"Brothers of the Head" (which, we feel obliged to note in the interests of full disclosure, is being distributed by IFC Films), from directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, is a melange of faux documentary, glam rock nostalgia and gothic narrative that’s remarkably difficult to elucidate. So we’re not going to bother â€” we’re still kind of gobsmacked by Tom and Barry Howe, the tragic conjoined twins at the center of the film, played by real-life non-conjoined twins Harry and Luke Treadaway in their feature debut. Tom and Barry are blue-eyed and beautiful, identical, joined at the chest, and aestheticized and exotified (both by the characters in the film and by the film itself) in as memorable and disquieting a fashion as you could expect from the tragic tale of hot teenage rock ‘n’ roll twins.
And yes, of course they’re destined for disaster, as cinematic conjoined twins inevitably are. In honor of the film, we present the following survey of memorable (and mostly doomed) joined duos:
Margot Kidder plays French-Canadian model Danielle Breton in Brian De Palma‘s Hitchcock homage gone way weird, and in eerie and oddly affecting black and white flashbacks, she also embodies the secret Danielle has been unable to leave behind: Dominique, the twin she wasn’t surgically separated from until early adulthood.
Doomed? Well, there’s always got to be an evil twin, right?
"The Bride With White Hair"
Francis Ng and Elaine Lui play the male and female halves of wicked cult leader Ji Wushuang â€” they’re joined at the back, but this doesn’t seem to interfere with their wire-enhanced fighting ability. Conjoined twins of different genders are an impossibility, but that’s hardly the least plausible aspect of Ronny Yu‘s very fun wuxia film.
Doomed? Clearly â€” they’re the bad guys, and you can’t mess with Brigitte Lin‘s hairstyle of doom.
"Twin Falls Idaho"
Filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish are frighteningly good as Blake and Francis Falls in the brothers’ meditative debut, which manages a tone floating somewhere between melancholy, surreal and wistfully funny. Michele Hicks, who plays the prostitute who enters the brothers’ previously sealed-off lives and romances one of them as the other slowly nears death, is an unfortunate actress, but the Polish brothers are so compelling it’s hard to care.
Doomed? Only halfway, but it’s still pretty damn sad.
Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa), the troubled novelist who’s the focus of Takashi Miike‘s "Box" segment, was once half of a pair of twins in the creepiest carnival act this side of Herk Harvey â€” possibly Siamese twins. Or was she? No, she was. Or was she?
Doomed? Who knows? We doubt Miike does â€” he seems to have tossed this visually arresting, incomprehensible short together just to justify the haunting (but baffling) final image.
Tod Browning cast real (famously so) conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in his controversial 1932 film to play, essentially, themselves. The Hilton sisters were vaudeville and sideshow veterans who’d been trained in singing and dancing from a young age by the woman who’d all but bought them from their mother â€” they’re referenced in "Brothers of the Head" and their lives clearly inspired part of the narrative.
Doomed? Actually, in the film they both prepare to get married (though they also both apparently like the sauce a little too much). In real life, they died of the flu in 1969, after having been abandoned by their manager at a drive-in in North Carolina with no means of transportation or income.