There are some really fun works of genre about cursed cameras and the prophetic photos they take. There’s that Twilight Zone episode “A Most Unusual Camera” and that early Goosebumps book with the devastatingly awesome title “Say Cheese and Die!” Stephen King took on the concept with his novella “The Sun Dog” and it got stretched out to full length in 2004 with the Thai horror flick Shutter (which I’ve never seen, any good?).
Now entering the ring is Bradley King’s Time Lapse. This clever little chamber play takes typical roommate tension and elevates it into a reality-bending thriller, complete with time paradoxes and enough twists and turns to confuse the most advanced GPS. Driven by a great, young cast, this bad boy is one fun flick that vibes like a 90 minute Twilight Zone episode, with some bursts of the macabre and violence along the way. Time Lapse is a rock solid piece of entertainment.
Aspiring painter Finn (Matt O’Leary, Brick) lives in a small apartment with his girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and best friend Jasper (George Finn). Supporting himself as the apartment complex’s manager, Finn goes to check up on an elderly tenant who’s two months behind on rent. In the old man’s living room he discovers a camera the size of a Prius, aimed directly at his living room window. It turns out this tenant (whose corpse is soon found) is a scientist who’s figured out how to snap photos exactly 24 hours into the future. The camera is programmed to take one Polaroid every night at 8pm, offering a window to the future that the three characters soon realize how to manipulate.
Now Finn can paint the perfect picture. Jasper can score big with his bookie. And Callie can write the poetry she’s always dreamed of. But what they don’t count on quickly begins to haunt them when the camera starts spitting out pictures with futures they don’t agree on. But if they don’t reenact the photos, they’re afraid of winding up like the old man’s corpse. So despite understanding how to manipulate the camera, the three friends are complete slaves to it. I really dug that angle of the story – it raised the tension exponentially. Even when it does work to their advantage (Jasper’s sudden monetary gain), it draws the attention of some unwanted players.
Time Lapse is a taught thriller that builds upon its simple premise swiftly and smartly. It lays down some simple rules as far as the time manipulation goes and never gets tied up in them. This isn’t Primer, folks. The economy of the setting and characters gives it a classic, Hitchcockian feel (think Rope, Rear Window). It’s also interesting to note the complete lack of dependence on technology in the film (aside from one cellphone camera moment). This too adds to the classic feel King has created. There’s also some great moments of dark comedy thrown in at the right moments to relieve the tension.
Sharply directed, well-written, and finely acted, Time Lapse is definitely one to watch out for. It’s been kicking much ass on the festival circuit this year, so here’s hoping for an official release sooner than later.