Monday, November 27, 2017

Inoperable: Time Loop Horror

It is yet another storm of the century, but this one might be the real deal. Amy Barrett would know. She keeps reliving the approach of a class five hurricane from a macabre slasher hospital. Time loops get distinctly sinister in Christopher Lawrence Chapman’s Inoperable (trailer here), which opens this Friday in select cities.

One minute, Barrett is stuck in traffic. Then she suddenly wakes up in a hospital bed. At first, it is a disorienting experience, but she will get used to it as it repeats over and over. Initially, the skeleton staff of the mostly evacuated hospital does not seem to notice her, but they will during her next “cycle,” in a violently menacing kind of way. However, unlike other time loops movies, she is not in this by herself. Ryan, a sheriff’s deputy, and Jen, an accident victim, are also fully cognizant of the horrors unfolding around them.

Each time she reconnects with them, they will try to figure out how to escape the madness. Based on the couple’s past experience, Barrett might have a slim advantage over them. Since she entered the loop alone, she can most likely leave alone, but because they came in together, they must also exit together.

Just when we thought the time loop movie had been driven into the ground and left for dead, Chapman figures out a way to breathe new life into the sub-sub-genre—and he manages to do it on a budget that looks like twelve cents. Frankly, it sort of works to his benefit. This has to be the grimmest, grayest, most Spartan hospital you have ever seen, but if you woke up in a bed there, you would want to skedaddle as fast as your feet would carry you. There is a fair amount of gore, but Inoperable is as likely to appeal to fans of science fiction and Twilight Zone-style ironic mind-benders. In any event, Chapman definitely redeems himself for producing and co-starring in the lame ClownTown.

Inoperable’s star Danielle Harris has a genre following, but it is Katie Keene and Jeff Denton, who really elevate it to the next level, as Jen and Ryan. Granted, there is not much time for character development here, especially as Barrett’s cycles accelerate, but they give us the feeling they are more fleshed out than they really are. Frankly, we really want to see them get back together and out of there—and whenever a film inspires a strong response like that, it must be onto something. Harris does not quite connect like they do, but you have to give her credit for keeping the energy level up as she constantly runs down corridors and keels over in cycling convulsions.

Alas, films like this often end in a frustrating, unsatisfying manner, which is particularly true of Inoperable. Nevertheless, it is the ride that matters, not the awkward dismount. Genre fans should be impressed by the extent to which it exceeds expectations. Recommended with surprising enthusiasm, Inoperable opens in limited release this Friday (12/1).