Honestly, how did time loop ‘Groundhog Day’ knockoff horror movies become a genre? It’s pretty much the same thing over and over again. I guess that’s appropriate in an odd way. Unfortunately, unlike the characters trapped in these looping movies, there appears to be no eventual escape for audiences.
The latest entry in this bizarre string of horror flicks is ‘Inoperable’. It’s the same as the others, but also different in that it tosses in a number of other genre cliché plot devices to make things just a little more obnoxious. ‘Silent Hill’, ‘Jacobs Ladder’, ‘Fight Club’, ‘Groundhog Day’… director/co-writer Christopher Lawrence Chapman loves these movies, and they all worm their way into the proceedings in some way.
Horror convention icon Danielle Harris (‘Halloween IV’, ‘Hatchet II’) stars as Amy, a woman who wakes up in a seemingly abandoned hospital. There’s apparently a hurricane nearby that might explain the emptiness, but the more she explores, the more supernatural it seems. The medical staff members she finds appear to be out of control, willing to do disturbing and bloody surgeries without reason. Everyone she encounters seems off, and before you know it, she’s encountering them all again. Because she’s also in a time loop, silly! Why? Something to do with the hurricane hitting a super-secret particle collider at a military base or something. Whatever.
The film is the work of a genre fan tossing a bunch of things he likes from other movies at the wall and hoping some of them stick. That can work well when it’s overt pastiche. Here, it seems like the product of an overactive and unfocused imagination. The movie changes and breaks its own rules at will. For a while, no one can see Amy, and then suddenly they can see her after all when that concept runs out of steam. Things get particularly rough near the end when Chapman can’t decide how to end the movie, so he tosses a half dozen possible endings at the audience instead. The acting doesn’t do much to ease the pain. Supporting performances vary from community theater level semi-competence to Troma Films level amateurism. This thing is a mess.
Thankfully, it’s not without its charms. Chapman might not quite know how to tell a clear or concise story, but he does know how to shoot and pace a horror flick. For a low budget effort, the thing looks damn slick and is dripping with atmosphere. The pace moves at such an intense clip that there almost isn’t enough time to consider all the plot holes and contrivances (“almost” being the key word). The gore is goopy and effective in ways that’ll make horror fans giggle. The perpetually underrated Danielle Harris holds the movie together, even if she’s stuck in a fairly thankless role comprised primarily of teary-eyed panic and leering, long walking shots in various states of undress. There’s fun to be had in ‘Inoperable’ and the folks who made the movie aren’t lacking in talent. It’s just too bad they decided to go down this dreary time loop road again, and littered their script with other ideas that worked far better in previous, superior movies. There’s nothing wrong with fanboy genre filmmaking filled with references to past influences, but it’s important to actually build on those influences in some way, not just cough them back up and take credit.