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Should you, as a horror fan watch “Twin Peaks”?
It depends. I will analyze the intentions of the series in this section, and then I will go deeper on its value for horror fans in the review section that follows.
If you are expecting a true horror series in the vein of “American Horror Story” or “The Haunting”, then I wouldn’t advise you to watch it. But at the same time I would, because the horrific parts of the series are just too good not to experience them.
If you, as a horror fan, have a side that likes, or even just tolerates, either, slipstream, magical realism, surrealism, and/or trippy audiovisual media, then I would advise you to watch it because those elements in the series are many, and they are, more or less, the ones with a high potential to amuse horror fans.
The story’s composition has a standard cause-and-effect linear logic, but that’s where standard ends and its originality begins. You aren’t going to find a hundred-percent-logical succession of events in “Twin Peaks”, even if they do succeed logically, especially in season three. Yeah, I know that sounds like a paradox, but that’s how it felt to me.
While the composition plays a lot with different time distortions, where the excellence of the series hits you the most is how serious it takes itself to present a wholly believable facade, and then it pushes you over the cliff with the unexpected dimensions of being it brings to the table.
I guess there are lots of inter-textual references in “Twin Peaks”. One I found not so long ago is about “The Girl that Lives Down The Lane”. I’ve seen how people interpret it, but it also may be a reference to the movie from 1976 featuring Jodie Foster.
In the inter-textuality of other works paying homage to “Twin Peaks”, the list is huge.
It’s certainly an artistic series, with a lot of thrills, amusements, scares, and enjoyment derived from the overall mood in general, and from the weird scenes in particular.
About The Originators of The Show
“Bureau Chief Gordon Cole” (CC BY)
He showed promise as a horror director, but after a tiny affair with science fiction (“Dune”), he went on a tangent of surrealism, slipstream, and related genres; more or less dumping horror and science fiction, even if the stories told in his movies have no small share of the terrible.
To this day, he still makes his own personal brand of weird cinema, and that’s how we get to use the term Lynchian to define movies that go beyond mere slipstream or fantastic realism.
Mark Frost the co-creator, co-writer, and executive producer of the show, is an audiovisual media producer, writer of fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays/teleplays. I had never heard of him before I paid attention to the titles rolling out in one of my first watchings of season one of “Twin Peaks”. What it called my attention about him are his multi-media efforts regarding “Twin Peaks” because of his involvement in tie-in media of the show.
Review of Seasons One to Three
For me, “Twin Peaks” is a 1990 horror, thriller, mystery, and FBI procedural about a high school homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, who one day appears murdered. It’s much more than that, but I see that as the main plot.
Season two is a continuation of season one’s topic, with a reveal at the ending of what really happened to Laura.
Season three is a return to the town of Twin Peaks, a bit more than two decades and a half after season two; a continuation of the previous two seasons’ narratives.
In the first season, Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives at the Washington state town of Twin Peaks intending to find out who killed Laura Palmer (17), a popular teenage girl that appeared murdered on the beach.
He stays in the town for the whole two first seasons. Through Dale Cooper’s eyes and the eyes of other characters, the viewer gets an overall idea of the town’s social dynamics. Also, the viewer gets a peek into the hidden side of Twin Peaks, which is not something to be overlooked by anyone, and of special interest for horror fans.
I personally saw season three as a subtle rounding off of the story that many may see as mere plugging of old plot-holes. I personally don’t see it that way, I think it has a way elevated meaning that many will whine that it is nonsense, because they don’t understand it.
In season three, AKA “Twin Peaks: The Return”, we are presented with something that is not a logical continuation but something that is, in a sense only, realistic about the fact of almost twenty years having passed between season three and where the story left off.
In the three seasons, the wardrobe is sober and sometimes neighboring on the plain. It’s also realistic, and seldom calls the viewer’s attention to it.
For me, the effort that the well-dressed cast put into the making of this series is more evident than elsewhere in the scenes where the reality is skewed and the viewer is not sure (at first) as to what’s actually happening.
In a large sub-group of those magical scenes, many of the characters awkwardly express themselves, as if they were silhouettes in a dream with only a basic level of consciousness. I love those scenes, and they are excellently acted. The creep factor of those scenes is one of the highest ever I experienced in audiovisual media.
The setting, the secluded town of Twin Peaks, is where the entertainment value of Twin Peaks shines like no other series, and I think that’s one of the reason’s why it’s considered one of the greatest American TV series of all time. Even if outside shots are scarce overall, there are a lot of beautiful, harmonious, nature-oriented exterior shots, and that adds to the series’ value a lot, in my opinion.
The cinematography of the three seasons is on an equal level with other series of the era, except for the parts that convey fantastic events. For me, they evoke a decidedly Lynchian flavor that you aren’t going to find anywhere else.
The artistic, fantastic scenes definitely set “Twin Peaks” apart from everything that was done up to then, and even from most everything that came after.
The style may fool many outsiders. Some may see the first two seasons as just a good old, slice-of-life American series, but I think Frost, Lynch, and the directors that worked with them made a Western procedural informed by an Eastern way of feeding horror and mystery into the audience.
I mean by this, that they made the horror of Twin Peaks more like H.P. Lovecraft would build up one of his cosmic horror stories: beating around the bush a lot, and letting the viewer reeling in terror with the unsaid and not shown parts, in a way, I think, the worst ones.
The visual effects that make “Twin Peaks” awesome are sparse, but when the moment comes that the story needs them, they surely are there, and to me, they are extremely well thought-out and effective.
The music is something else and incredibly atmospheric. Even if a little repetitive, it is so good that it never annoyed me and always reinforced the overall moods of the series.
Like most of the other elements of the series, the sound is realistic and I can’t remember a single instance while I was watching it in which the sounds broke the suspension of disbelief.
Pros and Cons for Me as Horror Fan
As a horror fan, I can’t say I disliked anything about this series, but if I were forced to pick something of “Twin Peaks” that I didn’t like I would say two things.
One, the intense slice-of-life and “shipping” side of it. It’s there and others grill the series due to those two facets, but I wouldn’t. For me, they’re okay, if a little bit excessive. Still, I understand that not many are as tolerant and easy to please as me when it comes to audiovisual media, and it may be a chore to watch for some.
Two, that horror fans would agree, is the low quantity of horror thrills. Nevertheless, “Twin Peaks” is a very creepy story, so no need to hammer the audience with horror clichés. Besides, if you have the patience to wait for the horrifying, it pays out in the end.
Those two things are the only complaints I have about “Twin Peaks” as a whole, but they aren’t really complaints, only what I think may make the series less horror and more procedural.
What did I like about it? The list is too long, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember everything in the spur of the moment.
I liked that it’s a time capsule to the fag-end of the nineteen-eighties. I loved the pilot, the artistic sequences of the pilot are dreadful and foreboding and it did set me up for wanting to see more of those artistic sequences, that I think are to put you in the series’ “zone”.
All the time I watched the following episodes I was waiting for more of those surreal scenes, and they played hard to get for a while, but they returned. Season three has a lot of that too.
Moral of The Story
The first two seasons pack a heavy social commentary and I think that, for me, the ultimate moral of it is a strict one, but an ultimately good one:
Take care of your offspring and make everything in your power to shield them from the horrible, deranged world outside, at least until they are in their early twenties.
That way, they hopefully will be honest, decent, and healthy persons that you’ll be able to watch as they come of age in their mid-twenties, even if they moved away from home already, with minimal supervision.
I’ll explain why I think this in the spoilers section below. Read it only at your discretion.
My generic interpretation of “Twin Peaks: The Return” is a meta-narrative one. I think that I would ask those that think that it doesn’t make sense how advanced they are in their knowledge of the occult, paranormal, and/or spiritual things.
Season three is a considerably heady story, I think of it as being more of a sequel than a continuation. I won’t go into what I think it means, there are a lot of viewers that already created a large corpus of personal TPTR interpretations. I will share the best interpretations I did find in the resources section below.
If you like both horror and slice-of-life American TV series, like, say, “Riverdale”, then you’re going to deeply enjoy “Twin Peaks”.
If you are a horror fan with a taste for police procedural and/or mystery stories you should watch it. There’s a high probability that you’ll walk away delighted.
In any case, my personal recommendation to you is that if you don’t know much about the unseen, then you don’t go through season three just yet.
That’s because, as I said, I don’t know how much the average horror fan would end up liking it, but of one thing I’m sure: you may enjoy the superficial end of the series, but you need knowledge to really get the meaning of the series as a whole, the three seasons.
How to Enjoy “Twin Peaks” to the Fullest
If you are considering it, and you already have at least an elementary knowledge about ghosts, demons, metaphysics, the occult, spirituality, or paranormal mechanics, then go ahead and watch the series in order from start to finish.
If you don’t know much about the subjects I named in the previous paragraph, then pick one and learn the basics. And I’m not saying you should watch movies or series on those subjects, I mean go online and search the subjects.
BUT WAIT A SEC! Since I’m here to guide you, then I will recommend you that if it doesn’t feel right, don’t get a generalist knowledge on any of those subjects, just go directly to what matters to understand season three: astral planes cosmology, and astral plane metaphysics.
Of course that a little bit of knowledge about karmic laws, karmic records, and karmic transactions isn’t going to hurt.
On top of that, I recommend looking up on the internet everything that sounds alien to you when you watch all the seasons because those are keywords that will give you another way to understand what is the hidden, higher meaning of “Twin Peaks”.
For instance, tulpas (or even dugpas). Let’s take those words as having the potential to unleash an info dump in the narrative. Not that it happens in the series, though.
The series touches heavy spiritual subjects like those but doesn’t hold your hand telling you what is there to know about them. It gives you just a taste for the information and leaves you tantalized and wanting to know more.
For instance, a good way to get up to snuff on metaphysical takes on life and death would be reading “The Tibetan Book of The Dead”.
Still, there may be a whole set of superstition, impulses, and conditioning one has to overcome to be able to smoke through a book like that from start to finish and make something out of it if you’re coming from a different faith or a non-religious background entirely.
Appendix: My Very Own “Twin Peaks” Urban Legend
I kid you not, I’m one of the few (at least of the few making themselves heard on the internet) that experienced a strange event known as The Lost “Twin Peaks” episode.
There is hardly any information on this subject on the internet, but I remember having seen a page or two. Today, I can’t find any of those pages again.
I remember watching the beginning of a “Twin Peaks” episode when I didn’t know anything about the series. I remember making a mental note of the character, what he did, and how he looked.
When I watched the series, years later (more than a decade), I, on seeing Dale Cooper I thought that was the character I had seen, but I remembered him very differently to what he actually looks.
He was way more muscular, had a longer/pointier aquiline nose, and wore glasses. Moreover, the scene I was waiting for when I watched the series was a scene, that I thought I had seen, in which Cooper(?) awakes in his room and is bare-chested. I want to remember that in that old dead memory of myself he talks to Diane on the tape recorder before dressing for like two minutes, but what in fact I thought I remembered was that he was talking aloud to himself.
And here comes the most dorkish, embarrassing part of that malformed memory: I thought that the character was played by Charlie Sheen. Sorry if it sounds too crazy because it is. I pride myself on having a photographic memory, or an elephant’s memory, so not to find anything about this, but just a small, titillating morsel that somewhat confirms but doesn’t give any details was kind of astonishing.
Well, I never saw that scene, and I don’t believe it could have passed me by, because every episode I watched, I was waiting to see the scene I had seen years before. Still today, I’m wondering what did I see, and if it’s possible the memories could become so wildly warped over time.
The social commentary I synthesized out of my viewing of “Twin Peaks” is hard to swallow, because it makes the viewer face the ugly reality of how, in the time-frame of the story, not even three full decades after important social changes in America (the hippy movement), someone who’s supposed to be innocent and pure, like a seventeen years old girl from a small town, is not so in the least.
I personally think the hippy movement of the mid-late 1960s changed the world for the worst, degrading women and grossly objectifying them in a manner as no other subculture did.
My interpretation of the social commentary of “Twin Peaks” is that Laura Palmer is a product of the environment she grew up in. She didn’t have a choice, and that made her a weak person that ended up dead.
It was understandable because her karma, starting with her own family, was a psycho-social cancer and it was obvious that she would turn out crooked. Now, all fine and dandy with the superficial story unit that both season one and season two make.
Still, it’s evident at the end of season two that the end was a cliffhanger; that the story was meant to continue because there were too many loose threads and unanswered questions at the end of season two.
Twin Peaks Resources
Long feature about “Twin Peaks”. Like this article, it has a spoilers section. If you haven’t watched the series, you can read a good while before stopping before the spoilers.
All these other articles have spoilers:
- The Ultimate Esoteric Guide to Twin Peaks
- The Ending of Twin Peaks Explained
- What I Thought of Twin Peaks: The Return
- Twin Peaks and the horror of the Lynchian smile
Your Thoughts on “Twin Peaks” as a Good Fit for Horror Fans?
© Bholenath Valsan 2021 — A Guide to the 3 Seasons of for Horror Fans (Twin Peaks)