Other Worlds Austin Review: Time Lapse

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The next time I yell at my roommate for not washing the dishes I'll think of Time Lapse, which recently won the feature audience award at the inaugural Other Worlds Austin science-fiction movie festival. It made me realize that my roommate problems could be a whole lot worse.

The movie's about three twentysomethings with their heads in the clouds -- think The Real World meets a Tales From The Crypt version of Friends. There's Finn (my man Matt O'Leary), the sensitive painter; his doting would-be writer girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker); and gambling addict bad boy Jasper (George Finn).

All appears to be well, at least stable, for our merry band of misfits, until the day Finn -- who's financially supporting himself as the apartment's manager -- goes to check on a mysterious elderly tenant and discovers a large, steampunk-esque camera pointed at his living-room window. He soon discovers that this machine takes Polaroids that show what will happen in the next 24 hours. The body of the tenant is found decomposing in his onsite storage unit.

If the smell wasn't enough for the trio to realize the camera brings its user bad juju then I don't know what is -- maybe some incriminating photos, or a whack over the head with a golf club?

But the unrelenting fear of messing with destiny and, maybe more importantly, the secret sins Finn, Callie and Jasper are trying to hide, chain them to the camera. They believe they must enact the scenes in the Polaroids, however disturbing, and grow increasingly paranoid by doing so. Their paranoia puts them dangerously at odds with one another.

The use of just a few characters who mainly rely on dialogue to move the action forward and a few suffocating settings gives it a feel of a teleplay a la Twilight Zone with a sprinkling of darkly comedic one-liners.

Time Lapse resuscitates a simple, overused premise (one I first encountered as a kid in the Goosebumps episode Say Cheese and Die) by giving Finn, Callie and Jasper emotional depth (some characters more than others). It also keeps the time-travel jargon to a minimum, so the viewer doesn't have to be a physicist to understand what's going on. At the same time, the story underscores our complacent reliance and ignorance about time.

It's obvious from the beginning that things aren't going to work out well for any of the characters, except maybe the camera, whose ominous presence seems to loom over each scene. Still, I picked a side and was rooting for that character up until the last few twisted minutes of the movie.

For those who didn't catch Time Lapse at OWA, the movie's making its way round the festival circuit with an expected U.S. release in March 2015.

'Time Lapse' review

One correction on your review - it's Callie that first finds the camera, not Finn. Without giving away anything, it should be given correctly in your review.