Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The Twin, on Shudder

Where better to recover from a profound family tragedy than a remote Finnish country village? If they are fortunate, they will be there in time for this year’s Midsommar ceremony. True to genre expectations, the Doyles somehow managed to move into an area that is a focal point for pagan weirdness in Taneli Mustonen’s The Twin, which premieres Friday on Shudder.

Sadly, Rachel and Anthony Doyle lost their son Nathan in a car wreck, but at least they still have his spare twin, Elliot. For a fresh start, they move to his ancestral Finnish home, but the standoffish locals welcome her like a case of Mad Cow Disease. Only Helen, a mildly eccentric English expat gives her the time of day. Unfortunately, Helen’s crazy talk about sinister pagan powers starts to sound believable when Doyle starts to suspect something is out to get Elliot.

Honestly, Elliot is such a sullen and off-putting kid, spending any length of time with him is hard enough. Enduring two of them is almost unimaginable. That is a major reason why the first half-hour or so hard to slog through. The film starts to click when Helen introduces a lot of creepy pagan lore. There is also a reasonably effective twist laying in wait for the audience, but Mustonen and co-screenwriter Aleksi Hyvarinen can’t quite stick the dismount.

One of the problems with the bulk of
The Twin is the cold, detached behavior of Anthony, which makes it feels like yet another horror film trying to earn scares by undermining the institutions of marriage and family. Yet, the Conjuring franchise (for instance) has been so successful precisely because they are all about families coming together to overcome profoundly evil horrors (with the help of the Warrens, of course).

On the other hand, the folk horror is seriously unsettling stuff. It viscerally contradicts the notion of paganism as an early, benign manifestation of environmentalism, evoking serious
Wicker vibes. Without question, Barbara Marten’s performance as Helen is the best thing going in The Twin. Teresa Palmer works tirelessly on Rachel’s parental panic attacks, but it gets exhausting for the viewer. Conversely, Steven Cree’s Anthony is a colder, more insensitive fish than John Cassavetes in Rosemary’s Baby, which is an obvious influence for the film.

Mustonen’s previous horror film, the somewhat elevated slasher,
Lake Bodom was less ambitious, but more effective. There are considerable interesting parts in The Twin, but it is definitely inconsistent—and a perfect example of why it is always a risk to prominently feature children in horror movies. Earning a conflicted, mixed review, The Twin starts streaming Friday (5/6) on Shudder.