A young woman wakes up in a seemingly evacuated hospital with a hurricane approaching that has awakened malevolent forces inside. She realizes she must escape the hospital before the hurricane passes, or she will be trapped there forever.
December 1st, 2017
Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Christopher Lawrence Chapman
With several weeks between this review and my last few – I can say with great assurance, that Inoperable was not a great way to jump back into the fray.
Written and directed by Christopher Lawrence Chapman, his Groundhog Day-esque horror film has some solid pieces within, but overall – where it really counts – the film doesn’t work.
Amy (horror icon Danielle Harris of the Halloween franchise) wakes up in a hospital room, discovers that a massive hurricane is on track to basically destroy Florida and must then try to find anyone else in this seemingly deserted hospital, while simultaneously trying to discover a way out. As she runs into the same people over and over again – who all seem to not have her best interests in mind – she’ll keep waking up in the same hospital bed. She must take what she learns each time around and get closer to escape.
Let me get some of the good things out on the table, before I dig deeper and really gore the film and its many, many problems.
The bloody make-up and gore effects are all pretty solid. Disembowelings, cut throats and plenty of other damage with a scalpel – all look pretty seamless. The splatter make-up won “Best Effects” at this year’s HorrorQuest Film Festival. Every time some additional grotesquerie (is that a word? well it is now) appeared, I found myself feeling pleased with this make-up work.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the camerawork present in the film. Many of the technical components worked (the hospital location/sets were awesome), even if they were putting in some serious overtime to find a path beyond a very boring script and mostly lackluster performances.
The same can be said for the score from Jonathan Price – which is pretty good – but it also feels like it’s trying to mask the fact that the film is sorely lacking in suspense or drive.
But even with some creative and fun editing choices (the continuity between each new incarnation – is quite good) – the film is unable to engage. It’s basically one big chase scene – with Harris doing a lot of running and little else (there’s almost zero character development or character history offered here).
There’s also a shot in the film’s final moments (expect the usual “big reveal”) which seems to be a call-out/tribute to Harris’ final moment in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It’s a welcome little Easter egg, if said “big reveal” weren’t so boring. I’m thinking of a similar ending in the far superior Identity from several years back.
I know for a fact that Harris can do good work. Her early performances in the Halloween franchise and in so many other varied examples through the years, prove that she is a good actress. But I cannot say the same about her performance in Inoperable. Admittedly, the script gives her little to run with (aside from the constant “chase-scene” running mentioned above), but it all feels terribly phoned in. Of note, her plainly bored line delivery of “mother-fucker” (shouldn’t that be the most fun line to deliver?) when she awakens in her hospital bed for the umpteenth time – certainly illustrates this point. It’s no surprise that her best moments come in her few scenes with fellow actress, Katie Keene.
Speaking of Keene, the best acting work in the film comes from her; in the role of Jen – one of the other “aware” characters in the hospital with Amy. Again, Keene’s not given much in the script to go off (no one is), but she is able to produce real tears, authentic reactions to the horror around her and appropriate responses to the pain inflicted upon her character.
As for the rest of the cast – the supporting actors are really dreadful. Wooden line deliveries and inauthentic choices found me rolling my eyes, if not full-on cringing (not in a good way) during several moments in the film. The worst of the worst performances? Well, it’s a toss-up between Philip Schene as the hospital’s psychiatrist and one of the ever-present nurses (Cher Hubsher).
With the mention of Hubsher, I can address the fact that so much of the dialogue is absolutely dreadful. And in the hands of better actors, perhaps it could have squeaked by.
One of the very first lines of dialogue from Hubsher’s character goes something like, “We’ve immediately got to evacuate now.” Even with the horrific redundancy of the line, a better actor would have simply delivered the dialogue like this, “We’ve immediately got to evacuate… Now!” Bad dialogue can be overcome, but not in this case.
But the real doozy? When describing the power of the hurricane, one of the other characters says, “It’s the T-Rex of hurricanes.” No. Just no.
Thankfully, this concept hasn’t been completely beaten to a bloody pulp. And this type of film is not easy to do. It’s nice to see the horror genre taking a whack at the Groundhog Day idea. But there is a fine art to something which wholly revolves around “repetition”. Despite this central conceit – your film can’t actually feel repetitive. Does that make sense?
Repetition – if the central characters are really engulfed in a journey, learning more about their circumstance and about themselves, as each new episode gets underway… that’s exciting and interesting and unique.
If your repetition does nothing but feel uninspired and boring (as is the case here), or can offer nothing more than a meandering story – then you’re sunk.
I hate (love) to use a film’s title against it, but Inoperable – while not a terminal case (there are nuggets of good ideas here) – quite simply, I can’t offer a positive prognosis.
With “meh” performances (aside from Keene) and zero suspense – the good things (effects, camerawork) can’t overcome what is clearly a DOA (dead on arrival) horror effort.
Call in the priest for the last rites, ‘cause Inoperable won’t last long.
The film is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on December 1st, 2017.