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‘Inoperable’ (review)

Produced and Written by Jeff Miller,
and Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Directed by Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Starring Danielle Harris, Jeff Denton,
Katie Keene, Chris Hahn

 

Genre darling Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 and 5, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Stake Land) stars as Amy, a woman who gets stuck in a traffic jam and then suddenly wakes up in hospital.

Everything at the hospital seems…off.

Then the location turns dangerous. Amy decides to get the hell out, runs around the place getting into scrapes, stepping on hypodermics, etc., until –

She suddenly is back in her car, in the same traffic jam, at the same time as before she woke up in the hospital.

This trajectory repeats itself over and over as Amy tries desperately to seek an explanation – and an escape – before it’s too late.

Yes, it’s the second Groundhog Day-inspired horror film to come out in the past few months. And while the similarly-structured Happy Death Day was a modestly-budgeted film, it had a wide release and became a surprise hit.

Inoperable, on the other hand, is a micro-budgeted affair and is destined to be all but forgotten by year’s end.

I wish that weren’t so, as I always look forward to anything in which Harris appears, and I’m a sucker for time travel/manipulation movies. It’s not the film’s fault it is being released on the heels of Death Day, and I think the Groundhog Day formula can be manipulated and expanded upon in various ways and in different genres (as evidenced by Happy Death Day, a movie I thoroughly enjoyed).

The big problem is that Inoperable just doesn’t make interesting use of the premise and structure it apes, settling for Harris running around the hospital’s hallways ad infinitum, running into sub-sub-Jacob’s Ladder sights and situations, and encountering recurring characters and events that, unlike Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day, feel half-hearted and almost arbitrary.

With this kind of premise, grounding the audience in the repetitive nature of the story, then tweaking it slightly and, gradually, significantly, is truly key. Inoperable seems almost uninterested in audience participation; instead, it appears they just wanted to perfunctorily cover the bare minimum of expected touchstones for this type of story, yet without ensuring comprehension or any sense of urgency in the filmmaking.

For example, Amy doesn’t begin the repetition of her experience after dying or falling asleep, it just seems to happen at a whim (there IS an explanation at some point, but it’s not especially dramatic or illuminating), and the “restart” moments are, for the most part, filmed with all the dynamism of an industrial video. There’s no “I’ve Got You, Babe” from Groundhog Day, no brutal murder from Happy Death Day, just time running out, then back in the traffic jam.

Harris does well under the circumstances, but even her appeal wears thin as we spend an inordinate amount of the film’s running time watching her flit around the hospital over and over, leading to a revelation that would have landed like a lead balloon even at the conclusion of a five-minute short.

Director/co-writer Christopher Lawrence Chapman does try to inject some style into the proceedings here and there, but the overall impression one takes away from this tedious exercise is that Chapman secured a hospital location and quickly wrote a story around it and, beyond the basic premise, never found the right hook – or resolution.

 

Inoperable is now playing in select theaters

 

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