Tuesday, October 16, 2012

30 Days of Nightmares #20: SECONDS APART (2011)

The Story: Telepathic twins conduct experiments in murder to recover their lost childhood emotions.

Expectations: Twins are a natural subject for horror movies, because they tap into our intuitive fear of doubles (doppelgangers, clones, replicants, etc).  I'm not saying that all twins are inherently creepy, but I am saying that there's something unnatural about seeing two people who look exactly alike.  (Maybe it's not intuition.  Maybe it's just the voices of our mothers, reasuring us that we are all unique... I assume twins hear that mantra twice as often when they are children.)   Hollywood, of course, is quick to exploit any gut reaction.  Tom Tryon's THE OTHER (1972), Brian DePalma's SISTERS (1973) and David Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS (1988) are my favorite examples of the "evil twin" movie.  In these movies, there is always a good twin and a bad twin.  Only one of them can survive.  So what happens when the twins are psychic?  SECONDS APART promises an answer.

Reaction: This film actually has a lot in common with DEAD RINGERS, but that doesn't mean it feels derivative.  Actually, I was impressed by how fresh this movie seemed.  The basic concept isn't original, of course, and there's nothing especially unique or surprising about the way the story unfolds... but the visuals are striking, the editing is sharp, and the dialogue is crisp.  What I really like about this film is the repartee between four main characters: twins Jonah and Seth (played by Edmund and Gary Entin), the love interest who comes between them (Samantha Droke), and the physically and emotionally scarred cop who investigates them (Orlando Jones).  All of these characters have a directness about them that elevates the entire story. 

What occurred to me while watching SECONDS APART was how coy many horror movies are.  Usually, the characters have to go through a fact-finding routine on their way to becoming fully aware of the central conflict.  The audience can see the plot developments coming a mile away (usually because we have the advantage of the filmmaker's omniscient point of view, not to mention indiscreet marketing campaigns), but the characters learn as they go.  We're always one step ahead of them, feeling smarter because we know where they're headed.

In this film, the characters aren't coy.  The twins don't act surprised or indignant when they are accused of murder.  They don't soft-peddle their responses to their school principal or police investigators.  They don't even flinch when a classmate slits her throat in front of them... because they have no apparent conscience.   Likewise, the lead investigator doesn't have to be convinced that the twins are killers.  He doesn't second guess his hunch the way most movie characters would.  He doesn't even wrestle much with the notion that they have supernatural powers.  He cuts to the chase, and promptly engages in a battle of wits.  The love interest -- a potentially tiresome character -- is also compellingly direct.  She's smart.  She says what she means.  She flirts without flirting.  I'm not sure that any of these characters are "realistic," but they were all very interesting to me because of their self-confidence.  With all due respect to the actors for nailing their roles, I must say I'm very curious to see director Antonio Negret tackle another horror movie.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: The twins make their babysitter eat a bowl full of broken glass.

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