The Twin Proves No Two Grieving Processes Are Alike

Image Courtesy of Shudder / Brigade Publicity

Jay Neugeborn wrote in his book An Orphan’s Tale, “A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. That’s how awful the loss is.” This is the impactful place The Twin comes from, a story about a loss so affecting that any reaction is justified. 

Beginning with a car accident and the unfathomable emotional aftermath of a mother realizing she’s lost her child, Rachel (Teresa Palmer) tries to put on a brave face. Her husband Anthony (Steven Cree) sees her detachment and worries about the effect a house haunted by memory is having. Anthony and Rachel decide what’s best for them and their remaining child, Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri), is to move out of their New York apartment and relocate to Anthony’s hometown in the Finnish countryside. Once there, Rachel begins noticing Elliot retreat inwardly. The loss of his twin brother, Nathan, starts appearing in strange conduct. The two venture to a rock that legend says can make wishes come true, but upon return, Elliot’s behavior becomes exponentially worrisome.

Anthony embraces Rachel in front of their new home in the Finnish countryside in The Twin

Denoting obvious cultural shifts in moving from a large city to a rural neighborhood in another country, Rachel becomes suspicious that Anthony is gaslighting her about why they’ve traveled back to his hometown. After the town’s welcoming ritual leaves her shaken up, she turns to the village outcast, Helen (Barbara Marten), who informs Rachel of hidden dark secrets, warning Rachel that she and her son may be in danger. The more Rachel hears, the more she begins believing her husband is involved with a cult looking to claim the life of their remaining son.  

The Twin is a wild ride that uses a lot of referential tactics, outwardly employing many of the subgenre’s grief-heavy horror films to tell its own story. Helen, the self-proclaimed village crazy lady, is used referentially as a stand-in for Pet Semetary’s Jud Crandall or Hereditary’s Joan, the mystical pariah who knows more about what’s going on than lets on. Situations begin resembling Midsommar, like the customary wedding celebration, then later, as Rachel grows increasingly paranoid, the viewer recognizes aspects of Rosemary’s Baby. This is compounded with many visual references, including the use of backyard ponds and Rachel chasing her son in a red jacket, evoking Nicolas Roeg’s classic Don’t Look Now. I even thought I noticed connections to another Shudder Exclusive film Martyrs Lane, in which actor Stephen Cree also appears. For the most part, The Twin is a mashup of all those films and more rolled into one, culminating in one unexpected finale. 

Many will immediately identify the various inspirations Aleksi Hyvärinen and director Taneli Mustonen have embedded into their script, but acknowledging these influences offers another perspective on how the pair have approached the telling of their distinctive grief story. In an extremely subtle way, the realization that The Twin recalls horror film bereavement in an amalgamated context suggests that no two grief cycles are alike. We all struggle with loss in infinitely different ways, despite the various ways we’ve seen what the process is supposed to look like through other people’s portrayals. While this is the message of duality and comparison The Twin tries to get across, I wish there had been more direct inference toward the source materials in the film. Maybe a DVD box is a little ostentatious, but people who aren’t as genre movie savvy presumably won’t recognize the plethora of references and have a completely different experience.  

Rachel straddles a man while holding a rock above his head in The Twin

There are also many psychological takeaways from The Twin that are very well realized. Trust mechanics, dissociation, and delusional beliefs lead Rachel and the viewer down an exhilarating road away from any expected outcome while leaving a path of clues down a rabbit hole less traveled. This subversion earns The Twin a spot beside another film that pulls that feat off with mesmerizing effect but mentioning the title would be a general spoiler. A second watch will undoubtedly garner a stronger appreciation for the film’s creative diversions.

In the wake of Ari Aster’s last two movies, Midsommar and Hereditary, slow rolls with large payoffs have become genre staples. This rings especially true in indie horror, where budget restrictions can be managed more comfortably if a film is character and story-based. As a result, movies about grief-stricken characters have become increasingly popular. That being said, The Twin is a bit lengthy to start, but the film culminates to considerable effect, ramping up with a few decent shocks for genre fans along the way. It isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but in dismantling the subgenre, it etches a space out for itself instead of getting lost in a pile of forgetful titles that play it safe.

Rachel screams while surrounded by women in white robes in The Twin

Mustonen’s direction of the film is excellent. The locations used in the movie make the cinematographer’s job a lot easier, and the cast is fantastic. Teresa Palmer specifically stands out, and Rachel’s paranoia keeps the viewer from picking apart the film’s ending before it’s ready to spill the twist. Furthermore, the makeup artist responsible for Palmer’s character should also get kudos. Jennifer Scholz gives Rachel’s depression a weathered look of exhaustion that makes the Lights Out actress look nearly unrecognizable. Cree deserves a lot of praise, too. Recalling his scenes after the film finishes with the web of intrigue untangled, Anthony’s narrative is seen with incredible new perspective.

I go back and forth on The Twin. It’s very atmospheric and utilizes predisposed notions to great psychological effect. I respect its inventive use of bereavement films to provide a unique take on a subgenre that doesn’t always offer much differentiation in presenting melancholy. I think the film will have a wide range of fans and critics praising and condemning it. I think it’s better than your average horror flick, but to enjoy it on the level I did, you may want to consider (re)visiting a bunch of dread-inducing genre cinema.

The Twin hits Shudder on May 6, the same day as theaters. 

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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