Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a 1992 American psychological horror film directed by David Lynch and written by Lynch and Robert Engels. The film can be viewed as both prologue and epilogue to the television series Twin Peaks (1990–91), created by Lynch and Mark Frost. The film revolves around the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley) and the last seven days in the life of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a popular high school student in the fictional Washington town of Twin Peaks, of which these two connected murders were the central mysteries of the television series. Additionally, the film’s convoluted narrative references and clarifies Agent Dale Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) fate in the series finale. Thus, the film is often considered a prequel, however, it also has features more typical of a sequel.
Most of the television cast returned for the film, with the notable exceptions of Lara Flynn Boyle who declined to return as Laura’s best friend Donna Hayward (she was replaced by Moira Kelly), and Sherilyn Fenn due to scheduling conflicts. Also, Kyle MacLachlan, who starred as Special Agent Dale Cooper in the TV series, was reluctant to return out of fear of getting typecast, so his presence in the film is smaller than originally planned.
The film opens with Gordon Cole (David Lynch) calling Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) about the mysterious murder of Teresa Banks in the town of Deer Meadow. Cole introduces Chester to his new partner, Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland), and they receive clues from Lil the dancer. While Chet explains most of the clues given by the appearance of Lil to Sam, he does not explain the blue rose. After difficulty with the local police force, Desmond and Stanley eventually view Teresa’s body at a morgue, realizing that her ring is missing and that a letter “T” has been placed under her fingernail. Desmond and Stanley learn about the victim’s recent past from the town residents. Stanley leaves Deer Meadow after he finishes his part in the investigation, while Desmond remains behind. Desmond later vanishes after picking up Teresa’s ring in the trailer park where she lived.
The following day at FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, long-lost Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) re-appears. He questions Dale Cooper’s identity before telling Cole about a meeting he witnessed in a dream. As he explains, we see images of the Man from Another Place, BOB, Mrs. Chalfont, and her grandson. Jeffries begins to scream and disappears as we see shots of electrical lines. Desmond is reported missing and Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is sent to Deer Meadow to investigate his disappearance. He sees the words “Let’s Rock” on the windshield of Desmond’s car. The clues to Teresa Banks’ murder lead to a dead end. Cooper is certain her killer will strike again.
One year later in Twin Peaks, high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) and Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly) return to school. Laura takes cocaine and secretly meets with James Hurley (James Marshall).
After school, Laura talks with Donna about the difference between Hurley and Laura’s actual boyfriend, Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). When Donna questions what it would be like to fall in space, if one would slow down after a while or go faster and faster, Laura replies “Faster and faster. And for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire. And the angels wouldn’t help you because they’ve all gone away.”
Later that day, Laura realizes pages are missing from her secret diary and tells her friend, the agoraphobic Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen), about it. She claims BOB took the pages. Harold tells Laura that BOB is not real. Laura argues that BOB is real and says that he told her that if she doesn’t let him be her, he will kill her. When Harold argues, Laura says “Fire Walk With Me”, her face changing color. Returning to normal and visibly shaken, Laura gives Harold her diary to keep. She leaves, stating she does not know when, or if, she will return.
Meanwhile, Cooper tells fellow agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) he believes the killer will strike again and describes the appearance of who he believes the victim will be. During her Meals on Wheels rounds, Laura sees Mrs. Chalfont (Frances Bay) and her grandson. Chalfont gives Laura a painting, and her grandson informs Laura that the “man behind the mask” is in Laura’s room. Laura runs home, where she sees BOB. After Laura rushes outside in terror, she sees her father, Leland (Ray Wise), emerge from the house. Laura then realises her father could be BOB.
Later that evening, when the Palmer family is about to eat, Leland, upon seeing the half-heart necklace, menaces Laura and questions her about her “lovers.” Looking at her finger, Leland insinuates there is dirt underneath the nail. Later, Leland sits on the edge of his bed and suddenly begins to weep. He goes into his daughter’s bedroom and tells her that he loves her. After he is gone, Laura looks to a picture of an angel on her wall, asking if Leland is really BOB.
Remembering the painting she received from Chalfont that she left on the front lawn, Laura goes outside to get it. After hanging it on her wall, she falls asleep. She dreams about entering the Black Lodge and about a ring. Suddenly Cooper enters the room and we see the Man from Another Place. He tells Cooper that he (the Man from Another Place) is “the arm” and he utters an Indian Whooping sound. The Man from Another Place offers the ring to Laura but Cooper tells her not to take the ring. Laura finds Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) next to her in bed, covered in blood. Annie tells Laura in her diary that “the good Dale” (Cooper) is trapped in the Black Lodge and can’t leave. Laura sees the ring in her hand and is frightened. Hearing the muffled cry of her mother, Laura goes to her bedroom door. She is suddenly in the painting. When she turns she sees herself sleeping peacefully in her bed.
Laura awakens in the morning, and the ring is gone from her hand. Disturbed, she removes the painting from her wall. Meanwhile, Bobby, Leo, and Jacques Renault discuss drug scores. Bobby first phones Leo asking to score more drugs, but Leo hangs up on him. Bobby then calls Jacques at the Roadhouse who agrees to send someone to meet with him in “two days midnight at the sound of sawing wood.”
That evening, Laura is ready to go to the Roadhouse when Donna tells her of her wish to accompany her, but Laura says she’s not invited. As Laura is about to enter the bar, she encounters the Log Lady. Inside the bar, Jacques introduces Laura to two men. The group is about to leave for the Pink Room to have sex, but Donna shows up and wants to come too; impressed by her “audition” kiss, they let her.
In the Pink Room, Laura discusses Teresa Banks’ murder with Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine), mentioning the girl’s hopes of becoming rich by blackmailing someone, then engages in oral sex with the men. Laura is distraught seeing Donna topless and making out with one of the men, and takes her home. The next morning, Laura tells Donna that she doesn’t want Donna to become like her.
Leland arrives, becomes blank faced and has a memory of Ronette and Laura laughing on a bed together. Leland takes Laura to breakfast. On the way there, MIKE (Al Strobel), the one-armed man, shouts madly at Leland from his pick up truck during a traffic jam at the stoplight in town. Mike accuses Leland of stealing corn. He tells Laura “The look on her face when it was opened… There was a stillness like the formica table top.” He shouts at Leland that “the thread will be torn”. Showing Laura the ring, Mike attempts to tell her that her father is BOB but both Leland and Laura scream, preventing her from hearing.
Leland pulls into a gas station parking lot to gather his wits and recalls his affair with Teresa. After having set up a foursome with Teresa’s friends, Leland had fled in fear, discovering that Laura was one of them. This led to Teresa discovering who her “John” really was. Leland was the man she was blackmailing.
Sensing a change in her father’s behaviour, Laura questions him about seeing him on the day she found BOB looking for the diary. Later that night, Laura realizes that the ring she saw was the same one from her dream. Leland remembers killing Teresa.
The next night, Laura and Bobby take cocaine in the woods, and Jacques sends a drug messenger who is the Sherriff’s deputy from Deer Meadow, carrying an enormous amount of cocaine. The messenger takes out a gun intending to kill him, but Bobby shoots him and futilely tries to bury him as Laura laughs, high on drugs.
The following morning, James worries about Laura taking drugs. Leland gives Sarah Palmer valium to sedate her. After she drifts off to an undisturbed sleep, Leland walks into the hallway to turn on the fan. BOB comes through Laura’s window and begins raping her. She realizes that BOB has taken over her father.
The next morning, distraught, she warns Leland to stay away from her. Upset over the realization her father is actually BOB, Laura can’t concentrate at school. Laura later refuses sex with Bobby, and he finally realizes that Laura was using him to get the cocaine. Still caring for Laura and sensing her pain, Bobby gives her his own drugs. The Angel in Laura’s painting disappears.
In the woods. Laura tells James “his Laura” is gone. Screaming that she loves him, Laura runs away from James deeper into the woods. Laura meets Ronette, Jacques, and Leo, and they hold an orgy in Jacques’ cabin as Leland watches from outside. Jacques wants to have hard sex, and ties Laura up. Leland attacks Jacques outside, and Leo flees in panic. Leland takes Laura and Ronette, both bound, to the train car.
Meanwhile, Mike realizes that BOB/Leland is about to kill again and chases after him. As he is tying Laura up a second time, she asks Leland if he is going to kill her. He does not answer. Leland places a mirror in front of her. She screams after seeing her reflection turn into BOB. BOB is real. He tells Laura that he wants her.
Ronette prays. She breaks down stating that she is not ready because she is “dirty”. Suddenly an angel appears in the train car as all actions stop. The angel causes both Ronette and Laura’s hands to become unbound. Hearing Mike outside begging to be let in, Ronette, now free, is able to help him open the door. When Leland sees Ronette trying to let him in, he knocks her unconscious and kicks her out of the train car. Mike is able to use this moment to throw in his ring. Laura, whose hands are also free now, wears the ring, preventing BOB from becoming her. Angered that he can’t be her, BOB kills her as he promised by stabbing her repeatedly.
BOB/Leland places Laura’s body in the lake. As her corpse drifts away, BOB/Leland enters the Black Lodge, where he encounters Mike and the Man from Another Place (who is seated at Mike’s left side as the aforementioned “arm”). They tell BOB that they want all their garmonbozia (“pain and sorrow”). BOB heals Leland’s wound.
Laura’s body washes up on the lake shore where it is found by the Sheriff’s department the following morning. Laura’s spirit later sits in the Black Lodge, and notices Agent Cooper at her side, who has a hand on her shoulder. Laura looks deeply saddened until her angel appears, and she begins to cry, and then laugh. The film ends with Laura’s face in white.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: