Sunday, 2 May 2021

Time Trap


Time Trap
USA  2017
Directed by Mark Dennis & Ben Foster
Pad Thai Pictures

Warning: Okay... I tried but no, I’m going to
have to have some slight spoilers in this one
to talk about the premise of the title. I haven’t
seen the trailer but I suspect most of what I
reveal here gets mentioned in that anyway.

Time Trap is a great little sci-fi movie I would probably never have bothered about if it hadn’t been for someone recommending it to me... so thanks very much to Lee, the coolest ticket seller at Enfield Town train station, for giving me the heads up on this one. This one took me completely by surprise because, due to the scant locations and settings, you could tell that this must have been made fairly cheaply and movies which take on ideas of temporal mechanics, as implied by the title, usually need some money pumped into them. However, the end half an hour is probably where most of the big money was spent and, despite this, the film looks great all the way through, just like a big Hollywood production. It takes on a big idea at a small scale but it works beautifully.

Starting on a shot from the interior of a van with a dirt aged window, Hopper (played by Andrew Wilson), accompanied by his dog, opens the van and finds a clue to what he is looking for. An illustrated notebook. He then finds a cave and, looking into the cave he can see the form of a cowboy at the back with a gun pulled on someone around the next corner. Except, the figure is unmoving. He puts this together with knowledge so far hidden from the audience and decides to go back to base to get properly equipped. He’s a professor and he doesn’t want his students to go on his hunt for answers this time around. So his two students grudgingly obey him and the professor goes back off alone to the van and the cave he has discovered. He ties a rope going down to the entrance of one exit and then goes back to the entrance he found earlier. And that’s the last we, or anyone else in the film for that matter, see of him until much later in the story, as he doesn’t return back to the others the next day.

Turns out Hopper was searching for a van full of hippies looking for The Fountain Of Youth in the local mountains, who went missing in the 1970s. The camper van he found was obviously theirs. What the students don’t know, though, is that the hippies were actually Hopper’s parents and young sister. However, the students and their friends... comprising Taylor (played by Reiley McClendon), Cara (Cassidy Gifford), Jackie (Brianne Howey), Veeves (Olivia Draguicevich) and Furby (Max Wright) set off to find Hopper. Most of them go down into the other entrance of the cave and they all get into trouble, especially when they find one of their number, who didn’t go down, dead in the cave. After a while they realise the situation they are in... they have kind of found the Fountain Of Youth (although this is merely an interpretation of the way time plays out in the cavern) and also an actual water source which heals people really well (even dead ones). However, the problem is, the Fountain Of Youth, in this iteration, gets that name from the way that a year outside the cavern goes by in just a few seconds inside the cave. They find this out when one of their number gets back out for half an hour to find a ravaged, post apocalyptic desert of a world with a giant triangular spaceship orbiting. However, to the people in the cavern, she’s only been gone a couple of seconds when she returns.

Worse, there are pre-historic guardians in the cavern, who pretty much want to kill any strangers and, also, a futuristic space guy who may or may not be after them, once one of them has accidentally alerted the beings on the spaceship of their presence ‘out of time’. Okay, that’s enough of the story because I really don’t want to spoil it.

The actors are all pretty good in this, especially since it’s the teenagers of various ages who are the focus of the main thrust of the story here. Good jobs done by all and the caverns are nicely lit and there’s some bright and colourful photography in some of the scenes. Also, the story doesn’t seem to make the huge time travel errors that a lot of studio films do. I thought it did for a minute there but then I realised I was thinking about the way time passes in this movie in the wrong way and realised the exact opposite of what I thought was happening would indeed happen. Yeah, I’m not getting any younger and my brain is easily confused these days.

Another thing I loved about the movie is that it set up, fairly early on, what I thought were two major cliché moments for later on and then completely went against my expectations by not revisiting either. One is the fact that the main protagonists of the film are all quite young and I’d thought they would have to be so, at some point later in the story, one or two of them could come face to face with their older selves. I’m delighted to say, this doesn’t happen.

Secondly, there’s a scene before the teens enter the cave when they do one of those group selfie things that they always seem to do in horror films these days, with the express purpose of revisiting the photo at the end of the movie so you can see how decimated or changed the ‘survivors’ have become in contrast to who they started out as. Again, it was refreshing to see that, not only doesn’t this happen, it wouldn’t actually have meant that much if it had. However, it does make me wonder why I had to waste a few seconds watching a bunch of teens take a selfie but, well, I guess that’s what people do nowadays.

And, yeah, I don’t want to say much more. The score was nice but, alas, unavailable on CD so it’s not like I’ll get to listen to it away from the picture and, the special effects, most of which come to light in the film’s last third, were pretty good too. Nothing too spectacular but certainly holding up next to what other low budget pictures are able to rustle up and the effects shots in this are fairly ambitious in places, it has to be said.

And that’s me done on Time Trap. It’s exactly the kind of high level science fiction concept you would expect to read in a 1950s short story and the directors, cast and crew pull it off surprisingly well. I would definitely buy this as a physical media purchase if I could just find someone willing to ship the DVD to the UK cheaply (which is proving problematic). Definitely one of those neat little movies which should have had more fanfare and marketing than it actually got, I think. 

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