Thursday, May 1, 2014

TIME LAPSE (2014) movie review

Time Lapse (2014) d. Bradley King (USA)

Blocked artist Finn (Matt O’Leary), his devoted girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker), and his layabout pal Jasper (George Finn) are all semi-happily co-habitating, enduring the usual challenges of paying rent and finding fulfillment in their everyday twentysomething lives. But when they discover that their recently deceased housing-complex neighbor has been spying on them with an enormous and strange device that spits out Polaroid photos depicting events 24 hours in the future, their humdrum lives are turned upside down, inside out, and back to front as the desire to exploit their newly found toy slowly, inexorably takes hold.

I’m a sucker for a good time-travel yarn; likewise, the “we’ve suddenly got access to a lot of money, now don’t screw it up” (as seen in A Simple Plan or Goodfellas) plot device usually has potential, so it’s no surprise that Time Lapse worked its storytelling charms on me...for the most part. Co-written by director King and producer BP Cooper, the narrative twists and turns are enjoyably gnarly and grow progressively darker as the trio become increasingly obsessed with the next day’s scene as captured through their living room window.

Not wanting to interfere with the time/space continuum (or, more importantly, the newfound gateway to riches via their uncanny knowledge of the next day’s dog racing program), they find themselves struggling to re-create the image shown, an artifice that fills them with mounting dread as the evening photos reveal increasingly sinister, slowly developing snapshots of doom. The result is a cleverly wrought thriller that keeps viewers guessing at every turn.

The chink in the armor, however, is that our three main characters, while played appealingly enough by the more-than-capable actors, are a shallow lot; as such, it’s difficult to maintain identification and interest as they start and continue to make questionable choices. Without getting into spoiler territory, even though most of the troubled triptych’s behavior is justifiable, even believable within the given circumstances, the fact that most of these actions are motivated by greed, laziness, jealousy, and emotional manipulation makes it hard to, well, care. Panabaker, a likeable genre presence from The Crazies remake, the Friday the 13th remake, Piranha 3DD, and Girls Against Boys, seems especially at sea with her thin character. (The fact that she and Harry Potter’s Emma Watson seem to be turning into the same person only adds to the distraction factor.)

That said, the sci-fi trappings and curiosity factor (“Hmmmm, who is that in the photo with Jasper, and what’s he doing in their living room?”) holds our attention throughout (even if a last-minute plot twist feels tacked on and requires the dreaded flashback montage to explain itself), yielding a slight-but-mostly-effective mind-trip.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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