Out of Time (2021)

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday, Chauncey….

I have never heard of a crowd-funded Indian film before.  In fact, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of an independent Indian film, either.

Nor is Out of Time much like any Indian film I’ve ever seen: for starters, it is remarkably short — a brisk Ninety minutes — for a market whose films typically run much closer to Three hours.

Then there is the curious lack of song and dance numbers.  There isn’t even a musical interlude (although there is an intermission, which I believe may be required by Indian law).  Instead, all we get is a creepy and effective score that sounds a lot like it came out of a Western horror film.

And that really is the impression Out of Time does give at first glance, that it is a moody, atmospheric, science fiction tinged Independent horror film.

Only that isn’t what it is.  Not quite, at least.

After a brief introduction set in 1914, which introduces us to the mysterious Dr. Maxwell and his time machine, we travel to the present where Sameer plans to investigate the Doctor’s deserted mansion because of its connection to his missing father.

He cons a few friends into spending the night there to get a good look at the property.  But something goes very wrong: they find themselves locked inside while someone starts killing them off one by one.

And then it starts all over again.

Despite its crowd funding, Out of Time looks quite good: the old mansion is well done, all grey and dusty, with hints of its decaying glory and boarded up windows.  The interior sets are large enough and varied enough for such a big house.  The exteriors retain the old mansion’s classic lines beneath the decay and looks very creepy.  I get the impression that it might be a model — based on the real house we see fully restored at the end — but, if so, its a large and detailed model which has been added almost seamlessly.

Out of Time threatens to turn into a typical kids trapped in a haunted house with a slasher B-Movie but quickly turns into something stranger.  Time loops make me think of Groundhog Day but it really isn’t much like this film.  Instead I would say it was closer to Time Crimes, or perhaps even more like 2009’s Triangle.

However, it isn’t really much like any of these films, not at its heart.  This is a distinctively Indian — or, more accurately — Hindu science fiction horror film.

Not just because it starts with comments about Karma and the nature of time, but because the idea of time travel this film is built upon is based on Karma.

This leads to a truly strange (if apparently happy) ending which many Western viewers will not understand.  Nor will a lot of die hard science fiction fans be comfortable with it if they do.

I suspect that a lot of us here in the West will also find this ending deeply unjust.  After all, Karma may be based on a conception of justice, but it is very different one from that found in the West.

Ultimately, Out of Time is a trip to familiar genre territory, which detours into other seemingly familiar places before it heads off into somewhere else altogether unknown and unmapped.

Arijit Lahiri, the Director, obviously put a lot of care into creating this film and the end result is Ninety minutes of B-Movie goodness.  It is better than most of the films like it that you’ll find at the video store (if you still have one of those) or the streaming services, better by far than whatever SyFy is showing these days, and it comes with a very different flavor and worldview.

Right now it’s a little hard to find (although Amazon Prime offers it if you have a Topic subscription), but it is worth a look for those of us who love B Science Fiction Movies, horror films, and time loops.

But I’ll warn you: it is subtitled, even if there is a lot of English in it.  And that does mean that SyFy won’t be running it any time soon.

Let’s face it, that’s a shame.  We can always use something a little different.

Just remember that Hindi uses the same word, Kal, for both Yesterday and Tomorrow…

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