So, here’s a charming little time-traveler based on geometry – a promising sign for any sci-fi film – and the fountain of youth. An unlikely combination, for sure, but in the end, one that makes sense. More so than a tag-line,
Escape to the Future, I can only assume some hapless marketing person coined from a one-sheeter.
Time Trap’s story is simple enough on the surface: a professor has gone missing during a search for a long-lost expedition for the fountain of youth. After some days without hearing from him, a group of his students goes looking for him. They track down his car and follow his tracks into a cave where they get stuck after their climbing ropes disintegrate. After searching for an alternate way out, they find the body of someone in their party who had stuck behind above ground. Apparently, he has fallen into a hidden hole. Rewinding the video in his camera, they find hours’ of footage: The group has been gone for days, even though they just entered the cave half an hour ago.
An intriguing premise, and with a limited budget of a million dollars, one that could have come across as hokey had directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster not shrewdly executed the script. As the group is trapped in the claustrophobic cave, they can see the day-night cycle flying past them through the hole in the ceiling. Is the fountain of youth simply a cave where time has for all intents and purposes stopped?
Very little trickery was required to create this time-lapse effect, but it is implemented in a way that makes it feel grander than it really is. This is assisted by the absolute nightmare of a scenario the students are stuck in – even if you can get out of a time pocket, there is no going back. Time waits for no person. Within a day in the cave, everything and anyone you’ve known and loved has passed.
The cast – led by Brianne Howey, who recently hit it big with Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia – falls in line with the proficiency of those behind the camera. Their characters are panicked, but the performances aren’t over the top like we often see in these types of movies. (Remember Hell Fest? No? OK, let’s just move on.) Crazy and unlikely of a situation as they are in, the actors play it straight. It suitably grounds the story.
As time moves on, as does the world outside. Soon enough – depending on which timeline you follow – one of the students manages to climb up and out, just to find that, no surprise, the world is no more. The only thing that looks to be left in the desert land is the cave and a triangular spaceship hovering miles up in the air.
I’m not going on a spoiler rampage here – this all happens early in the movie. Maybe a bit too early. Time Trap runs for fewer than ninety minutes, but even that seems excessive. Certain scenes exist only as padding for the meat of a story that is a novella trapped in a novel’s body. This may be where the budget came into play – or, as it is, didn’t come into play – and grander ideas were scaled down to filler.
And while time travel movies tend to have A Message, Time Trap never pulls the trigger on its. There’s something in there, but it whimpers out in a banal ending that disregards a chunk of the previous eighty minutes.
Ultimately, we’re talking nitpicks. Time Trap goes down smoothly and manages to stay tense and intriguing through most of its runtime. If you have any interest in this type of high-concept sci-fi, you likely will find Time Trap interesting enough to ignore its shortcoming.
Letterboxd summary: A group of students become trapped inside a mysterious cave where they discover time passes differently underground than on the surface.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|