In The Twin, following the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, Rachel (Teresa Palmer) and husband Anthony (Steven Cree) relocate to the other side of the world with their surviving son in the hopes of building a new life.
What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces attempting to take a hold of him.
My initial reaction to The Twin is just that this movie is a lot. Like, “five different horror films stuffed into a trenchcoat pretending to be one story” a lot.
Blending tropes can be a great way to create new, inventive, and terrifying stories. No doubt, this is what The Twin hoped to do – take a bunch of well-trod scares and stack them on top of one another to build something bigger and scarier.
The movie doesn’t really pull it off, though.
Instead of a curated blend of horror tropes, The Twin seems to switch abruptly from one kind of movie to another, leaving a trail of dangling would-be scares in its wake. The movie shifts so much it becomes a distraction, removing the audience from the story in a way that makes it difficult to live in the horror moment-to-moment.
Oh, it’s a haunted house movie. No, wait. A haunted kid. Or maybe just a movie about grief-induced paranoia? No, it’s definitely a satanism/demonic possession thing. It’s about… evil circles? And/or a secret town cult? It’s about gaslighting a woman into thinking she’s crazy. It’s… all of these things, but also none of these things? Okay, I guess.
The Twin manages to feel like both nothing and everything is going on at the same time. It starts slowly, indicating it will be the kind of film that scares through creeping dread and ever-increasing tension. It abandons that approach around halfway through, going for a more rapid and escalating series of events. Then it slows down again in the final act to reveal its twisty finale.
In a way, this can keep the story more interesting – it’s a bit less predictable, as it hops between horror tropes and shakes up the pace. But it feels like The Twin was trying too hard to tie together all these threads in a way that never quite forms a more horrifying overall picture. Instead of improving upon its varied narratives, it feels like we got a watered-down version of better horror films.
Case in point? The way the movie struggles to pinpoint the driving force of the horror. The setup of the plot implies little Elliot will bring the scares. You know, a classic “creepy, possibly possessed kid” story. But Elliot’s actual behavior quickly falls to the background as we instead focus on Rachel’s nightmares and escalating behavior. Has grief just driven her mad? Then there’s Helen, a local ostracized by the town for mysterious reasons, who’s making ominous predictions and talking about satanic circles and devilish possession. Is she the only one with a real grasp on the situation?
Any of these three could drive the central horror of The Twin in a satisfying way. But the movie fails to blend them together into something more cohesive, leaving the story (and the scares) a lot less impactful. (And speaking of dangling plot threads… What was the deal with Helen after all??)
Overall though, The Twin isn’t a bad horror movie. I was entertained, even if I spent more time trying to figure out where this movie was going than feeling scared. I enjoyed some of the finale twists and shakeups too. I just wish it had worked harder to blend all of its many pieces together into something more cohesive and terrifying.
The Twin will begin streaming on Shudder May 6.