Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but I figured out the main twist of the abysmal “The Twin” almost immediately. While knowing that the film’s main action was kind of a narrative cheat probably didn’t help, I don’t think this movie would have worked even if I had fallen more deeply under its amateurish spell. Teresa Palmer is an underrated actress who has elevated genre films like “Lights Out” and “Berlin Syndrome,” but she is failed by the threadbare screenplay and poor direction in this Shudder original, which feels like exists purely to land that aforementioned twist and doesn’t care that nothing before it works on a dramatic level. It’s all about leaving the viewer reeling, right? Who really cares about the build-up if the pay-off is a killer? I do. I care about the build-up.
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“The Twin” is basically “Midsommar” meets “The Boy,” and yet not as fun as that mash-up might imply. Palmer plays Rachel, a woman who isn’t even allowed an ounce of character development before she’s sent headlong into unimaginable grief after a car accident kills one of her twin boys Nathan. To leave the pain of it all as far behind as possible, Rachel, her husband Anthony (Steven Cree), and their surviving son Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri) jet off to Finland, from where Anthony’s family hails. Almost immediately, Rachel is thrust into bizarre cultural whiplash, including seemingly harmless rituals like a wedding swing that gets malevolent and a local British eccentric who warns her things aren’t as they seem. And then Elliot starts talking about how Nathan isn’t really gone. In fact, Nathan wants to return.
Taneli Mustonen directs Palmer to one of those breathy, always-on-edge performances that actively pushes away any attempt at realism, and yet he doesn’t replace it with camp either, leaving the poor actress in one of those turns in which one can always feel her acting but never feel her emotions. At least some effort is made with her, which is more than can be said for the other two members of her family. Anthony is a non-character, a dull sounding board for Rachel to bounce off her concerns about her son, who just gets to play creepy kid notes until the jump scares kick in.
The grief of losing a child must thrust normal people into situations where they don’t feel welcome or even certain that the world around them is sane. And yet “The Twin” never wants to reckon with this displacement or even use it to produce genuine scares, merely exploiting grief instead of unpacking how the immediacy of death in someone’s life could send them off any mental or emotional edge. Honestly, it’s giving “The Twin” way too much credit to suggest it even considered any of these big picture questions. “The Twin” just treads water with B-movie style until it gets to the deep ending. And that’s where the whole thing drowns in its lack of ambition and execution.