Zalman King's Two Moon Junction is Twin Peaks' Dirty Secret
Did you know that Twin Peaks was actually inspired by an erotic thriller from 1988 called Two Moon Junction? Neither did I, and do you know why? Because I made it up. But I'm so 100% dead cert’ convinced that Lynch/Frost saw Two Moon Junction as a tonal launch pad for Twin Peaks.
Their plots are totally different, but between the camerawork, soundtrack callbacks, the lighting of the trees, and the smoky tiled dreaminess, you’d swear they inhabit the same universe; they’re both carved out of a weird flux of daytime TV pulp that’s been repurposed for nighttime. Where Twin Peaks uses murder, Two Moon Junction uses sex to heighten the high of drama for all those not asleep at 1 am.
The plot orbits April (Sherilyn Fenn) who, as upper class eggshell-white debutante, is getting ready to marry into another rich family. She has a chance encounter at the travelling fair that comes into town and meets America's Michael Hutchence lookalike Perry (Richard Tyson) who, as a rough n' buff, blue collar carnie tempts her lust and stokes the fires of her underburning dissatisfaction with her life.
Sherilyn Fenn is the most obvious connection between the two. As Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks, her sexuality is tied tight to her character; it's powerful but also tinged with regret. However, as April DeLongpre (I know, right?) in Two Moon Junction, she’s frothing – practically bursting over, dying to smash the dissatisfaction of her debutante life and live in the instant. The sensual applebite of travelling carnie Richard Tyson as his hedonism frays and scrapes. There’s a few times where we see the band of circus folks that Richard travels with and it feels very Twin Peaks. Theyre the oddballs in the serious. The weird vessels that inhabit the world that just sits on the edge of non-reality, their unsettled strange life juxatposed to the upper-class caste lifestyle of April. Little hints of polarity.
Tonally, Two Moon Junction practically sets the plate for Twin Peaks to come. The cinematography is awash with lush tree greens and power reds. Night exterior shots of a wooden house framed by underlit trees and the sounds of chirping crickets could easily be mistaken for a side shot of The Great Nothern Hotel. The sheriff fishing by the lake in his tan uniform with his wooden tackle box could just as easily be Harry Truman and Andy, chewing over new evidence. The menacing size of trucks and cranks of the engine and fire reflected in the metal doors, night shots of motorbikes and the fire-red hue of the taillights as it speeds of furiously into the darkness, car headlight in the forest at night, passengers faces and dresses lit as the engine is left running. VCRs playing back versions of themselves, echoing the Soap Drama. Its operators outside, eschewing the drama, framing themselves in the mystery. The camera becomes its own character, as it follows nearby characters, investigating whatever is lurking in the other room. Its strong cinematography, direction and style will make all those residual Twin Peaks synapses in your brain pop like embers in a dying fire.
Even the soundtrack is married perfectly in the film and deep embedded into its identity. Two Moon Junctions is a bit more Channel 5 sex-guitar racy, but nonetheless exciting. When it does share some Badalamenti moments, it’s undeniable – mysterious keys and glistening horns aid to add the dot to the question mark. It blends sensuality and personal curiosity into a pulpy rural Americana jazz-noir sensibility. Hell, the opening orchestral song’s last few notes sound exactly like a part of Laura's Theme from Twin Peaks. The first time I watched it, I was convinced I was being fucked with at every turn.
The most standout scene though, which feels undeniably Fire Walk With Me, comes halfway through the film. April, Perry and circus drifter Patti are all sitting in a wood paneled bar afterhours in a roller rink – low lights, cigarette smoke swirling, neon Budweiser signs and locals playing pool. They’re seeking respite after a fight at the fair, which lead to Perry's dog gets killed and the three of them being kicked out forever. Perry's playing pool and the girls are talking about banalities, like the colours of their living rooms, all the while finger-tapping jazz song “Trance” by Loria Jonzun starts creeping in. Once the song’s volume has finally encroached, Patti asks April to dance, which she reluctantly does. The two girls dance as shadows, alone on the empty roller rink while the male patrons watch on. Patti, dancing now behind April, speaks to her about Perry.
“Go to him. Ask him to take you a ride on his bike. Nothing but the sound of the engine and the clouds in the sky.”
It cuts to them riding the motorbike through the night and Patti’s voiceover:
“Don’t worry about me, I’m taking a bus outta here. I don’t know where I’m going, but I can’t wait to get there.”
I mean, come the fuck on.
So, thank you Zalman King – not only for giving us not only the best erotic drama of the ‘80s, but indirectly (or directly, I think I’m officially calling you out, David) influencing one of the best TV shows of the ‘90s. It's just our wee secret no longer.