Blending the single location claustrophobia of Rear Window with the obligatory genre twists and turns of Saw and its ilk – and all with a sci-fi twist – Time Lapse offers an interesting take on sci-fi storytelling that gets back to the basics of the genre itself without pretending to be anything more than it is: a competent B-movie thriller.
In a small apartment complex somewhere in the USA, Finn, a struggling artist, attempts to overcome the creative block that has left him unable to put paintbrush to canvas. Living with his girlfriend Callie and their gambling-addict friend Jasper, Finn also acts as the manager of the apartment complex: a sleepy residence patrolled by a lone security guard where nothing of any interest ever seems to happen. However, when one of the tenants lets two months pass without paying for rent, Callie goes over to investigate.
Finding the place deserted, she soon discovers that one of the bedrooms houses a strange array of electrical equipment, scientific equations and a series of photographs which all appear to show her own apartment’s living room, as seen from the baffling piece of technology which takes centre stage in this peculiar, forgotten laboratory. But something is off – the photos don’t quite make sense. The machine, it would appear, is a camera and this camera takes photos of the future. As the three friends realise the full potential of the machine they conspire to use it to their advantage, allowing Jasper to place winning bets based on information he sends to himself from the future. Finn, meanwhile, discovers that the photos fortuitously capture the completed works of art he has been struggling to create. Soon enough, however, outside parties become aware of the camera’s abilities and want in on the action. More troubling are the photos themselves, which begin to show the hidden secrets kept between the three friends as each strive to utilise the machine for their own benefit. With the central conceit in place, Time Lapse announces itself as a sci-fi thriller set to keep you on your toes and guessing until those final credits roll.
As a genre piece Time Lapse plays most elements by the book, but does so with a level of style and confidence that makes its execution all the more charming and admirable even if overall, it isn’t wholly original. Elsewhere, the film benefits from its interesting use of cinematography and playful lighting scheme (in which exaggerated, almost nightmarish colours suggest emotional atmosphere rather than realism), although its clearly low-budget limitations did grate with this reviewer on a few occasions. Whilst its best not to pull at the thread of the film’s implementation and use of time travel in all of its mind-boggling intricacies and apparent paradoxes, Time Lapse makes a good cinematic outing for those looking for a cheap genre fix.