2 out of 5 stars

It’s a wonder anyone in the ‘horror-movie-world’ ever moves house. If the new place isn’t built on an ancient Indian burial ground, there’ll surely be an old doll in the attic, or yellowed newspaper cuttings of some hideous multiple murder committed in the very room you were thinking would be nice for the kids. 

Perhaps the trope arises because, for many of us, moving home is one of the biggest steps into the unknown we take. But, of course, we’re just as likely to bring our problems with us as to find unexpected ones in a new location, and that’s the idea underlying The Twin, an often well-made but confused horror tale which would’ve benefited from ruthless editing of the screenplay before a moment was committed to film.

Taneli Mustonen’s film opens with a glimpse of cornfields—the first of several touches evoking the spirit of Midsommar (2019)—followed by equally brief scenes of a car crash, a woman screaming in hospital, and a child’s grave, by which two black-clad adults and another child stand. Behind them, the Twin Towers can be seen in the Manhattan skyline, as The Twin seems to be set in the 1970s or 1980s.

After setting up the back story, the bulk of The Twin takes place in the far northeast of Finland, where Rachel (Teresa Palmer), her husband Anthony (Steven Cree)—who grew up here—and their son Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri), a boy of about six, have relocated in an effort to move on from the death of Elliot’s twin brother Nathan in that car accident.

Of course, it won’t be so easy; as Rachel says to Elliot, “he is always with us.” Elliot is anxious to keep a toy of Nathan’s, soon wants a bed for the dead twin too, and then starts calling it “my own bed.” He draws disturbing pictures, and then Rachel has disturbing dreams and meets an eccentric elderly woman who fills her head with stories of the town’s Pagan traditions.

Elliot seems to become obsessed with Nathan. There’s the inevitable visit to the doctor who doesn’t take Rachel’s concerns seriously and nor, of course, does her husband. An overhead shot of their new home, in a community that strangely lacks a church, reveals that the big house and curved driveway rather resemble a horned head.

One might think it’s easy to predict where The Twin is going to go from here, with all its signalling of elements from Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Omen (1976), and perhaps more surprisingly The Shining (1980)—as Anthony is a writer and a drinker, while the toy Elliot clings to is a maze. However, you can’t guess, or at least you’ll never be sure whether your guess was accurate, because by the end of its 109 minutes (too many of them) The Twin‘s almost entirely ceased to make sense, despite long explanatory speeches from Anthony and from the strange old lady Helen (Barbara Marten). 

It’s difficult to go into details without spoiling things, but suffice to say that while an unreliable point of view is a perfectly respectable device for misleading the viewer, and things don’t always have to be as they seem, there needs to be some reason why they appear the way they appear. If there’s no logic to incidents at all, even a deluded logic, they might as well be random—and while The Twin’s big third-act revelation resolves some mysteries it leaves many others completely baffling.

A character has this false belief… but why on earth would it lead them to also have that unconnected false belief? Either The Twin is expecting audiences to work excessively hard (for a genre exercise) in hypothesising about possible states of mind, or it just doesn’t add up.

On the plus side, there’s plenty of filmmaking talent on display. The acting is only serviceable (Marten is compelling for a while but very over-used, and young Ruggeri is suitably sweet-unnerving), but The Twin suggests that director Mustonen, cinematographer Daniel Lindholm, and composer Panu Aaltio could make a first-rate horror film with a better script. 

Shots of reality, or what passes for it, are often quite static, heightening the contrast with more active interpolations that might be dreams or imaginings (it’s not always clear). There’s effective overhead camera work and a beautiful nighttime beach scene. Aaltio’s music, meanwhile, is varied and not at all overdone, with the spare, subdued piano and strings at the opening working especially well.

Unfortunately, these qualities aren’t enough to rescue The Twin. There are, lurking within it, some good ideas for a movie about coping with loss. But it’s difficult to avoid the impression that the film’s makers were over-anxious to include certain horror elements at all costs, regardless of coherence.

“All of this will become clear if you just accept it,” says Anthony, but it doesn’t, on a scale that is more than a mere irritation—it undermines the entire film.

FINLAND | 2022 | 109 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

director: Taneli Mustonen.
writers: Aleksi Hyvärinen & Taneli Mustonen.
Teresa Palmer, Steven Cree, Tristan Ruggeri & Barbara Marten.