Last week, Shudder released its latest original production, The Twin to mixed reactions. From Finnish director Taneli Mustonen, who gave us the underrated 2016 slasher Lake Bodom, The Twin looks to tread some familiar ground. We’ve seen plenty of creepy kid (Children of the Corn, The Children) and demonic offspring (The Omen) movies. Even horror shenanigans involving twins isn’t entirely fresh (Still/Born, Goodnight Mommy, Basket Case). But Mustonen may have a few tricks up his sleeve. Both the Scandinavian setting and strange villagers add some potentially interesting wrinkles to the story.
When they lose on of their twin sons in a car accident, Rachel and Anthony retreat to his childhood home in Finland to heal. But Rachel and her surviving son, Elliott, struggle to move past their loss. Soon Rachel notices increasingly strange behaviour from Elliott. And the local villagers are equally eccentric. As her nightmares worsen, Rachel begins to sense that something is very wrong with their new home – and it wants Elliott.
The Twin Has a Sharp Veneer Undone by an Unimaginative Story
Director Taneli Mustonen wastes little time setting things in motion. From its opening scene, The Twin boasts sharp filmmaking, production values, and editing. Mustonen slow burns his thriller but never lets the pace drag. In addition to a handful of well-executed jumps, Mustonen consistently bathes The Twin in an unsettling atmosphere. The Finnish backdrop, complete with swirling mist, earns an assist in this regard. Occasionally, The Twin risks overusing some of it nightmare imagery and other creepy kid ropes. Musonen, however, never lingers too long on any one scene. As a result, The Twin feels familiar but never overly repetitive.
There’s plenty of familiar tropes here that telegraphs much of where the movie is going.
Despite its strong atmosphere and decent jolts, The Twin struggles under the weight of unimaginative screenplay. Mustonen and co-writer Aleksi Hyvarinen borrow heavily from the demonic kids subgenre. There’s plenty of familiar tropes here that telegraphs much of where the movie is going. To their credit, Mustonen and Hyvarinen’s inclusion of eccentric Finnish villagers and pagan rituals adds some uncertainty for much of the movie. It channels a bit of Midsommar while not quite disturbing to the same extent. But The Twin undoes its folk horror vibes with a last-minute twist that unravels much of its own storytelling. Though the initial twist isn’t bad, Mustonen and Hyvarinen double-down on it resulting in some convoluted plot machinations and a lot of expository dialogue.
The Twin Gets Help From Some Good Lead Perfomances
Like the filmmaking itself, most of the performances in The Twin are quite good. In particular Teresa Palmer (Lights Out, Warm Bodies) stands out with some convincing work here. She exhibits a range and emotional depth as a mother suffering the worst loss imaginable. As The Twin moves into its third act and big twist, Palmer shifts from steely determination to desperate and delusional. Most importantly, Palmers comes across as believable even as supernatural elements increasingly take over the story.
n particular Teresa Palmer (Lights Out, Warm Bodies) stands out with some convincing work here. She exhibits a range and emotional depth as a mother suffering the worst loss imaginable.
Though his performance isn’t’ bad, Steven Cree doesn’t nearly as much to do as Palmer. For much of the movie, The Twin tasks Cree with looking exhausted or exasperated. Tristan Ruggeri (The Witcher) gives off the right mix of precocious and haunted to check off the requisite creepiness for this sort of supernatural thriller. And Barbara Marten (The Turning) does surprisingly well with a role that doesn’t ask for much more than to dump plot points on the audience. She adds some gravitas to the thriller and, in an early scene, casts some doubt on the story direction.
The Twin Gets By on Atmosphere and a Few Scares, But Not Much Else
Though it doesn’t offer much new to the demonic kids subgenre, The Twin maintains a consistent feeling of dread. And Mustonen manages a few decent scares that should have audiences jumping. But Mustonen’s blending of folk horror, as well his attempts to subvert familiar tropes, don’t really work. Moreover, The Twin’s finale labours under a convoluted twist that undoes everything that proceeded it. Nonetheless, The Twin works well enough to earn a look if not a full endorsement.