Directed by Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Inoperable works best at its most ambiguous – when a quantum-time-paradox-altering hurricane traps Danielle Harris inside a purgatory-esque hospital – before even further complications are introduced (and yes, my opening statement is intended to be as ridiculous as it sounds). This movie is bonkers from the first “reset.” A little Late Shift, a little Before I Fall. Director Christopher Lawrence Chapman sets out to fry your synapses for some 70ish minutes as history beguilingly repeats itself with increasingly gory regards. That I can accept. But a minutes-long finale that attempts to rewire the preceding eighty? It’s a miracle we’re able to stay with Chapman that long – but luck, as often happens, is pushed a reboot too far.
Ms. Harris stars as Amy Barrett, a hospital patient who comes-to as a hurricane rocks the Bay General facility. Staff is scarce and a message urges evacuation, but Amy quickly realizes worse powers may be at work. Orderlies ignore her, a pastor wanders the hallways, screams reverberate – and then she gets a nosebleed that sends her back to square one. Same room, same clothes. This time she meets cop Ryan (Jeff Denton) and party girl Jen (Katie Keene). As the trio sets out for answers, what’s discovered is – in summation – savage weather opened a government-bred time paradox rift where anyone can only leave the hospital as they entered (Ryan and Jen together, Amy alone), and every time they die with the storm overhead (hospital staff experiment on their patients), hell starts anew.
You thought you hated hospitals already? Try staying in one where the doctors have turned to mad scientists, harvesting organs from donors who just reappear after dying. SHHHH. It makes sense.
Or, like, it kind of makes sense?
It doesn’t make sense – f*#k it.
In the suspended reality of a Twilight Zone like realm, Inoperable can be appreciated for pursuing ambitious story angles. None of them with scientific backing – and hilariously explained by rambling characters better represented as homeless doomsday soothsayers – but sure, we’ll take Ryan frantically blabbering about conservation levity, quantum particle labs and paradoxical time anomalies out of absolutely nowhere. Much like how we immediately get started with Amy’s realization that things are most certainly not alright, from doctors ripping intestines out of conscious men to stab-happy nurses. It’s all blissfully random and rather batty – space/time altering hurricanes typically reserved for SYFY loglines – but not without hysterical intrigue, admitted.
To no shock, Harris is a big reason for any kind of draw – but that’s not to overshadow her co-stars Jeff Denton and Katie Keene. The three of them, forced to play dumb while also contemplating the vast mysteries of paradoxical loopage; running for their lives from treatment professionals with dastardly intent. Tortured, sliced and sedated against their will, each of them portraying correct amounts of limitless questioning mixed with necessary fear. Harris a veteran of the genre, capable of carrying scenes that feature nothing more than an echoey hallway with a flickering overhead light. Together, this trio picks each other’s brains (both figuratively and physically) with passable survival chemistry when not hindered by the unexplained weirdness going on – which, unfortunately, happens more than we’d like.
Chapman, alongside co-writer Jeff Miller, loses what genre goodwill is established during a finale so wholly unnecessary and full of convolution. One of those “Oh, you thought shit was weird before? Get ready for this twist!” kind of rearrangements where nothing was what it appeared to be – if you even had a clue – with even less context. Amy’s sister coming into play, imagination running rampant, psychiatric puzzle pieces falling (everywhere but) into place, and a whole bunch of exposition we didn’t need. Commit to being the crazy horror flick that never wants to make sense and cut your losses! Any balance between nutzo mayhem and soul-searching levity just a bit too forced and heavily lopsided.
That, in a nutshell, is what makes Inoperable merely an excessive exercise in challenging story perceptions and not a more involved manipulation of deathly consequences akin to Happy Death Day. It begs you not to worry about details and just enjoy the ride out of convenience – then flips a last-minute tonal switch. Fun until becoming a chore, when logic is outright torched. A few deliciously queasy moments of spilled inerts, some zany ideas, but Christopher Lawrence Chapman ultimately gets lost in his own tangled web of plotted ridiculousness. Few explanations, hyper conceptualization, and an ending that just doesn’t stick. Do not watch unless you’re willing to pay attention – and even then, good luck.
Whatever goodwill Inoperable earns by asserting its own terms is ultimately squandered come the film’s even-more-convoluted finale. A twisty exploration at first, but sustainability is not Christopher Lawrence Chapman’s friend.