One can't help but wonder what Dr. Josef Mengele might have made of Seconds Apart. The infamous Nazi doctor, noted for his horrifying experiments with no scientific merit whatsoever, had an abiding fascination with twins, whom he prized above all other subjects (save perhaps families of dwarves). The curious connection between the genetically identical, and whether that connection might hold the answer to larger questions about identity and the way it is determined, could have been the subject for a fascinating horror film appreciated by madmen and cineastes alike (actually, it already has, in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers), but unfortunately, that film is not Seconds Apart. Rather than taking a cue from totally insane people and exploring the relationship that these two people share, Seconds uses its two main characters as somewhat peculiar window dressing, and treats them with as much disgust and alienation as the rest of the characters do.
There have been a series of mysterious deaths at an exclusive private high school, and Detective Lampkin (a surprisingly credible Orlando Jones) suspects that everything is not exactly as it first appears. In each case, the physical details suggest a suicide, but have no clear motivation, and they all appear in close proximity to Jonah (Edmund Entin) and Seth (Gary Entin), two biological twins with a complexion that suggests neither has ever been directly exposed to sunlight. Like all good horror movie fiends, their villainy is clear from their fashion sense alone, dressing in colors and speaking in tones that make the rest of their Catholic high school look like a burlesque show. But all is not well between the brothers; thus far, their lives have been defined completely by each other, but as women start to enter the picture (in the most obvious biblical reference in ages a girl named Eve, played by Samantha Droke), their devotion to each other becomes muddled, and the control that each exerted over the other (and their own lives) is tested.
It's not clear from that summary that psychic powers enter the picture, is it? It shouldn't be, because they're in no way relevant to the characters or the relationships that they have with each other (save, of course, for OMG powers). At different points in the film, the two boys display the varying powers of telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, and whatever it would be called when hallucinations are forcibly planted into someone else’s head. Basically, they act as three decades worth of psychic power thrillers (mostly from the work of Stephen King) filtered through the X-Men and regurgitated out as the most obvious image of psychological difference in all of horrordom. Not that the art department doesn’t help out. The two boys have haircuts only marginally less ridiculous than the one sported by evil Peter Parker in Spider-man 3, and they speak in the sort of lilting monotone that nearly all movie twins seem to (just remember the pale two from The Matrix Reloaded and you’ve got the basic idea). They hold hands, and affect virtually every mannerism that they can to simply let you know that they, somehow, are just plain different from you in the way that South Park has suggested that gingers are. If twins had some kind of political organization, it would be decried as stereotypical and demeaning, but since they don’t, we’ll have to settle with lazy and boring.
But it might not strike one so strongly had the film Dead Ringers never been made, but then it’s safe to argue that had that not been made, this wouldn’t have either. Their expressions of fraternal angst could hardly be more different (this mostly has the two guys walking around with video cameras like Wes Bentley in American Beauty, while Cronenberg’s focused a lot more on ‘mutant women’), but their narrative arcs are about as identical as, well, the joke there should be obvious. Twins are weird, but then a woman comes in between them. That sort of thing happens in plenty of movies, but there’s something about the twin angle that seems to give directors free license to amplify everything out to a suitably weird dimension, commensurate with how weird we’re supposed to find the idea of people who look alike. It’s possible that Seconds Apart might have been a stronger film had it focused less on the supernatural, or simply done more with the relationship between the two brothers, but under no apparent circumstances could it have been unnerving in the way it seems to want to be without a page one rewrite, or at least not so forcefully reminding you that X-Men: First Class comes out this week.
The disc contains an audio commentary with director Antonio Negret and actors Gary and Edmund Entin.
"Seconds Apart" is on sale May 24, 2011 and is rated R. Horror. Directed by Antonio Negret. Written by George Richards. Starring Orlando Jones, Edmund Entin, Gary Entin, Samantha Droke.