Horror fans all know the trope: when tragedy strikes, evil spirits try to prey on the survivors left behind. (Bonus points if there’s a child involved.) The Twin—The English-language debut of Finnish writer-director Taneli Mustonen (2016’s true crime-inspired Lake Bodom), who co-wrote with producer Aleksi Hyvärinen, starts off very much in that vein. And then … it takes a huge turn.
We’ll give no further details about The Twin‘s curveball, other than to note that it’s the main reason to check the movie out. Otherwise, it’s a well-made but not entirely original story. It stars A Discovery of Witches‘Teresa Palmer as Rachel, a young mother who agrees to move from New York to her husband’s native Finland after they lose one of their twin sons in a car accident. A fresh start is just what they need! But this being a horror movie, things obviously don’t go according to plan. Rachel, who already thinks Anthony (played by one of Palmer’s Witches co-stars, Steven Cree) isn’t showing enough attention to their surviving child, Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri), starts to suspect something’s wrong with the boy — wondering early on, “Haven’t you noticed anything odd with his behavior since we’ve been here? ” Even worse, the town (a picturesque Scandinavian village) where their new home (a magnificent old mansion surrounded by a forest) is located is filled with unfriendly locals — aside from the eccentric Helen (played by yet another Discovery of Witches co-star, Barbara Marten), who assures her right off the bat “I’m not crazy, all the others are.” (Anthony calls her “a crackpot.”)
Circumstances — particularly local legends enhanced by Helen’s own tales about the “rich pagan culture” that initially drew her to the area — combined with Elliot’s increasingly strange behavior (at one point, he starts insisting he’s actually Nathan, his dead brother) lead Rachel to start to suspect sinister forces are targeting her family. It doesn’t help that she keeps having nightmares and waking dreams that blend flashbacks to the car accident and her son’s funeral with gruesome visions that feel like foreshadowing. (“I don’t know what’s real anymore,” she says at one point, an observation we will soon begin to share.) A viewer might stop and wonder, why is the village doctor so dismissive of her concerns about Elliot? Why does The Twin zoom past seemingly crucial plot points, like Elliot’s sudden disappearance from the family’s welcome party or Rachel’s out-of-nowhere confession that her late son, Nathan, had “issues” she was tired of dealing with prior to his death?
The viewer might also stop and wonder why there are still 30 minutes left in the movie when it appears to be fully enmeshed in its endgame, but we already explained why that’s the case. Whether or not you appreciate the twist will impact your overall opinion of The Twin, whose nebulous 1980s-1990s setting offers an easy way to eliminate cell phones and the internet from its plot mechanics; it also also gives a reason for The Twin to casually feature … the Twin Towers … in the background of its New York scenes. In my eyes, the direction the plot takes in its final act isn’t quite satisfying enough to justify pulling the rug out from beneath the entire film that came before, scrambling all its Rosemary’s Baby meets Midsommar (plus spooky kid) vibes. But it certainly sets The Twin apart from the many other films also built from similar DNA strands.
The Twin hits theaters, on demand and digital, and streams on Shudder today.
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