This review may contain spoilers
The Twin, written by Taneli Mustonen and Aleksi Hyvärinen, and directed by Mustonen, sees Rachel and Anthony (Teresa Palmer and Steven Cree) move to a small, idyllic village in the Finnish countryside with their son Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri) after his twin brother, Nathan, (also Ruggeri) is killed in a tragic road accident. It seems like this is the first step of their beginning to heal, that is, until Rachel begins to uncover a web of sinister secrets surrounding Elliot.
From its opening moments, The Twin is enveloped by cliché and genre tradition, but, in a surprising turn of events, this works to its favour. The general set up and how it develops, as well as Rachel’s interactions with her son, has an air of beloved 1970s and 80s haunted house films about them. This feels like a happy accident, coming organically from the filmmakers’ influences, rather than a deliberate and/or forced choice. As the film moves on, the second act brings an element of occult mystery, feeling almost like a procedural at times.
The Twin is also incredibly well made and at points is marvellous on a technical level. The cinematography is stunning, rightly taking advantage of the beautiful, rural Finnish location. The contrast of stark, bright snow against woodlands is a sight for sore eyes, as is cinematographer Daniel Lindholm’s use of sunlight and artificial moonlight (which creates an eerie, synthetic feel, reminiscent of sets and studio backlots used to shoot classic horror and film noir) are great and the shooting is used to cultivate an effective atmosphere throughout.
The entire visual style of the film falls in line with the indie horrors of the last decade or so, and – in addition to the use of traditional horror motifs in the writing – builds a satisfying feeling of the old meeting the new. This is especially true as we get past the halfway point and parts of The Twin begin to feel reminiscent of folk horror cinema.
Some of the film’s set pieces work brilliantly, but there also some that absolutely do not. The film’s big ritual scene is a stunning, striking, and moody piece that surprised me, even though I was already enjoying the film up to that point. However, a moment towards the end of the second act goes from having an attention-grabbing setup, to being ruined by a grating performance and a payoff which is silly to the point of being laughable.
On that note, the performances here are also very up and down. Teresa Palmer is a real standout, doing an incredible job, as is Barbara Marten as a local woman who knows some of the truth behind the mysterious goings-on and attempts to help Rachel. However, Tristan Ruggeri falls under all of the typical pitfalls with child actors, especially in horror films, and Steven Cree gradually shifts from a serviceable performance to one which is incredibly monotone which, even if intentional, is too ridiculously lifeless to be believable.
The third act opens on another very silly reveal, then picks back up with the ritual scene I mentioned above that, although muddled from a narrative standpoint, is artistically phenomenal in every regard: the striking imagery, colour contrasts, costuming, framing and surreal, nightmarish visuals are stellar. What this all leads to, however, is a twist that I’d imagine will ruin the entire experience for more viewers than not. It’s telegraphed throughout the film, but you’ll convince yourself that the film can’t be that brazenly stupid until its too late to deny it. It’s a plot twist that renders pointless every emotional beat that’s come so far and is all explained through a sloppily edited montage with poor voiceover work and scoring.
With all that said, The Twin is just one of those films that’s quite good until it isn’t, and as much as I enjoyed it until its final act, I don’t know if it can justify its 110 minute runtime.