Grief is a familiar topic within the horror realm, with it becoming all the more palpable these recent years. We’ve all come to know it in some way. With this awareness comes an understanding of how it impacts the mind. Our perception of events and the things happening around us can sometimes become warped. Grief too can sometimes allow us to fall into a trap of our own design, having us become prey to the darker elements in our lives. In some ways, Taneli Mustonen’s THE TWIN explores these ideas through the scope of a grieving family. While there are elements of the screenplay that could have been tightened up to support the big reveal, the end result is an effective tragedy.
The set-up of THE TWIN feels familiar. But due in part to Mustonen’s and co-writer Aleksi Hyvärinen’s understanding of the horror genre and its tropes, not everything is as it seems. Launching first in a series of montages, the audience learns a tragic accident has befallen a family. Rachel (Teresa Palmer) is plagued by grief after the death of one of the family’s twins. This has made her more protective of her remaining son, Elliott (Tristan Ruggeri). Her husband Anthony (Steven Cree) relocates the family to the Finnish countryside, a place familiar to him but not so much to his wife or his son. What is meant to be a place to recover, though, turns into a hell for Rachel. Something is trying to take her remaining son and she’ll do anything she can to ensure that nothing can take away her baby boy.
There is a multitude of different influences that take root here. Many will make comparisons from Rosemary’s Baby to Midsommar to The Wicker Man, which is fair. The influences are there in the story and, for the most part, it succeeds in convincing viewers that they know what is coming next. Where it falters is when a big reveal happens. A reveal that is tragic, but the impact could have been stronger. There are breadcrumbs scattered to help connect the dots together upon reflection, but the twists and turns narratively do more to take away than support. Scaling down the ideas would have helped here, providing more wiggle room for suspension of disbelief in this case.
What aids in the selling of the overall storyline in THE TWIN, however, are the performances. Teresa Palmer, no stranger to horror, excels here. Given the role of the grieving mother, the performance calls for emotional bursts and levels in which she excels. With the paranoia and anxiety the character has to reach, there’s no overacting here. She always hits the right mark. Steven Cree’s Anthony is more stoic, the calmer of the two. On a rewatch, there is more of an understanding as to why his performance comes across as a straight man. But that doesn’t mean Anthony isn’t grieving. In fact, here is a man trying to find calm and normality in a sea of emotional turmoil. Tristan Ruggeri’s Elliott/Nathan is a hefty role for someone so young. He hits this delicate balance of maturity, creepiness, and vulnerability that the dual characters need.
THE TWIN is another ambitious horror film in the sense of what it aims to carry out. While Mustonen and Hyvärinen play with the familiar, it lures you into a false sense of security. By the time, you reach the grand twist, it does effectively alter how one perceives previous events. There are moments, though, that make it difficult to suspend disbelief narratively. It is here where there will be the most trouble for some viewers to reconcile with. However, the performances are what keep everything together, and force you to keep your eyes glued to the very end.
THE TWIN arrives on Friday, May 6, premiering on Shudder platforms in the US, Canada, UKI and ANZ, as well as in theaters, On Demand and Digital in the US and Canada.
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