CULT CORNER: David Lynch-alikes

Satisfy your craving for darkly surreal small-town magic with this list


Can’t get enough David Lynch? Of course not. There’s never enough.

Whether you’re a casual viewer who saw “Blue Velvet” in a film class in college, took in a few episodes of “Twin Peaks” when it was on Netflix for what seemed like forever (until it wasn’t)  or repeatedly watched a dubbed VHS copy of “Eraserhead” while stoned on Saturday nights, the following list has something for everyone.

When you’re in the mood for some darkly surreal small-town magic, look no further:

The world of comics has two of the best options for those desperately seeking Lynch: Daniel Clowes’ “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” (1989-93) and Charles Burns’ “Black Hole” (1995-2005).

“Velvet Glove” follows a bag-eyed you ng man as he wanders the urban landscape searching for a woman he saw in a porno film. Heavy on the surrealism, it was released in 10 installments in Clowes’ “Eightball” comic book and is also available as a standalone collection (trade paperback). Clowes’ graphic novel “Patience” also will scratch that Lynch itch.

Set in the 1970s, “Black Hole” is a coming-of-age story set in Seattle, where a sexually transmitted disease gives its victims varying physical mutations, some easier to hide than others. The disease drives the teens to the fringes of society where it becomes isolating for some and uniting for others. The story’s surrealism doesn’t upend Burns’ portrait of the latter days of teenhood. Similar to “Velvet Glove,” it was released in single issues and also is available in a single volume.

While the Resident Evil video game franchise has contained small nods to Lynch over its lifetime, it’s Silent Hill 2 (2001) and the Alan Wake franchise that nail the experience, tonally speaking. Both games in the Alan Wake series wear the “Twin Peaks” influence on their sleeves.

Much of both games takes place in the fictional town of Bright Falls, Wash., which is nestled in the foothills of pine-covered mountains while bizarre murders and disappearances ensue. There’s even a diner laid out exactly like the Double-R Diner in “Twin Peaks” and a local police station to match. The Wake games take plenty of other cues from Lynch but really hit their stride in the sequel (2023), which sets a new bar for modern survival horror.

Silent Hill 2 leaves the humor and keeps the dark surrealism. A man searching for his wife crashes his car and wanders into the titular town, only to find a woman who looks just like his wife but isn’t (sound familiar, fans of Lost Highway?) and myriad other grotesqueries. A remake of this currently hard-to-find game is set to be released this year.

For those inclined to pick up a book, the work of author Thomas Ligotti is of interest. Head straight to his collection titled “Teatro Grotesco” and read the stories “The Bungalow House” and “Gas Station Carnivals.” There’s a wonderful audio version of “The Bungalow House” available on YouTube that’s read by Ligotti scholar Jon Padgett. Padgett’s own short story collection, “The Secret of Ventriloquism,” also is worth the time of any Lynch-o-phile.

Part of Lynch’s vibe stems from his frequent collaborations with the late composer Angelo Badalementi. While the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack likely rests on the shelves of anyone who’s already made it this far in the column, those folks also will be happy to know (if they don’t already) that “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” and “Twin Peaks: Season Two Music and More” also are available, though the “Mulholland Drive” soundtrack fits snug ly into the same category. Lynch has released multiple solo albums on the Sacred Bones label, as well. For further discovery, check out Spotify’s “Hauntology” playlist.

Finally, how about some actual Lynch? In 2020, Netflix released the short film “What Did Jack Do?” Like most Netflix content, it is now buried beneath gigabytes of non-Lynch content in your recommendations queue. Don’t be afraid to search it up. It’s not only written and directed by the man; he also stars in it.

Thompson, VHS.D, holds a doctorate of cult media in pop culture from University of Maine at Castle Rock. He delivers lectures on movies and other pop culture topics under the moniker Professor VHS. Find him on Instagram as @professorvhs and find more of his work at professorvhs.substack.com.

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