'Time Lapse': Fantasia Review

Courtesy of SIFF
Modest sci-fi debut makes the most of a simple brain-teasing premise

Their camera sees back to the future

More proof that time travel is a boon for the low-budget filmmaker, Bradley King's Time Lapse turns run-of-the-mill roommate friction into a heated mystery with the aid of a machine that takes snapshots of the near future. Appropriately calibrated to its modest means and benefiting from a well-deployed (if slightly dubious) third-act twist, it should play well on the fest circuit and draw the interest of genre fans on video.

Creatively blocked painter Finn (Matt O'Leary) shares his L.A. bungalow apartment with his roommates, mothering Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and roommate Jasper (George Finn). Supporting himself as the apartment complex's manager, he goes to check up on a tenant and discovers a mysterious, fridge-sized camera pointed at his own living room window. It turns out the tenant has figured out a way to shoot Polaroids that show what will happen there exactly 24 hours after the shutter clicks. The inventor is now dead (a fate resulting from his experiments, it seems), but the device is programmed to automatically take one picture every night.

Cue a mildly head-trippy plot concerning predestination, jealousy, and the possible mutability of reality's timeline. Believing they must enact whatever scene each day's new picture shows them, no matter how troubling it may be, the three housemates grow increasingly at odds even as they figure out ways to use this magic window for monetary and creative gain. (On the financial side, Jasper's sudden talent at the racetrack earns unwanted attention, and threats, from his bookie.)

King wastes little time escalating from minor interpersonal concerns to deeper emotional ones to those that threaten people's lives. His use of just a couple of settings and the film's production values give it the feel of an old-fashioned teleplay. While that would be a complaint in most cases, here it's fitting — a set-up for the movie's final sequence, which could have been penned by Rod Serling for The Twilight Zone.

Production companies: Uncooperative Pictures, Veritas Productions
Cast: Matt O'Leary, Danielle Panabaker, George Finn, John Rhys-Davies, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak
Director: Bradley King
Screenwriters: Bradley King, B.P. Cooper
Producers: B.P. Cooper, Rick Montgomery
Director of photography: Jonathan Wenstrup
Production designer: Traci Hays
Costume designer: Mishka Trachtenberg
Editor: Tom Cross
Music: Andrew Kaiser
Sales: Paradigm
No rating, 103 minutes