Directed by: Jacob Leighton Burns
Run time: 85 minutes
The Lowdown: Shifter is quite possibly one of the most enigmatic time travel thrillers you’re likely to ever see.
Hailing from writer-director Jacob Leighton Burns, the film follows Theresa (Nicole Fancher), a painfully shy introvert who happens to be a brilliant scientist, who just may have built a functional time machine in her secluded barn.
Theresa spends most of her free time in that barn, conducting experiments and taking notes. When she does venture out into the real world, her encounters are so awkward and stilted that most people dismiss her as weird or crazy or both.
During one particularly uncomfortable sequence, Theresa agrees to go on a date with a longtime friend that she hasn’t seen in years, only to discover that he’s basically a douchebag who tried to hide his wedding band before he walked into the restaurant to meet her.
As soon as she escapes the botched date, she goes home and experiments on herself, time traveling two hours into the past and spies on the douchebag from afar, which is how she learns that he is married.
The problem with time travel, as everyone who has ever seen a movie about time travel knows, is that there are consequences.
For Theresa, those consequences manifest in extreme instability at a cellular level, meaning every time she takes a trip, she creates a new version of herself. Meanwhile, the original version disintegrates in what appears to be a horribly painful way.
Burns does a great job at certain points showing how Theresa’s body is fighting against the catastrophic effects of her scientific curiosity, and none are better than an extended sequence inside a movie theater that culminates with media reports of an unknown “melting girl” on the loose.
I personally wish Burns had leaned more into the fantastic elements of his story and spent time explaining more about the machine and how exactly Theresa built it. There’s a lot of information missing here that might have helped make for a smoother, more enjoyable viewing experience.
Overall, Shifter plays much better as a character study of awkwardness and brilliance and how two such disparate qualities can wreak havoc inside a person who isn’t strong enough to take the wheel and control her own narrative.
Fancher does a wonderful job making you believe that she’s almost incapable of having a normal human conversation. The problem is that Theresa is the protagonist, which means the entire film is propped up by the assumption that audiences are going to relate to her as an individual as well as her plight in trying to bend science to her will.
Unfortunately, even when Theresa takes a shine to another awkward soul, the wonderfully quirky Blake (Ashley Mandanas), she can’t slip past her own insecurity long enough to create a real connection.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes
Nudity – No
Gore – Minimal
Drug use – No
Bad Guys/Killers – There’s not really a bad guy, per se
Buy/Rent – Rent it
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Limbo (Uncork’d Entertainment, 90 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Sometimes, even when a movie isn’t the best you’ve ever seen, it stars actors that you have always enjoyed, and that makes the medicine go down much easier.
Limbo, the latest thriller from writer-director Mark Young, is yet another take on the classic push-pull struggle between good and evil, Heaven and Hell, and all that jazz.
Genre icon Lew Temple plays Jimmy Boyle, a low-level hooligan who murders a pawn shop owner and gets shot in the back by another employee.
Jimmy wakes up in a seedy office that looks like it was pulled straight out of a pulpy Mickey Spillane novel. Jimmy has no memory of who he is or why he’s there.
The cocky guy sitting across the desk from him is Balthazar (Lucian Charles Collier), a prosecutor with the Department of Perspicacity (look it up, I did) who tells Jimmy he’s dead, he killed a woman and he needs to sign a form acknowledging guilt for his actions.
Not so fast, says Cassiel (Scottie Thompson), a defense attorney with Clemency and Exculpation. She tells Jimmy that he’s basically on trial for his sins, but a higher authority believes that the sum of his mortal existence might outweigh the atrocity that caused his demise.
Like What Dreams May Come and a host of other movies that imagine a great hereafter where each soul gets judged before its final destination is determined, Limbo doesn’t hide its cards. You know where this is going to go, and you have a good idea of what’s going to be the end result.
The reason you keep watching is because of Temple and other great actors who show up, like James Purefoy and Veronica Cartwright (The Birds, Alien) as the store owner that Jimmy killed.
The reason I kept with it is because I happen to be a Young fan, and have been since he wrote and directed 2017’s fantastic Feral, a great hybrid of two horror genres, contagion and slasher, that often don’t get to play together.