Director: Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Writer: Christopher Lawrence Chapman, Jeff Miller
Producer: Christopher Lawrence Chapman, Jeff Miller, Giorgio Daveed
Stars: Danielle Harris, Jeff Denton, Katie Keene, Crystal Cordero, Chris Hahn, Philip Schene, Michelle Marin, Cher Hubsher, Jared Gopman, Brittni Amber Lombardo
Inexplicably trapped in a repeating time loop, a young woman must find a way to escape a seemingly sinister hospital.
Amy Barrett found herself stuck in a traffic jam of evacuating cars when a deadly hurricane threatened to drown the Florida coast. Suffering head trauma during a subsequent pileup, Amy now finds herself stuck in a haunting hospital whose skeletal staff seemingly has a sinister agenda.
For unknown reasons she can’t begin to guess, Amy somehow became caught in a nightmarish loop of repeating events bouncing her between the traffic jam and the hospital. Another young woman clutching a stuffed animal shows up in strange places. Doctors and nurses alternately attempt to subject Amy to painful medical procedures or cannot see Amy at all. Details are different with each reset, though scant clues only confuse Amy more.
Pieces of a bigger picture begin falling into place when Amy meets Ryan and Jen, who are trapped in a similar cycle of their own. The hurricane, the hospital, and the shadowy figures stalking its halls have to be connected. And Amy, Ryan, and Jen must uncover that connection if they are to have any hope of returning to reality alive.
“Inoperable” sounds similar to “Happy Death Day” (review here) or “Groundhog Day,” and it is, except Amy isn’t caught in a perfectly repeating pattern. Sometimes Jen and Ryan don’t immediately recognize her. Sometimes Jen and Ryan are in the middle of being murdered. With no consistent ‘rules’ to Amy’s situation, “Inoperable” has a hard time engaging as a mystery because the film focuses on confounding through irrelevant complexity instead of providing pieces a viewer could use to play along.
When “Happy Death Day” arrives at its ending, it comes with an “aha!” wrap-up where you realize how the film cleverly hid clues in plain sight all along. When “Inoperable” unveils its disappointingly dippy twist, a majority of minutes leading up to that point are retroactively revealed to have been a distracting waste of time. The way its mystery unspools, “Happy Death Day’s” frustration becomes fun. With “Inoperable,” it’s just frustrating.
Breadcrumbs littered here and there include oddly timed mentions of mascara and magazine modeling (which actually do come into play later) amidst all of the murder. Ryan and Amy routinely hunt for repeating numbers that might point to a way out. Some claptrap about haywire experiments at a secret research facility adds another log to the “what’s really going on?” fire. Then there are recurring characters like the girl and her stuffed animal who appear with no noticeable rhyme or reason.
“Inoperable” alters everything so often, clues can’t connect to create a satisfyingly mind-bending experience. Red herrings work when they divert attention from something specific. When misdirection exists without a true path somewhere in the middle, all a movie has is ultimately inconsequential noise. “Inoperable” learned the wrong lesson from “Lost” about instilling suspense and made the same mistake of not thinking through its threads beforehand.
The movie makes some of the right moves for a low-budget indie thriller, namely tapping KNB co-founder Robert Kurtzman for FX duty while casting fan-favorite actress Danielle Harris as Amy. The good news for her fans is that Harris features in almost every scene, eating up an ample amount of screen time. The bad news is her engagement with the role leans closer to her disinterested performances in forgotten fare like “Hallows’ Eve” (review here) or “Camp Dread” (review here) than one of the “Hatchet” or “Halloween” movies.
Danielle Harris fans tend to forgive quite a bit when it comes to her B-movies though, and they are required to forgive quite a bit here. “Inoperable” probably looked like an intriguing story in the script stage, but the final film shows the production’s hamstringing limitations.
Nearly none of the amateur actors are believable in their portrayed professions. The man playing a priest seems to have done his research from one “Father Dowling Mysteries” rerun. The person playing the psychiatrist looks like he has never seen a real doctor conduct a therapy session before. Running, of which there is A LOT in this movie, and physical fights are kneecapped by tight hallways and actors inexperienced with stunt work. As a result, many of their movements read like half-speed pantomime.
“Inoperable” undoubtedly does the best it can with what little it has. The large location lends a value that many micro-movies would kill to have as a playground, and a Steadicam that rarely stops gliding puts a pulse into the imagery’s energy. Effort is evident everywhere. “Inoperable” simply can’t sell itself as an immersive fantasy because more than the story asks for suspension of disbelief. The acting, the setting, and nearly everything else asks too, and that kind of demand is more than an average audience can handle.
Review Score: 45