Published on February 22nd, 2018 | by Richard Gary0
Inoperable stars scream queen Danielle Harris, who is stuck in a bizarre time loop trying to figure out why she’s in the worst hospital ever.
Danielle Harris, one of the top of the current scream queens, is very diminutive in stature but equally big in style and is the star of this film. She plays Amy in this play on the time looping Groundhog Day theme from hell that also has just a shade of Grave Encounters (especially the sequel). Mixing the events of a day stuck in the middle of a traffic jam with continually waking up in a hospital of the damned, she slowly starts to put pieces together. Every time Amy awakens-like-the-Force, the scenarios change drastically, such as either not being seen by those around her to her being attacked by them. We (and she) quickly learn that the staff running the place has no compulsion on using scalpels, drugs, or electro-shock “therapy.”
With each reoccurrence, the violence gets more severe (and usually in close-up), either to her or those she views around her. As all this is happening, the well-chosen and presciently named Hurricane Sybil is looming in on her locus, centered in Tampa Bay, Florida. One constant is the blonde woman who wanders the hall sloooowly (Crystal Cordero), popping in and out at will.
In one incarnation, she meets a cop named Ryan (Jeff Denton) and the dressed to the nines Jen (Katie Keene), who are also the prey part of the repetition, as well as giving Amy some chance to work out what is going on (and for the audience as exposition, as well). They suspect that there are a series of timelines that are being affected by the hurricane having done something to an army base experiment. Honestly, it’s not very clear and seems farfetched, but so what. It’s what is going on in this story that is germane more than why.
To keep if further interesting, the time shifting progressively happens faster each time, so there is no reason to feel the same-old-same-old, even with the repetition. Speaking of the temporal, I was wondering when it was supposed to take place. For example, Amy has a flip phone and the computers are all desktop and the monitors are cathode tubed with the big backs. Honestly, the flat screen televisions in the hall that keep us all updated about the hurricane’s location feels a bit achromatic to the rest of the technology, even if their images look more analog signal than HD digital.
All these different time scenarios give the chance to present the audience with increasing levels and reasons for gore since characters can be sliced and diced more than once, so that’s not a bad thing, right? And why is all this happening?
This film plays with one of my favourite devices of speculating how much is in the mind and how much is in the reality of the characters. From early on, I had a theory of what was going on, and the reasons for it. I was about 90 percent wrong, I’m happy to say, and that says a lot about the film.
Of course the cast is strong, as most of its players have a long list of credits. But there are some other aspects of the film worth noting. For example, the camera and dolly work is superb, and of special note is the editing. Working in the repetitions by seamlessly cutting out the recurring actions though editing is a good way to support of the story without annoying the audience. There is also a lot of motion in the physical sense as well, as we watch Amy do a lot of running down long hospital hallways. I was exhausted just watching her.
The gore is thick and rich throughout, including (but not exclusively) by use of needles, surgical saws, and scalpels. Add the psychological twists and turns and it’s a pretty full package. There is also a very subtle and dark humour that occasionally pops up, such as a comment Amy makes upon waking up for the umpteenth time (I’m not going to give it away). There were a couple of moments here and there, though, where I thought the film lagged a bit, mostly around phone calls. Mostly, though, it’s a pretty taut thriller and the cast is certainly up for that. Harris and Keene (most of the time saddled with some horrendous shoes) are – err – keen for the task, and both have their moments to shine, throughout.
There are also the rare plot holes, and certainly I have a few, but one of the nice things about this kind of story is that because of the overlapping and forever shifting timelines, it’s easy to lose and explain away the holes in the different directions. This is only the director’s second feature (the first being non-horror), and Christopher Lawrence Chapman handles it exceedingly well for such a complex story. That’s pretty exciting.