Iteration 16: Repeaters

Yesterday was March 378th 2020, and I marked it by watching a time-loop movie. Repeaters, from 2010, is about three people in a rehab facility who find themselves repeating the same day. While I found the film a little slow (this was very much mumblecore sci-fi), it had an innovation that I’d not seen before. Spoilers follow.

The three main characters are following a 12-step programme. They have reached Step 9 (‘make amends’) and have a day-pass to leave the facility. As the day repeats, Sonia, Kyle and Michael take advantage of this in different ways. At one point, they decide to get high, since they won’t be addicted when they wake the next day. Kyle decides to rob a liquour store, fulfilling his outlaw fantasy, but is shocked when Michael uses the lack of consequences to attack a young woman. Michael has decided to use the repetitions to do what he likes, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Kyle to stop him.

I’ve wondered a few times what would happen if the repeats stopped unexpectedly. In Repeaters, Michael’s rampage stops when he realises it is snowing, and it’s not supposed to snow on the day they are repeating. The three have slipped back into the normal flow of time, leaving Michael with blood on his hands.

The ideas here were interesting and the links between repetition and addiction/recovery were potentially fascinating. I think this film could have done much more with its themes, rather than focussing on the conflict between Kyle and Michael.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration (in film): 9 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 9 minutes
  • Reset point: End of day
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect
  • Exit from the loop: a certain number of repetitions

Iteration 15: Blood Punch

Yesterday was March 377th 2020, and I marked it by watching some more time-loop movies. Blood Punch is another film that appears for free on Amazon Prime. Which tends not to be a mark of quality, but this turned out to be a lot of fun (with some reservations).

This film seems to be a side-project by the cast and crew of a Power Rangers spin-off. It’s a criminals-hiding-out movie, a little like Reservoir Dogs. Skyler gets sent to rehab so she can recruit a meth cook, and seduces chemistry student Milton. After being busted out by Skyler’s psychotic boyfriend Russell, Milton has to survive the next day.

I liked this film a lot and loved watching the double-crosses unwind. However, the script tries to be edgy which means jokes about child abuse, a homophobic slur and repeated uses of the c-word. Spoilers follow.

The start of this film is a little confusing, as it drops into flashback while establishing the loop. The initial sets, supposed to be a rehab center, are obviously cheaply repurposed, but once the film moves to the hunting lodge where most of it is set, things take off. Like Mine Games this was a film that made me want to spend time in the countryside. The cabin here contained a wall full of weapons, which was the most enthusiastic Chekov’s Gun I have seen in ages.

The time-loop scenario here was innovative (although its explanation as an ancient Indian curse felt tiresome). It added to the complexity of the dynamics between the characters, and made for some great comedy. A couple of the twists took me completely by surprise. And this film looks like it was so much fun to make! It looks like it’s was made for fun too, but I am amazed nobody has tried to remake it.

Statistics

  • Reset point: End of day
  • Fidelity of loop: Traces of previous loops remain
  • Exit from the loop: One person survives the day

Iteration 14: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

Yesterday was March 377th 2020, and I marked it by watching some more time-loop movies. I watched this Disney film because it appears on the Wikipedia time loop movie list and it was easy to get hold of. It’s actually an anthology movie, so the story in question is a 15-minute cartoon. Spoilers follow.

The time loop idea here is simplistic – as you’d imagine from a short cartoon. Donald Duck’s nephews pray for Christmas to come every day, and it does, until they are sick of it. The cycle is broken by doing the day perfectly. It included the iteration where they took advantage of the lack of consequences and misbehaved.

I’ve never been much of a fan of Disney films. The cartoons were on TV when I was a kid, but I preferred Warner Brothers, and have no idea why anyone wouldn’t. There is a huge issue with Disney cartoons in the hierarchy of animals. It’s like, Pluto and Goofy are both supposed to be dogs but are very different. In this film, the ducks eat turkey for dinner. What the actual fuck is wrong with them?

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration (in film): 4 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 3 minutes
  • Reset point: going to sleep
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect
  • Exit from the loop: doing Christmas perfectly

Iteration 13: Mine Games

Yesterday was March 377th 2020, and I marked it by watching some more time-loop movies. Mine Games is another horror film. It had a fairly low IMDB score and I expected little, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. Not everything made sense, but it produced a feeling of dread.

A group of young people drive into the woods to stay at a cabin with friends. While exploring the local area they find an abadoned mine, containing a grisly discovery. Spoilers follow.

This film included pretty much every cliche of the cabin-in-the-woods genre. The characters were foolish – not just going into the spooky mine, but also taking hallucinogens there. There was a slightly dodgy use of mental illness, with a character not taking their medication so they could freak out and cause the plot. It wasn’t the most sympathetic portrayal of schizophrenia.

As a time-loop movie, this only just qualified. There was definitely a repetition here, but we only followed one cycle. The time-loop was not helped by an awful denouement that made no sense, and simply seemed to be there to produce a jump scare. I’m allowing this anyway.

While this film was deeply flawed, I enjoyed it. The characters were interesting enough that I could overlook their incompetence in negotiating the horror movie scenarios. The idea of people discovering their own corpses felt horrific, and I also liked when one person refused to help their future self. There are a lot of dodgy films on Amazon Prime, but this turned out to have been worth a watch. And the beuatiful scenery makes me long to stay in a cabin in the midst of a wild forest.

Iteration 12: Game Over

Today is March 377th 2020, and I marked it by watching a time-loop movie. Game Over is another slasher film, but it’s also very different to all the other loops so far.

Watching movies based on an arbitrary link produces an interesting range. This is a 2019 Indian film, originally shot in both Tamil and Telugu before being dubbed into Hindi. Set in Gurgaon, it tells the story of Swapna, a young games designer, and was billed as a home invasion movie. Spoilers follow

This film wasn’t what I expected, not least because the time loops started very late in the movie. Up to then, it told the story of a traumatised woman, dealing with the aftermath of a brutal attack. She goes to have a tattoo, only to learn later that the wrong ink was used. Swapna’s tattoo contains the ashes of a woman who has been murdered.

While the film’s opening few minutes are brutal and shocking, the violence in the rest of the film never felt lingering or sadistic (to me, anyway). More time was spent on Swapna’s life and trauma than on the actual home invasion sequence. I can imagine many people finding this triggering, and while Taapsee Pannu’s portrayal of Swapna was excellent, I didn’t feel that the film had much to say about misogyny and violence. There was also a long sequence about cancer survival, and portrayals of suicide attempts. This movie contained a lot of highly-charged material.

The time loop here was related to video games, with Swapna’s tattoo providing ‘three lives’ in which to try surviving the attacks. Videogames are an obvious structure for time loops, since that is what the character/player in the game perceives when replaying a sequence. While this idea was used for both theme and decoration, the addition of the supernatural element felt a little strange.

It was interesting that the game we see Swapna playing is Pacman. This is the same game that Lisa’s brother plays in Haunter.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration (in film): 10 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 11.5 minutes
  • Reset point: Death
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect
  • Exit from the loop: dying three times or survival

Iteration 11: The Final Girls

Today is March 376th 2020, and I marked it by watching a time-loop movie. This one is another slasher comedy, The Final Girls. While it’s included on wikipedia’s list of time loop films, this film uses a time loop for a joke, rather than being about time loops. However, it just about qualifies under my rules, with the film’s main plot occurring in the final iteration. Spoilers follow

The Final Girls is the story of Max Cartwright, whose late mother acted in Camp Bloodbath, an 80’s slasher film. A fire starts during a late-night showing of the film and, in trying to escape, Max and her friends find themselves somehow inside the movie. The film’s time-loop is confined to a few minutes before Max and friends begin participating in the movie’s storyline.

I’d been planning to watch this film since it came out, without it ever quite reaching the top of my list. It’s fun, if a little cartoonish. It felt like the PG-13 rating held the film back, and it might have benefitted from being a little more violent, a little more like the films it was spoofing.

It was interesting to see the time-loop here as an artefact of recording technology. There was also a good joke about the background music becoming diegetic, and warning the characters of the killer’s approach. This film probably had too many nested flashbacks, but it was fun. “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve dreamed of being the final girl“.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration (in film): 45 seconds
  • Length of second iteration: 45 seconds
  • Reset point: 92 minutes passes (the length of Camp Bloodbath)
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect
  • Exit from the loop: getting in the VW Camper with the characters and continuing the plot

I’ve watched a lot more films set in the real world over the last week than I normally do – and I am thoroughly sick of scenes where people are involved in car crashes mid-conversation. It worked well when I saw it in the Shot Caller recently, but I’ve now seen it several times in quick succession. Keep your eyes on the road!

One thing I’ve not seen a lot of is films inspired by repetition in video games. I think I have a couple of those up next.

Iteration 9: Haunter

Yesterday was March 375th 2020, and I marked it by watching two time-loop movies. The second was Haunter, directed by Vincenzo Natali, who wrote and directed Cube. Spoilers follow.

I’m surprised that slasher time-loops are so common and that this is the first ghost story I’ve seen. I mean, it’s an obvious use for time loops to show a haunting from the ghost’s point of view. Haunter was described in one review as Groundhog Day meets The Others, which is a pretty apt summary.

I liked the film’s opening where Lisa, the main character responds to the repetition with weary resignation. It felt sad and real, and was an interesting response to the time loop.

As the movie went on, I found myself unengaged with it. Like Before I Fall, this a young adult movie, so I’m not the target market. The film seemed slow, and some elements laid it on a little thick. The house was isolated in fog, and Lisa attempts to contact the living with a ouija board. The Pale Man, a serial killer, felt too much of a collection of tropes.

It’s hard to focus on anything wrong with this film. It was well-made and thoughtful, but just didn’t work for me.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration: 7 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 7 minutes
  • Reset point: end of the day
  • Fidelity of loop: eerie imperfections slowly build
  • Exit from the loop: defeating the Pale Man

Iteration 8: Triangle

Today is March 375th 2020, and I marked it by watching a time-loop movie. I’d watched Triangle before, soon after it came out, and it holds up pretty well. It’s a time-loop horror with a incredible turn half way through the film which is given away by the trailer. One of my favourite shots in horror. Spoilers follow.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration: 21 minutes
  • Reset point: leaving the ship (ish)
  • Fidelity of loop: traces of past loops remain
  • Exit from the loop: there is no escape

This film contains a brilliantly-structured series of concurrent loops. Main character Jess takes a day off from caring for her autistic son, setting out on her friend Greg’s yacht Triangle with a group of his friends. The boat runs into an unexpected storm and is capsized. A huge ship, the Aeolus turns up and the survivors board only to find it empty.

I knew that Aeolus was a wind God, but I missed that he was the father of Sisyphus. Fortunately one of the characters pointed this out. They may have been good at trivia but they were unable to escape their grisly fate.

Ships are great settings for horror films! All those long corridors and dark engine rooms! Flurries of seagulls scavenging the corpses! Time loops are also particularly suited for horror and there are several such films to come. Here, the accumulation of loops adds to the dread. This is not my favourite time loop, but it’s probably the best use of the concept so far. It doesn’t make perfect sense, with a couple of things that are done for effect, but this is a good film. The IMDB trailer even suggests a mythical symbolism explaining why this time loop happens.

Improvised masks made from sacks: is it really that easy to keep the eye-holes in place? I guarantee, if I tried to kill people in a slasher film, I’d screw up the mask.

Iteration 7: Happy Death Day 2U

Today is March 374th 2020, and I marked it by watching two time-loop movies. The second was the sequel to Happy Death Day. This was OK, a bit too noisy, and not really interested in being a time-loop film. The first half hour was fun though, with the story swerving all over the place. But maybe it would have been better (and more fitting?) to just watch Happy Death Day again? Spoilers follow.

This film played with the time loop concept, seeing what could be done with it. So we got a scene I’ve not seen before, where one character explains the time loop to another person who is also experiencing it. We got a reference to Sisyphus, just like in Before I Fall. We also had a suicide-reset sequence played as a joke which actually managed to make me laugh.

In this film, we learn that the looping was caused by a machine, which brought the film close to being disqualified (one of the rules I have is that the looper cannot use a machine to enter the loop by choice). This also meant that Tree discovered that the time loop was not because she was special, and was not there to make her a better person. It was interesting to see her grapple with this.

It felt like the last section of the film was using a lot of action and shouting to try to keep the energy going and I found myself flagging. I was also a little bemused that Tree, having found herself in an alternate world where her mother was alive, decided to return to her original universe to be with a guy who’d known her for 24 hours. It wasn’t the most convincing plotting.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration: 7 minutes
  • Reset point: death
  • Fidelity of loop: variable (and the film almost got disqualified)
  • Exit from the loop: macguffin resets the universe

I’m not even close to finished yet. But I have a couple of interesting looking films coming next.

Iteration 6: Premature (2014)

Today is March 373rd 2020, and I marked it by watching a time-loop movie. This one is the teen sex ‘comedy’ Premature. Imagine American Pie mixed with Groundhog Day, but without either film’s charm. Its greatest achievement was provoking a review from the Onion’s AV Club which began:

When you handle shit with gloves, the saying goes, the gloves get shittier, but the shit doesn’t get any glovier. By the same token, if you take the plot of one of the greatest Hollywood comedies of the past quarter-century and cram it full of crass teen humor, it’s not as if the former somehow magically elevates the latter.

It’s even worse than that review makes it sound. To quote another review:

The filmmakers seem not to understand the difference between a social error and sexual assault, which is deeply depressing. In the interests of saving time and spleen, this review shall end here.

Statistics

  • Length of first iteration: 22 minutes
  • Length of second iteration: 8 minutes
  • Reset point: the main character’s orgasm
  • Fidelity of loop: perfect
  • Exit from the loop: going to bed with the right character

There is so much wrong with this film, including racism, transphobia and misogyny. The worst part of it is, the actors all do a pretty good job (apart from, you know, signing on to do it in the first place). People have gone to a lot of effort to make something very bad. It’s so bad that I’m amazed it’s not better.

There was a single laugh-out-loud funny joke involving a car accident. And there was a good moment where the main character became confused about what he’d done on that particular iteration. But, god, everyone involved in this ought to be embarrassed.

At the end of the story, the main character gets together with ‘the right person’ and escapes the loop; but that character deserves something more than being the prize at the end of such a sordid movie. More than most examples, this film draws attention to the problem with time-loop movies: that the loop is so arbitrary, and meaningless beyond its existence within a movie.