Talented emerging filmmaker Antonio Negret makes a big impression with his sophomore feature, Seconds Apart, a beautifully shot tale of telekinetic terror released as part of the 2011 After Dark Film Festival. But handsome cinematography isn't the only thing Negret's expertly crafted film has going for it; George Richards' dexterous screenplay toys masterfully with our perceptions in a way that never comes off as muddled or contrived, twin leads Gary and Edmund Entin make their indistinguishable characters unique by instilling them with revealing mannerisms, and imaginative set pieces help to define the characters while drawing us ever deeper into the elegantly aberrant story.
In short, Seconds Apart finds Negret making good on the promise made by The Hollywood Reporter when they named him one of the "Top 10 Latino Directors to Watch" back in 2008.
The horror begins when telekinetic twins Seth (Gary Entin) and Jonah Trimble (Edmund Entin) use their powers to kill a handful of popular classmates by forcing them to play an involuntary game of Russian roulette. As their gruesome rampage intensifies, tormented detective Lampkin (Orlando Jones) launches a detailed investigation into the murders that quickly points to the twins as the prime suspects. When Detective Lampkin's investigation stalls out due to a frustrating lack of evidence, his lingering grief over losing his wife in a tragic house fire (which also left him horribly burned) finds him sinking into a deep depression. Meanwhile, the sudden appearance of pretty new student Eve (Samantha Droke) starts to drive a psychic wedge between the twins as her presence begins distracting them from the mysterious video "project" they've been working on. After Detective Lampkin witnesses a gruesome "accident" involving Seth and Jonah, he delves into their background and makes a shocking discovery. Just as he unearths a key piece of evidence, however, all hell breaks loose as the twins become locked in a spectacular fight to the death.
Watching Seconds Apart, there's never any doubt that Negret had a distinct vision for the film. That vision is a potent one indeed, and by carefully assembling all the factors that go into the making of an effective thriller, he manages to keep us locked into the story from the twisted opening scene to the nightmarish final moments. The first element we notice is Richards' incisive dialogue -- which accomplishes the rare feat of feeling snappy, concise, and witty without coming off as a cheap imitation of the rapid-fire Kevin Smith/Quentin Tarantino banter. It isn't until later, though, that we begin to recognize Richards' true talents as a storyteller. By introducing the mysterious "project" with a shock right away, dropping subtle hints on what its ultimate goal may be, and then pulling back to paint memorable characters while constructing a compelling, vividly detailed mystery, Richards instills his screenplay with all the components of a riveting page-turner brought to life by disturbing, often surreal imagery. And by externalizing the psychological horror to the point where we begin to question the truth of the images we've seen with our very own eyes, he makes us reluctant to trust everything that comes after, effectively creating a disorienting atmosphere of dread and revulsion that's heightened by Negret and DP Yaron Levy's gruesome yet gorgeous imagery. All of this is held together by Lior Rosner's rich string-based score -- which immediately conjures memories of De Palma and Hitchcock at their creepy best -- and William Yeh's punchy editing, which aids in maintaining the off-kilter tone while making the most of every well-timed shock.
The performances in Seconds Apart are solid all around, with Louis Herthum and Morgana Shaw, in particular, standing out as the twins' overly affectionate, off-kilter parents, and Jones effectively projecting the emotional scars resulting from a trauma that left him physically disfigured as well. Horror fans who have had their fill of torture, slashers, and long-haired ghosts in the past few years should waste no time in seeking out Seconds Apart, because while the basic plotline may be somewhat derivative, the talent involved helps to elevate it well above the typical knock-off.
Seconds Apart on AllMovie
Seconds Apart (2010)