Technical aspects: B
Particular trigger warnings: coerced suicide, self-harm
Passes the Bechdel test: I don’t believe so
Seconds Apart is about a pair of identical twins, Jonah (Edmund Entin) and Seth (Gary Entin), who have a psychic connection with each other that allows them to control people’s minds. The brothers, to put it lightly, do not use this power for good. When they were children they killed their babysitter; as teens, they’re doing a “project” where they force people to kill others or themselves, so the brothers can film them as they die. The people they control rarely seem to have any sense that they’re being controlled, and rarely fight the illusions… instead they seem to believe what they are doing is entirely normal. This “project” is apparently an attempt by Jonah and Seth to experience some emotion that they believe they are incapable of feeling. Their sadistic project is somewhat at odds with what appears to be an idyllic home life in a beautiful house with almost Stepford-esque parents.
Investigating the deaths at the twins’ school is Detective Lampkin (Orlando Jones), a man haunted by memories of the death of his wife in a house fire. The twins frequently prey on these memories, trying to torment the detective.
Meanwhile, a new girl named Eve (Samantha Droke) transfers to the school, and befriends Jonah. This begins to drive a wedge between the brothers, as Jonah becomes more interested in her, and wishes to drop the “project” with Seth.
I don’t want to spoil the pseudo-“twist” to the ending; it’s not the most shocking out there, and doesn’t change a lot about the plot itself, but I enjoyed it and what it showed about the characters.
I really enjoyed this movie, though there are some really valid criticisms. One is that it’s a bit disjointed. That was distracting for my boyfriend when we watched it, though I didn’t notice it much at the time. But just trying to summarize it above, I’m reminded of it when I realize how much I didn’t mention.
I’m not sure how the detective jumps so easily to suspecting the twins. He gets some anecdotal evidence from other students, and they play some conceited mindgames with him, but it still seems like a pretty big jump for him to make.
Some of the “tension” was obviously manufactured, for example with their murder of their babysitter being hinted at several times throughout the film as if it should be a shock when it’s revealed… but because they’ve already been shown killing people, that’s the obvious conclusion, devoid of any real suspense or surprise.
There’s a lot made of the “it” that the brothers hope to feel, but it’s left somewhat to interpretation what “it” is. (Uh… unless I missed it somehow?) It could be fear, as that’s what they believe they should experience at witnessing death, but if they want to feel fear, I’m unsure why they don’t do anything to put themselves in danger. I don’t want to immediately blame poor writing for that – it could be a deliberate choice to leave it to audience interpretation. But honestly, it mostly just leaves me confused more than thoughtful.
The introduction of Eve as the plot device to force the brothers apart is a bit cliché as well… the “woman causes divide between two close male friends/family members” isn’t exactly an original trope, and she didn’t have much characterization outside of that.
But the movie was very well-acted, including the rather surprising choice of Orlando Jones as the detective, and the chemistry between the brothers in particular was wonderful. The “twist” at the end is pretty creepy and well handled, in my opinion. I liked that the individual characters (with the unfortunate exception of Eve) were all quite complex – Detective Lampkin’s personal traumas didn’t feel too overstated, and gave him enough dimension to be interesting, and the twins’ relationship with each other vs. their relationships with the rest of the world contrast really well.
The world of the movie itself felt quite surreal, somehow removed from the real world. It felt fantasy-ish, something like the stylized settings in Willard or even in Edward Scissorhands, possibly because of the Victorian semi-Gothic aesthetics of the film. I enjoyed that, though it might not be to everyone’s liking.
There is less “horror” to the film in some ways. There are some scares in terms of the murders, but much of the horror comes from knowing what the brothers are capable of, not necessarily just what’s happening on screen. There’s a lot more focus on the drama between the characters and suspense. Again, I enjoyed that, but that may be disappointing if you aren’t expecting interpersonal drama and twisted psychology. Objectively this probably wouldn’t get a B+, but that’s what I give it for my personal enjoyment.