Directed by Jose Cassella (2009)
Reviewed by Jeff, added on Jun 28 2009
Lora and Ashley are twin sisters (both played by Juliet Reeves) who have grown apart. Lora has moved away to the city and has earned a prestigious position at a university, while Ashley is waiting tables in a diner back in their hometown. The sisters haven't spoken for years but Lora has suddenly been stricken with visions and dreams of Ashley. In the visions, Ashley seems badly hurt and is pleading for help. When Ashley doesn't answer Lora's repeated phone calls, Lora heads back to their hometown to look for her missing twin.
I must admit, Lora's character grated on me at first, but I eventually came around and was rooting for her in the final third of the film. Ms. Reeves can't quite sell the wide range of emotions required by the role but she succeeds more often than she fails. Bolstering the Lora/Ashley characters is the performance of Haley Boyle, a young actress who portrays the twins as children in several flashback sequences. There's a particular flashback scene where the young Lora finally stands up to her abusive father. She gives dear old dad what he's got coming and then casually takes a sip of iced tea. I wish that shot would have lingered for a couple more seconds!
For me, perhaps strangely, the real star of the film was Greg Thompson as Barry Kane, a businessman from Lora and Ashley's hometown. Barry is suffering from a severe case of tinnitus, a near-constant, painful ringing in his ears. Barry wears bright yellow earplugs at all times to cope. He's been to the doctor and has tried medication but it doesn't seem to help. Barry's character is just wonderful. He's got a stressful job that's pulling him in a million different directions, his wife is a nagging harpy and his teenage daughter refuses to pay him simple deferences like keeping her music down to spare his suffering ears. The guy is just so ground-down and put-upon. It all comes through in the performance, he's constantly dissheveled, always touching his ears and struggling for any respite, however fleeting.
It becomes apparent nearly right away that Barry had something to do with Ashley's disappearance. He had flirted with Ashley at her diner and the two had a fling that went bad. Lora's visions of her sister lead her to cross paths with Barry and the film builds toward a final confrontation between them.
Writer/director Jose Cassella has done a great job here, Second Coming doesn't look cheap or amateurish. The bar is really being raised for indie films in terms of their technical construction. Filmmakers like Cassella are demonstrating that a low-budget film can look just as good as a mainstream theatrical release. No, maybe the acting isn't Oscar-caliber nor are there any eye-popping action sequences, but the general look of the film is great. I applaud the craftsmanship on display here.
Is this a horror film? Not straight down the line, no. It's more like a supernatural thriller, light on the supernatural. We see Lora's visions of a ghastly version of her sister, and these vary in effectiveness. A couple of times the Ashley apparition is twitching around like a poor man's Samara, and those scenes fall a bit flat. Other times, though, like one particular scene on a deserted nighttime road, the apparition looks truly spooky and strikes a perfect note. A friendly suggestion to filmmakers doing modern ghost stories: Your ghosts don't all need to have a case of the spazzes.
In addition to the Barry character, there are a small handful of moments that, taken together, sold me on this movie. I've mentioned a couple, such as the flashback with the iced tea. Another such moment is definitely the ending of the film. It's not a crazy twist but the climax did catch me off-guard and I really love where they went with it.
Weaknesses in the film are the usual: Some wooden acting, some sluggishness in the plot (you'll noodle out most of the story early on) and the aforementioned twitchy ghost. Those are minor quibbles, though; I think Second Coming is definitely worth a look and Jose Cassella is someone to keep an eye on in the future.