Warning: This post contains some spoilers for Twin Peaks throughout the whole of the piece. I HIGHLY recommend watching the show before reading the post, because I don’t want to ruin the Twin Peaks experience for anyone.
I will always remember the first time I saw the following scene when I first watched Twin Peaks. I was physically shaken. Does that sound wimpy? Probably. But I don’t care. In that very moment, I was utterly terrified and disturbed. As someone who has literally seen hundreds of horror movies and has been incredibly desensitized to all forms of scary activity, this I was just as shocked as I was scared that I was even feeling anything during this shot. After this, I remember closing my laptop and needing to go for a walk to clear my mind of this unpleasant imagery.
Now. Enough talk. Let me just post the shot that I am talking about.
Now, this is the scene in question, and while I assume most of you have seen the show, some of you have definitely ignored my spoiler warning. So I am going to give a little bit of background to who this character is, or, at least, what we knew about him at this point in the story.
This disheveled, canadian tuxedo wearing, nightmare is BOB, a supernatural being who has murdered a young girl named Laura Palmer in the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington. BOB is unhinged, acting more like an animal than a man, and has only been experienced by the female members of Laura’s family who appear to have some kind of psychic ability. Aside from this, we know nothing about BOB, aside from his name, his crimes, and that he is some kind of malevolent presence that exists within Twin Peaks.
BOB is crawling towards Maddie, Laura’s cousin and look alike, who has come to Twin Peaks to help take care of Laura’s grief stricken parents. Maddie revealed earlier in the show that she always had a psychic bond to Laura, unintentionally cluing viewers into the fact that she has the potential to see BOB too.
The genius of this shot doesn’t just lie in the shot itself, but other moments throughout the episode leading up to it. This shot takes place near the end of the episode and throughout said episode, Director and Co-Creator of the show, David Lynch had been using several perspective shots throughout the episode, sometimes even including characters arms or hands in the shots to further the immersion. This seems to be a psychological trick by Lynch, as he slowly builds to this moment in the episode, which delivers.
This slow buildup is matched by the immersive elements of the shot itself. The eye level view of Maddie, as she experiences this shot, is matched by her “blinking” when the screen fades out and then back in. This “blinking” also serves as a source of visual disconnect/anxiety as during every blink, BOB moves slightly faster than his original speed, which seems physically impossible.
The set itself plays a role in making this shot even more intense, as a lamp and a chair line both sides of the screen forcing viewers to focus only on the advancing BOB, and giving them little visual information to focus on around him. The set also establishes the layers of depth in the shot. The couch in the very middle of the couch serves as a clear definer of the foreground, midground and background of the image.
This couch also seems to be a sort of shield from BOB, a barrier between us and the malevolent spirit, making the scene all the more terrifying as BOB climbs over this barrier and advances on the us with increased speed.
The shot is also jarring due to the sudden juxtaposition of it in terms of the episode. This moment in the series happens just after Maddie’s new friends, James and Donna, stepped aside for a moment to discuss something, so there was no real reason to assume that BOB would show up, as there were people just in the other room.
I could go on and on about this shot. But frankly, I don’t know if I need to. The fact that a single shot, broken up only by moments of blackness, could cause such a level of unrest and anxiety within me, was simply amazing. This shot speaks true to Lynch’s amazing control to manipulate viewers and their emotions. This shot has no grotesque imagery, no jump scares, and no real conventions of classic or contemporary horror. Strictly through shot composition, blocking, and previous buildup throughout the episode was Lynch able to create such a nightmarish experience within this one shot. And it was this very scene that took my love for this show, and my appreciation for Lynch’s immense talents to new levels, at least, it took them there after I calmed down.