FILM / Two Much: Hollywood has a quiet obsession with twins. John Lyttle considers the similarities

TWINS are great set dressing. That moment of dislocation and disbelief when the single entity first sees double adds instant atmosphere. As when Robert Altman employs female twins (flanking Sissy Spacek, right), glimpsed in a spa, at the start of Three Women (1977) to hint at the picture's theme of female identity fluidly transferred.

And check out Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). The previous hotel caretaker's ghostly, identically dressed daughters hold hands and gaze coldly at little clairvoyant Danny (Danny Lloyd), silent phantoms from a Diane Arbus photograph. The girls provide double the creepiness of Jack Nicholson's manic laugh and axe-wielding antics. Mary Lambert attempts similar spookiness with the appalling Pet Sematary II, except her identically-dressed gruesome twosome become hysterical when confronted with the remains of a litter of savaged kittens. Wimps.

The same insult cannot be levelled at the knife-throwing killer brothers adorning Octopussy (1983): they murder 008 and don't even break into a sweat. While Gremlins II (1990) offers wacky scientist twins (their laboratory is called 'Splice of Life', a play on the name of a US coffee-shop chain) to whom twisted Christopher Lee addresses the apposite remark, 'How's the cloning going?'

(Photograph omitted)