This was a while ago, but I did take video art classes from PERPETRATOR director/writer Jennifer Reeder back in my college days. She wouldn’t know me from Adam now — I’m simply noting it out of a sense of responsibility. She’s a great teacher who now teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and I will never forget screening my first extremely personal and intensely overworked short video piece in her class, which one fellow student exclaimed after viewing it: “That gave me a migraine.”

I also saw PERPETRATOR at the Chicago premiere, with a ton of the crew in the audience, as well as with a post-film Q&A between the always awesome Katie Rife and Reeder, so I can’t deny that the entire audience was completely on-board for what they were about to see.

I will try to keep this short and succinct for once, because this is one of those rare films that I feel requires a second viewing, but it’s rolling out on screens this week and I want to boost it!

Director/writer/auteur Jennifer Reeder loves genre conventions, but is also firmly ensconced in experimental works. Her prior feature — KNIVES AND SKIN — is very much about teen girls and high school and cliques and being pursued, but also embraces how these girls get to know their bodies and everything that entails, including how others view and abuse them, and she films all of this through a teen haze; events happen around and to you and they don’t often make sense, but you just roll with it because you don’t know any better. While it shares a lot of DNA from TWIN PEAKS, it is still its own thing.

PERPETRATOR follows in the same vein, but it’s far, far bloodier, far more disturbing, and features far more orifices than her prior film. It’s disturbing, certainly, but it does what I think horror does best: detailing the confusion of body and personality transformation but also how folks simply adjust and accept or reject it. While it is fundamentally a narrative genre feature, it is not afraid of diverging into more surreal and nebulous areas.

I know I’m not doing the film justice with this post. (I will circle back with a later post detailing the rest of the cast and crew!) Hell, I may even be misrepresenting it; it’s that kind of film. I’m a huge fan of her and still I went into this film knowing nothing about it and I’d suggest doing the same. It’s a shocking, provocative, singular film that feels like nothing else out there.

Nonetheless, here’s the trailer, and if you have a SHUDDER subscription, you can watch it there soon, or if you live in NYC or LA or Chicago, you can catch it on the big screen, which is really how you should see some of the puckering.

Angelo Badalamenti (1937-2022)

If the works of David Lynch have taught us anything, it’s that those who have passed will live long in our memories and, sadly, composer Angelo Badalamenti will now only exist in that realm.

I’ve thought and mused a lot about TWIN PEAKS over the past few years, for reasons anyone can probably suss out, but I feel like I failed to give due attention to how much work Badalamenti does to buoy Lynch. Yes, there’s Laura Palmer’s iconic theme, and of course Audrey’s dance, but I find his score for FIRE WALK WITH ME to be far more resonant and brutal, The Pink Room (NSFW) in particular.

His influence cannot be overstated. He provided an enlightened soundtrack for scores of dreamy and broken and fucked-up individuals, and he will be missed.


The crux of TWIN PEAKS is Laura Palmer’s death, a death due to a family and town that let her down, that turned a blind eye, that didn’t reach out. LAURA’S GHOST: WOMEN SPEAK ABOUT TWIN PEAKS is a collection of essays and interviews about women who have worked on, or been affected or influenced by TWIN PEAKS, conceptualized by, interviewed by, and collected by Courtenay Stallings.

It’s primarily focused on the film prequel, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, as well as Jennifer Lynch’s gut-punch of a novel THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER (which created the foundation that would become TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME), but there’s plenty of discussion about the original series, as well as TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN.

While it does feature interviews and discussions with Sheryl Lee, Jennifer Lynch, Grace Zabriskie, and Sabrina S. Sutherland (Lynch’s “right-hand woman”, to use Stalling’s own words), the bulk of the book is focused on those involved in the fandom of TWIN PEAKS. Not all of the interviews are about relating to Laura’s sexual abuse and incest, but several women certainly do share their experiences, and most interviews and pieces note how Laura helped them process their own trauma and abuse. Especially noteworthy is film essayist Willow Catelyn Maclay’s piece, NORTHERN STAR but they’re all worth your time.

It’s a fantastic and insightful collected work that may change how you perceive the series, or may have you nodding your head and commiserating over shared trauma, or perhaps both.

I highly suggest purchasing it via media writer Matt Zoller Seitz’s online bookstore. He’s a fantastic booster of intelligent, non-CIS-white dude pieces on film and TV — I wouldn’t have heard about this book if it weren’t for him — plus, you get a signed copy.


Predictably, I’m a big TWIN PEAKS fan, and have seen the entirety of the series and FIRE WALK WITH ME several times over, although I was a relative late-comer to the series. (I’m old enough that, when I was first watching them, it was via renting them through two-episode VHS tapes from the Hollywood Video two blocks away from my first Chicago apartment.)

The prior times I’ve seen the film, I’ve found it to be profoundly unpleasant, cruel and mostly unnecessary from a story perspective, but did believe it to be an artistic, auteur marvel. (There will be no specific spoilers in this piece regarding the series or the film, apart from Laura Palmer’s death and the fact that she was heavily traumatized so, if you haven’t seen any of it, don’t worry.)

If you haven’t seen it, FIRE WALK WITH ME scrutinizes the intense week prior to Laura Palmer’s death, the launchpad for the TV series. It doesn’t include much more than that — if you’ve seen the initial season and half of the second — there’s little you don’t already know, but director David Lynch leans into a hard-R rating intensity that is tonally brutal and bleak when compared to the original show.

When I saw it in early September 2021 — the fourth or maybe fifth time I’d seen it, but the first time I saw a projected 35mm print of it and, wow oh wow, the colors and contrast really popped and to be slightly overwhelming — I finally found it to be necessary. It’s still profoundly unpleasant — even more than I remember — but I realized it’s Lynch feeling like he did Laura wrong with the TV show, his show which reinvigorated the ‘Dead Girl’ genre. (See Alice Bolin’s essay regarding TWIN PEAKS here and Bolin’s subsequent, insightful book on the subject, DEAD GIRLS: ESSAYS ON SURVIVING AN AMERICAN OBSESSION.)

As Bolin notes regarding Twin Peaks and the ‘Dead Girl’ genre in general: “[the] Dead Girl is not a ‘character’ in the show, but rather, the memory of her is.” While the show itself actively tried to demystify and complicate the idyllic memory that the residents of Twin Peaks had of Laura Palmer, it never quite succeeded in that regard, thanks to some languid plotting and how most of the details of her life prior to her murder were kept from the general townspeoples’ eyes. FIRE WALK WITH ME corrects that.

With FIRE WALK WITH ME, we live with Laura Palmer for the entirety of the film, and we are seated front-and-center to see the amount of abuse and trauma she’s had to endure, to witness her terrible and numbing coping mechanisms, and to well-up at her wilted attempts to reach out to those close to her. While Lynch unrelentingly puts Laura through the wringer, it’s to finally give Laura a voice, a scream, for her to be more than just a dead girl, to be more than a prop that sets off a number of soapy narrative devices. It’s the character profile she deserved, while also being an examination of how men take and take, and how folks often avert their eyes to exploitation and abuse.

I’ll confess that, due to watching a fully sold-out screening of FIRE WALK WITH ME while fretting about contracting a case of breakthrough COVID-19, I wondered why the hell I was attending a screening of a film that’s so focused on trauma and abuse, followed up by a Q&A with Sheryl Lee, Laura Palmer herself. The film made me feel dirty enough that the prospect of a post-film Q&A with the actor who clearly had to endure and inhabit an extraordinarily difficult performance felt cruel. However, one of the first things Lee asked of the audience was:

“How many of you out there just saw this for the first time?”

From my estimate, ~15% of the audience raised their hands, and I knew one of the people seated behind me definitely had never seen it, because 1) they said so and 2) declared that it was way darker than they expected and 3) did not want to leave because 4) they spent a lot on their tickets and 5) wanted to hear what Lee had to say, despite the dude clearly wanting to further their initial date by getting a bite to eat afterwards and 6) who asks someone out to FIRE WALK WITH ME as an initial date?!

Lee then said: “I wish I could give you all a hug!” and I realized she knew what she was getting into, and is well-versed with managing it. A lot of the Q&A circled back to simply being an actor and rolling with Lynch and his scripts. In other words: you show up and you do the work and trust the director and live with what’s on the screen.

Lastly, this screening reminded me that I picked up a copy of Courtenay Stallings’s LAURA’S GHOST: WOMEN SPEAK ABOUT TWIN PEAKS from media writer Matt Zoller Seitz’s bookstore and while I have yet to read it — it’s top in my queue — given Seitz’s quality taste, I feel secure in recommending it.