's psychosexual jumble sale—images of the dwarf in a red room, the little boy with a dangerously pointy plaster nose jammed onto his face, the white horse in the bedroom, David Bowie and, of course, the stalking, ponytailed creep named Bob. Bob may or may not be Lee's father's alter ego, but he seems intent on doing her harm. Fire Walk is a long, obscene tease, building to Lee's murder in an abandoned railroad car.

It would be a minor plus it Fire Walk, bad as it is, were also instantly forgettable, but it is unnerving and lingeringly nasty, not only because of its violence (brains exploded, fingernails ripped off), but because of Lynch's hypnotically slow pacing and Angelo Badalamenti's throbbing, sinister score, which has the aura of an impending migraine. One particularly exhausting scene—a drugged-out, strobe-lighted party at a roadhouse bar—plays like a music video that was shot in the outer circles of hell.

MacLachlan turns up briefly as coffee-swilling FBI Agent Cooper. He doesn't even ask for cherry pie. (R)

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