Friday, January 01, 2010

He wears a smile.

Among the many fine offerings of the base library are boxed sets of the Twin Peaks television series. I remembered the series from when it first aired but as I was only nine years old at the time and had no control over the television (though I managed to see a few episodes because I remembered the premise, the Nadine amnesia storyline, and Agent Cooper) this was my first chance to see the actual resolution.

I understood that it would be strange. I remember that the main character was basically a clairvoyant FBI agent, that there was at least one character with unexplained superstrength, and the Red Room dream is infamous. I was prepared for a mystery/horror series, but I expected it to be more surreal than petrifying. But I had missed one thing in my sporadic childhood viewing.


Bob is, without a doubt, the most terrifying character ever to cross the screen. Mike Myers, Freddy Kreuger, It? They don't hold a candle to Bob. Jigsaw? Don't make me laugh. Bob is the scariest thing ever put on film, and they didn't even need to give him makeup.

It's amazing. It's just this guy. This guy in denim with scraggly long hair. In normal life he'd just look like someone's scraggly uncle, but introduced in the context of the Twin Peaks series, he is nightmare fuel of the highest order. And the freakiest thing of all? He was an accident. Frank Silva was a stagehand who trapped himself on a set, and then got accidentally caught in the mirror in one of the scenes.

From there he became the star of sudden cuts, dream sequences, and of course, my nightmares. Normally I despise the quick cut to a gruesome scene or image in horror movies. It seems like such a cheap way to build tension. But modern movies tend to add particularly shocking images. These aren't particularly shocking images when taken out of context. The quick cuts tend to occur only when someone has a vision, or when the audience needs to know he's behind something. They build on the character's concept as a supernatural entity. Bob's appearances aren't a clumsy insertion into an otherwise dull scene, they're artful reveals.

The character never really gets any dialogue, but he doesn't need it. He just has to look menacing and slink around. Lynch used him only in shadowy visions and--most creepily of all--mirrors. By using him so sparingly and only in specifically unearthly scenes, he turns this ordinary guy into something completely unnerving. There's no makeup, CGI or gore needed. It's just lighting and emotion. It's bare bones horror.

That's fucking genius. That's how a horror story should be made. People and things that would be otherwise unremarkable are cast in a strange light and turned into something sinister.


  1. I agree! That's one of the great things about Twin Peaks - how these seemingly unrelated and accidental elements just came together to make an unforeseeable whole. It's creepy on levels that hit universal chords without needing to be gory. The owls are not the only things that aren't what they seem.

  2. A friend sent me some DVD sets that he no longer wanted/bought for me, and I've had trouble deciding which to watch first, but I think you've swayed me on Twin Peaks. I was too young to watch too, but I did watch the movie and loved the weirdness and creepiness of it. I have the box set without the first episode, though, so I'm going to have to borrow it. Bah.

  3. I watched the whole series when I was 12 - not the smartest thing! BOB has haunted me for years, and I still can't watch the show if I'm by myself at night.

  4. oh my God, BOB! It's nice to know I am not alone. I think it was something about the way he just appeared, crouching, looking up ... I still shudder. That pic brought it all back. Back to Therapy!

  5. I don't scare easily. I am usually too involved with analyzing a scene or a film the first time I watch it to get too emotionally involved. Bob scared the crap out of me.

  6. I think I was around twelve when Twin Peaks was on, and I watched it religiously. I will never forget when the final episode aired. I was watching it alone in the dark downstairs guest room, with the lights out (for some unfathomable reason), and it was scary as hell. Of course, the whole series had that creepy vibe throughout that made it so magnetic to watch, but that final episode stayed with me for weeks. Bob is, without a doubt, one of the most genuinly terrifying characters I've ever seen on screen.