"Time Lapse": Sometimes Good Time Travel Twists Happen to Bad Characters Review

What if you had a camera that took pictures that showed what would happen in that exact spot 24 hours in the future? Except, you couldn’t move the camera, so it only took pictures of the same living room occupied by a hipster painter-slash-apartment building manager, his wannabe writer girlfriend and his loser best friend, who does absolutely nothing but gamble on dog racing? Such is the premise of Time Lapse, a low-budget sci-fi thriller that has plenty of potential--not to mention some legitimately chilling moments--but doesn't quite live up to its promise. 

In between fixing tenants' toilets and leaky faucets, Finn (Matt O’Leary) spends every spare moment staring at an empty canvas while he deals with a stubborn creative block that threatens to derail his dreams of being a successful artist. He lives with his girlfriend, Callie (Danielle Panabaker), a waitress who dreams of being a writer, and his good friend Jasper (George Finn), a bad gambler who dreams of being a successful one; Jasper has few notable characteristics apart from his obsession with having more money than he does now, which is little. When the scientist across the way, Mr. Bezzerides, is late on his rent, the trio is enlisted by the landlord to investigate. What they discover is Mr. Bezzerides’ dead body and that aforementioned camera, which has been trained on their living room for weeks as its inventor tinkered with its ability to show the future. Once they get over the creepiness of having been essentially used as guinea pigs and realize what the camera can do, the three of them decide to keep the dead body a secret so that they can utilize the camera for their own personal gain--which for Jasper is telling himself the next day’s race results, and for Finn is showing himself completed paintings that he can then replicate in the present. Afraid to do anything that might alter the future shown by the camera, in case it results in their demise, the trio become slaves to the device--which seems to increasingly enjoy messing with their minds and their relationships by showing them scenes like Callie kissing Jasper behind Finn’s back, or Jasper getting confronted by his sinister bookie, Ivan. The three of them get more and more paranoid and distrustful of each other, until it appears that they have no choice but to destroy the camera--or each other.

Writer-director Bradley King sullies an intriguing premise that provides a refreshing take on the time travel subgenre by populating his film with characters that feel as though they were rejected from the cast of Girls for being too bland--they range from boring (Finn), to more boring (Callie), to just outright annoying (Jasper). The three of them make consistently poor and dangerous choices that have predictably bad results--didn’t Jasper think that his raking in tons of cash from his suddenly flawless betting would look suspicious to his scary bookie at some point? It feels as though King and co-writer BP Cooper devoted so much time to plotting out the twists and turns of the story, which at its best moments feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone crossed with Rear Window, that they then just threw in these barely sketched-out characters as afterthoughts. Fortunately, the film’s ending that provides an appreciated amount of surprise and added complexity to an initially less-than-satisfying climax; even though it still doesn’t quite all add up in my head, it definitely made an impression. Overall, Time Lapse’s originality earns it some forgiveness for its flaws, but one does wonder what could have been if Mr. Bezzerides’ camera had been found by better people. 

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Blu-ray release of Time Lapse includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, two filmmaker commentaries--including one that provides a guide to making an indie film--and deleted scenes with additional commentary.

"Time Lapse" is on sale June 16, 2015 and is not rated. Sci-Fi. Directed by Bradley King. Written by Bradley King, BP Cooper. Starring Danielle Panabaker, George Finn, Matt OLeary.

Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 


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