"The Twin" redirects familiarity with different familiarity

The Twin (2022)

Families dealing with their trauma should always stay put instead of moving to a creepy old house in the countryside. More importantly, supernatural/psychological chillers need to start bringing it. From director Taneli Mustonen (2016’s “Lake Bodom”), “The Twin” almost gets there. It has all of the standard hallmarks to look like a dead ringer of past haunters, until using said hallmarks as red herrings to become something else that we've still seen many times before. Even as it doesn't entirely hold up to close scrutiny, "The Twin" still shakes out to feel less like a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, thanks to the pathos of Teresa Palmer's performance.

After losing one of their twin boys, Nathan (Tristan Ruggeri), in a car accident and being overwhelmed by their loss, Rachel (Teresa Palmer) and writer husband Anthony (Steven Cree) relocate their family—it’s now just son Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri)—to a former rectory in Finland. At a welcome party for the family, Rachel is approached by local eccentric Helen (Barbara Marten), who tells Rachel that a wish Elliot made has been granted. Sure enough, Elliot starts acting strangely, like playing with an invisible presence and closing his bedroom door on Mom, drawing inappropriate family portraits, and then pretending to be Nathan. What is really going on here?

Taneli Mustonen’s sturdy direction, a handful of creepy moments, and a dedicated, sympathetic lead performance do smooth out the musty familiarity of this material, making “The Twin” more effective than not. Teresa Palmer brings more than enough emotional weight to the role and headspace of Rachel, a former photographer. Barbara Marten (2020’s “The Turning”) also makes exposition feel more natural and forbidding as Helen, although the use of her character later becomes muddled.

If this were one of the first horror movies about twins, creepy houses, suspicious townspeople, and paganism, “The Twin” would be more than fine. The first plot/character revelation isn’t entirely surprising, but writer-director Mustonen and co-writer Aleksi Hyvärinen then redirect our expectations with a ruse, making us think we’re getting one kind of horror story but actually getting another and then another. Then there’s one of those blatant exposition dumps to explain what’s really been happening all along. It becomes one of those movies and, coincidentally, shares a very similar twist with one of next week's horror releases. Feeling like a reverse-engineered horror movie from a family drama about grief and mental illness, "The Twin" isn’t saying anything new, but it’s executed well enough on its own terms to make a decent impact. 

Grade: C +

Shudder is releasing “The Twin” (108 min.) to stream on May 6, 2022.