Time Lapse (2014) / Mystery-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for violence, sexuality, some drug content, and language
Running Time: 104 min.
Cast: Matt O'Leary, Danielle Panabaker, George Finn,, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak, David Figlioli, Sharon Maughan
Small role: John Rhys-Davies
Director: Bradley King
Screenplay: Bradley King, B.P. Cooper
Review published June 3, 2015
Time Lapse is a "Twilight Zone" premise, but with enough interesting hooks in its idea to keep you reeled in to its peculiar gimmick for its somewhat lengthy 104-minute duration. That hook is the selling point of the film, because without it, there's not enough to it to satisfy anyone who doesn't buy the premise from the get-go. It's a low-budget, indie endeavor, which practically begs to be remade sometime down the road by a big Hollywood studio, but in the meantime, this little engine could keep you entertained just enough not to mind the occasionally stiff presentation and a few overreaching narrative twists.
Most of the film centers around three main characters. Finn (O'Leary, In Time) is a manager of a modest Los Angeles apartment complex while he spends time with a creative block, as he is a struggling painter who generally finds himself staring at a blank canvas for much of his free time. His bud Jasper (Finn, LOL) jabs at his insecurities often, while Finn's patient girlfriend Callie (Panabaker, Piranha 3DD) seems to be waiting for him to get out of his rut.
When one of the complex's tenants (Davies, The Reef) hasn't been heard from in a week, they investigate to find his gruesome corpse, and one more item that's even more astonishing. The man had in his apartment a large camera that has been taking photos through the living-room window to Finn's apartment, and they're pinned up neatly all up on his wall. They quickly discover that each Polaroid reveals a scene 24 hours in the future, taken at the same time every day. The trio figure out ways to use it to their advantage, but find the blessing is also a curse, as they don't dare deviate from their fate, lest what hideous thing happened to the camera's previous owner also happen to them too.
As I've compared it to the works of Rod Serling, some "Twilight Zone" aficionados will feel more than just a passing resemblance to the classic TV show, as there is an episode (episode 46, for those who want to see it), called, "A Most Unusual Camera", in which a camera is discovered that has the ability to see five minutes into the future, which is then used to place bets on races, and in which the people in the know begin to squabble over what to do with it, to deadly results.
As with most "Twilight Zone" tales, there's a cautionary bent with Time Lapse that's par for the course, as Jasper's penchant for putting money on races soon becomes more of a liability when he wins just a little too much, too soon. They also don't want to give up the 'golden goose' too soon by reporting the dead man's body to the authorities, which further complicates their situation when people come around looking for the guy who seems MIA.
Your brain might go loopy concocting ways that the protagonists could try to get out of the vicious cycle they're trapped into, for fear they'll die if they don't re-enact what's going on in the photo at exactly 8pm the next day. For instance, one might gather that they could easily avoid being trapped into their fate if none of them looks at the latest photograph.
Nevertheless, first time feature co-writer/director King keeps it all moving forward at just enough of a pace that you'll likely not get too bogged down by the loopholes until you've had your fill of the entertainment value at seeing how it all plays out. If you like nifty genre stories that play with conundrums like Oculus and It Follows, but with more of a sci-fi bent, Time Lapse will likely find you two hours in the future looking a bit more entertained than you had before putting it on your television.
©2015 Vince Leo