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Watching Twin Peaks as a Teenager

During their honeymoon in North America, my cousin and her husband made a detour with some friends into Snoqualmie Falls, the small town in Washington State where parts of Twin Peaks were filmed.  They stopped for cherry pie at a diner (whose acknowledgement of the famous television series amounted to some photos fixed to a pin board) and drove past the abandoned railway carriages where the murder took place.

I’m envious, of course.  What a formative experience it was to watch Twin Peaks as a teenager when it first aired.  This was my introduction to the curious world of David Lynch, a world where the 1950s-tinged Americana masks something very unwholesome indeed.  While Laura Palmer lay icily in the morgue, the mystery of her death deepening, scenes of eroticism and corrupted innocence played out against a backdrop of something unspeakably malevolent that seemed to emanate from those black woods on the edge of town.

One of the most powerful—and discomforting—things about Twin Peaks was that it didn’t attempt to over-explicate its horror, and its horror didn’t have any basis in previous horror narratives.  There were no vampires or ghosts as such to be found here, though I guess you could make a case for the existence of the werewolf in his Jekyll and Hyde guise. Which brings us to Bob.  Bob seemed to come out of nowhere, ambushing characters and viewers alike.  This evil entity who tormented Laura Palmer was born serendipitously when David Lynch decided it might be a good idea to film a distinctive looking set decorator, Frank Silva, crouching behind Laura Palmer’s bed.  It was later, however, when Silva was accidently caught in shot during a scene where Laura’s mother has a vision and screams, that the idea of Killer Bob fell into place, and Lynch was able to incorporate his previous footage.

A friend of mine said Bob was responsible for traumatising a whole generation of teenage girls.  This was achieved without scary make-up or costumes (Silva continued wearing his own clothes as the character) and was the more effective for it.  Bob was, quite simply, wrong.  He was out of place, terrifying: apt to appear in your lounge or bedroom with no warning.

Twin Peaks was television that broke the mold, introducing Lynch’s brand of languid weirdness to a popular audience and paving the way, as has been often noted, for the sort of quirky American surrealism that characterised a multitude of different shows like Northern Exposure and Carnivale.  It opened my own eyes to a new world of poetic horror.

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