Science Fiction Film & Television

Avant-garde encounters with the Anthropocene

Lynch’s Return and the creature feature as art film

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (3), 355–373.

Abstract

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) departs from the series’s origins as a detective thriller/primetime soap pastiche to reveal the sf creature feature lurking in its DNA. In The Return’s most celebrated hour, Lynch ventures deeper into experimental filmmaking by soaring into a recreation of the first atomic test at Alamogordo, now commonly cited as the Anthropocene’s origin date. Following the blast, Lynch introduces a creature feature backstory for the entire series via three indelible creatures: the blackened human-hybrid Woodsmen; the winged frogs that enter the mouths of their sleeping prey; and BOB, the series’s original villain. My essay examines how Twin Peaks has transitioned from being, in part, a show about a forest that needs protecting to an art film about a universe reeling in the aftermath of human-made ecological imbalance - a permanent rift that even the most determined authority figures (local law enforcement, the military, the FBI and other government agencies) can’t hope to remedy or comprehend. I also analyse how Lynch’s disruptive avant-garde filmmaking in The Return resists didacticism in favour of providing visceral and ambiguous ways to engage environmental crises.

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Henderson, Kevin