Saturday, April 23, 2011

In short: Timesweep (1987)

A rather large group of people - members of the local historical society, some college people, a local news lady and her cameraman - goes off to explore a long-closed movie studio before it will be torn down. That's not as good an idea as you'd think. Our protagonists have barely entered when they are already attacked, and their numbers decimated, by someone who is quite a good spear-thrower.

After the first panic has worn off, the group realizes that they can't leave the studio anymore. Every door and window has been barricaded so successfully it just won't open at all. Even when our heroes manage to find a window they can open, they are harassed by an acidic fog that seems to surround the whole building and makes it impossible for them to leave. But the unnatural fog isn't the worst problem they encounter: there are also three-clawed creatures living in mirrors, what looks like space zombies to me, dinosaurs, a mad man in rags and particularly large cockroaches living in the building, and all of them are quite hungry for tasty human flesh.

Obviously, there will also be bickering and shouting and the sudden cooing of love birds. The only chance for the group's survival are the old subway tunnels below the building, but reaching them won't be easy.

As some of you will have already realized, Timesweep, directed by the wonderfully named Dan Diefenderfer, is a prime example of the "people running through a badly lit warehouse and/or corridors"-horror-subgenre. Unlike lesser examples of the species, Timesweep takes place exclusively in a warehouse/empty industrial building/improbably characterless set, with nary a glimpse of sunlight or even pretend-studio-sunlight. The quota of running around in the dark and screaming is filled with true panache, giving a middling cast that is much too large to be good for anything else at least something to do.

Still, I kinda approve of Diefenderfer's work here. Sure, there's not much of a plot, what there is of one is told in a way so roundabout as to be nearly impenetrable, and the explanation for everything that's happening is some complete nonsense about time shifts that makes Erich von Däniken sound rational. However, Diefenderfer is not a friend of filler. Quite the opposite, the director uses every second of his film to show us not only people running and screaming, but has imagined some entertaining things for them to run away from, effectively creating the illusion of a movie in which a lot is happening even though there in fact is not through the awesome power of dinosaurs, space zombies, and other fan favourites. The film has an air of innocent enthusiasm for these probably (I wouldn't know for sure, obviously) very childish elements that makes it impossible for me to dislike it.

As a bonus, Timesweep even includes a funny bit of bad gore now and then, and has a little running gag about the lost London After Midnight that actually made me smile.

I suppose quite a few people will think Timesweep to be irredeemable crap - and they might even be right about it - but it's irredeemable crap whose heart is in the right place (that is, where space zombies and dinosaurs dwell).


No comments: