When Twin Peaks mesmerized us with its weird mix of mystery, mysticism and Americana in the early ’90s, smartphones didn’t exist. But even if the iPhone had already conquered the world, it’s possible nobody in the small Pacific Northwest town that served as the show’s setting would have owned one.
The forested fantasyland of Twin Peaks was a purposely backward backdrop upon which series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost could project their twisted vision of the darkness that lurks below the wholesome surface of American society. While the show was set in 1989, the small-town setting was a deliberate throwback to ’50s-style innocence, which was quickly shattered by the discovery of a beautiful teen’s corpse.
When Twin Peaks resurfaces in 2016 on Showtime, the cultural landscape will have changed radically from where the series left off a quarter-century ago. What kind of fascinating freak show will Lynch and Frost craft as they bring the show into the digital age?
According to early reports, many of the show’s characters will be catapulted into the present day. In the original series, the wide-eyed local yokels of Twin Peaks are stunned by the murder of a high-school homecoming queen.
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan, who seems to be on board with the new project) comes to the rural Washington town to investigate the crime. He revels in the quaint charms of the seemingly idyllic locale — the cherry pie, the “damn fine cup of coffee,” the goodhearted nature of most Twin Peaks’ residents — and dashes off cryptic audio memos on his handheld microcassette recorder.
With his fancy technology and disturbing, prophetic dreams, Cooper (like the show’s mysterious murderer) represented the intrusion of the outside world into small-town America.
Think how much has changed since Twin Peaks went off the air in 1991: The Internet has become a central part of practically everyone’s lives. Smartphones record nearly every inconsequential event (as well as plenty of significant ones). Rumors, gossip and conspiracy theories flow like thick black coffee from a pot.
There will probably be no anguished games of phone tag as horrific news gets passed around among tearful townsfolk. Nobody will need to head down to the coffee shop to steep themselves in the latest rumors. Presumably there will be no long, slow camera movements that follow a curly telephone cord down to a dropped receiver.
It’s a different time. If Laura Palmer, the famously dead cheerleader who led a secret cocaine- and prostitution-fueled double life, had owned an iPhone, just imagine the selfies she would’ve saved to iCloud.
Turn on the techno-horror
It seems nearly impossible to re-create the sense of mystery and culture clash that made Twin Peaks so original and compelling the first time around. But beyond the challenges of bringing the series into the 21st century, there’s a huge opportunity: Setting Lynch loose in the iPhone era could give us some truly creepy technological horror.
If you’ve seen Eraserhead, you know what Lynch can do with a radiator. Imagine what he could do with an Apple Watch and some brain-raping demonic apps.
While tons of science fiction movies toy with the concept of technology as a creepy intruder in our lives, few truly tap into the surreal possibilities of today’s interconnected society, at least not in any sort of visceral and moving way. To set the bar high, consider the mind-bending technological horrors created by David Cronenberg — truly creepy stuff like Videodrome, eXistenZ and even Dead Ringers, all of which take technology to surreal extremes in the service of weirdly imaginative storytelling.
With Lynch committed to directing (and co-writing, with Frost) all nine episodes of the resurrected Twin Peaks, we could be in for a similarly bizarre take on modern culture.
Couple the subject matter with the rapid response time of fan forums and Twitter — where Twin Peaks freaks will comb over every nuance of the new show — as well as cable television’s resurgent role as the preeminent medium for adult storytelling, and you’ve got a recipe for some intense entertainment that could get us all buzzing just as surely as the blackest cup of joe.
Laura Palmer promised she’d be back in 25 years, and reviving the cult classic at precisely that time is totally audacious. David Lynch might hate the idea of watching a movie on an iPhone, but hardly anybody “thinks different” quite like him: It could prove mind-blowing when he brings Twin Peaks into the smartphone era.