As a followup to Uncas Blythe's most excellent introduction to Val Kilmer's musings on David Mamet's Spartan (2004), let's have a look at what the critics are saying about the film that, in some universe somewhere, goes on to win 17 Academy Awards.
"With the quasi-comic horror trifle Twixt," begins Joseph Jon Lanthier at the House Next Door, "Francis Ford Coppola joins the long list of narrative-conjurers to (mis)appropriate Edgar Allan Poe as a sober maestro of spook. A pallid, somber fictionalization of the author, played by Ben Chaplin, becomes Virgil to the Dante of Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer, looking likeably portly), a bargain-basement witch novelist who gets fittingly embroiled in a small-town murder mystery…. Twixt is Coppola in grindhouse mode, from Bruce Dern's cud-chewy performance as a possibly corrupt sheriff to the teen goth vampires, and proudly (anti-)sex symbols, that 'threaten' the town from across a misty lake overtaken with fog (to riff on Baltimore's wooden parlance)…. I'm encouraged that auteur indulgence can be as diverse as that of the last three films Coppola has made. But where Youth Without Youth was an argument against has-beenism and Tetro a treatise defending an artist's right to pretension, Twixt is an all-out affront to competency."
"Twixt isn't a horror film so much as an experimental essay with allusions to literature, genre movies from Roger Corman to William Castle to Nosferatu, and to his own career and personal history," writes Scott Tobias. "As such, it may be for auteurists only, but I'm enjoying this stage of Coppola's creative life, when he's fiddling with new technology and letting wild ideas flourish without any compulsion to reign it in." Adds fellow AV Clubber Noel Murray: "It's never dull — and it's occasionally funny — but as with the films that preceded it, Twixt is strangely lacking in command. It's Coppola trying things out (a split-screen here, a Lynchian interlude there), working from his gut but not quite enough from his head."
In Variety, Rob Nelson is rather taken with "this disarmingly cheeky, intermittently gorgeous trifle… Easily the pic's strongest element, if not its very reason for being, is its set of surreal dream sequences, whose lush black-and-white with splashes of shimmering color recall early hand-painted cinema, as well as Coppola's own Rumble Fish…. The film's bevy of in-jokes includes Kilmer's enjoyably ludicrous impersonation of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, along with a throwaway reference to that classic film's use of 'The End,' sung by Jim Morrison (whom Kilmer played in The Doors). If much of Twixt itself is something of a goof, it's one that generously lets the viewer in on the gag."
"In its imaginative WTF-ness, it reminds me of Bob Dylan's gloriously whacked-out Masked and Anonymous, just the sort of thing you'd expect a crackpot genius left to his own devices to make," writes Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek.
At the Playlist, Cory Everett notes that Coppola "says the film was inspired by an alcohol-induced dream he had in Istanbul; the only problem being that he woke up before the ending and making the film was a way to help figure it out. But perhaps the most personal thing about the film is that Baltimore is still dealing with the grief from his daughter's death during a boating accident — many will know that Coppola's own son Gian-Carlo passed away under similar circumstances in 1986." Julie Makinen has a bit more on this in the Los Angeles Times.
For Kaleem Aftab, writing in the Independent, Coppola "has made his most lucid and entertaining film since Tucker: the Man and His Dream in 1988…. The mélange of fiction and reality also allows for the quirky theatrical side of Coppola's recent work to come to the fore, most notably with opera-singing vampires. The only major misstep is the decision to incorporate 3D into a couple of scenes towards the end of the picture, which is an experimental folly. But for the most part this qualified return to form will delight all fans of Coppola, especially those who enjoyed his gothic romances, Dementia 13 and Dracula."
But for the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt, this is "easily his silliest work ever."
Update: "Kilmer is rather sympathetic and amusing," finds the Guardian's Catherine Shoard. A "montage early on in which he struggles with the first line of his new book, and gets more and more cross and sozzled in the process, is great — the germ of another film, one with its feet on the floor, rather than its heart in history and its sense of drama just awol."
Update, 9/15: TIFF's Cameron Baily had Coppola come up for an onstage interview on Sunday and Allan Tong took notes for Filmmaker.
Updates, 9/18: "Young men live in the present and the future, old men in the past," writes Time's Richard Corliss. "That truism applies to Coppola, who channels his 1986 family tragedy into the horrific mood of Dementia 13. Say this for Twixt: it has a jaunty morbidity, a cinematic larkishness to its meditations on violent death. If the film is not worthy of comparison to Coppola's great work of nearly 40 years ago, it's vibrant with the freedom felt by an old master with nothing left to prove."
"The cumulative effect is of a very talented man messing around in his garage, not really caring how it's all coming off," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "Which means it eventually backfires."
For New York's Logan Hill, Twixt "is further proof how difficult it is to make a good B-movie."
"Like Coppola's other recent films, it's for fans and the curious only," writes Tim Grierson. "The movie's simply too willfully strange — too 'Hey, let's try this' — for anyone who isn't willing to meet it more than halfway."
"Pony-tailed Val Kilmer (slightly on the pudgier side here) may not be your idea of a universal artist-figure, but Coppola furnishes the movie with so many outstanding HD images (many of them mixing color and b&w similarly to Rumble Fish), that there's no doubt he himself is the real protagonist of the piece," finds Michał Oleszczyk at Fandor.
"Coppola has grand plans for the exhibition of this film, intending to tour it with a live orchestra and to edit the film live, so that each screening will subtly adjust in a manner akin to live theatre." Peter K, a self-described "Twixt apologist" at Twitch: "This radical concept wasn't demonstrated during the TIFF screening, but I am definitely excited to how this will work. There are several discontinuous moments in the film, especially during Baltimore's conversations with Poe that seem ripe for shuffling around on the fly. That the film's plot never feels entirely resolved also leads me to wonder how much of the film we have actually seen, what other threads Coppola is waiting to pull out."