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Seconds Apart (2011)
Director: Antonio Negret

review by Max Cairnduff

Seth (Gary Entin) and Jonah (Edmund Entin) are twins. Identical twins, born less than a minute apart they dress alike, brush their teeth in unison in the mornings, and sleep in the same bed facing each other at night. They're in a Catholic high school in the southern US and it's fair to say they're not among the popular kids. Maybe that's for the best, because the film begins with a bunch of the popular kids blowing their own brains out in a game of Russian roulette. A game that Seth and Jonah filmed...

Later, at home, they watch the tape. Their bedroom has a lot of tapes in it. Detective Lampkin (Orlando Jones) is investigating the suicides, but he's not persuaded that's what they really were. The victims had a football game the next day. They'd just ordered pizza. It makes no sense. Soon he suspects the truth. Seth and Jonah can make people do things. In fact, Seth and Jonah can make people do pretty much whatever they want them to.

There's a lot to like in Seconds Apart. Gary and Edmund Entin (real life twins) are delightfully creepy as the brothers. Orlando Jones, better known for his comedy roles, is persuasive in what is to be blunt a fairly clich�d role as a policeman with a tortured past investigating a truth only he can see. Samantha Droke is good too in a less interesting part as Eve, a new girl to the school who likes Jonah the first time she sees him and doesn't realise quite how much Seth might resent Jonah having someone else in his life. Droke takes some fairly thin material and gives it more life than I suspect it had on the page.

The film is visually striking with a nicely off-kilter feel and has a distinctly southern gothic vibe which, while not incredibly subtle, is still enjoyable. The shocks aren't legion, but they're not sparse either, and there's some real interest in the slow reveal of the twin's backstory, what their films are for and what made the twins what they are. I liked too the central conceit of a school where everybody (except new girl Eve) pretty much knows what Seth and Jonah are capable of, but where because of that nobody dares do anything about it. There are problems though.

Firstly, what is it exactly that Seth and Jonah are capable of? The idea is that they have a form of twin telepathy (not telekinesis as a lot of reviews say for some reason). If they hold hands they can make people see whatever they want them to, and make them act on what they see. That's fine, but sometimes they seem able to do more than that. They torture Detective Lampkin using knowledge of his past plucked from his mind, but in another scene they have to use their powers to inflict terrifying visions on a teacher to make him tell them which fellow student told Lampkin what was going on. If they can read Lampkin's mind why can't they read the teacher's?

Similarly, in most scenes it seems they control minds by controlling the victim's perceptions, but with some of their attacks their control appears to be much more direct. It's not that I expect an academic paper on their abilities, but as the film progressed I started to suspect their exact scope varied by the needs of the scene rather than by a consistent internal logic.

The film also suffers from a slight flabbiness in the middle section. Detective Lampkin has nightmares about a house-fire in which he lost his wife, but that entire subplot could be dropped from the film without need for too much rewriting. Seconds Apart is only 89 minutes long, but I'd guess around ten minutes could be shaved off and the result would probably be a better movie.

Despite those criticisms I enjoyed Seconds Apart and I think it's worth catching. It uses a fair number of stock ingredients, but it knows what it's doing with them. It takes itself perhaps a little too seriously but it trusts its audience enough not to need to spell out every detail and it does have atmosphere.

Low budget horror can be a very mixed bag. I've seen enough of it that the very term 'low budget horror' now often fills me with more fear than any amount of zombies, psychopaths and mutants ever could. The reason I still watch it though is films like Seconds Apart. Not perfect movies, not ones that are going to make your top ten list, but films that have made up for a lack of money by a bit of imagination and a bit of care.

Seconds Apart is from the same distributors (After Dark, G2 Pictures in the UK) as Husk (the best scarecrow-horror film I've seen), and the underrated Mulberry Street (re-titled as Zombie Virus On Mulberry Street in the UK, a rather misleading title given the film doesn't actually feature zombies). If you're a horror fan, and if you've read this far you must be; they're worth keeping an eye on.

Seconds Apart



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