There are many time travel stories – with heroes zipping back and forth through time – from the H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine, to more modern comedic tales like Back to the Future, but most of these time travel stories have one thing in common: some sort of device that propels our characters through time, whether it be a steampunk-looking chair, a DeLorean, or Police call box. Such is not the case with Time Trap.
What sets apart Mark Dennis and Ben Foster’s film Time Trap from other movies of the genre is the fact that there are no gorgeously tricked out Victorian chairs or snazzy DeLoreans to aid our heroes, instead it’s some kind of anomaly in the space-time continuum that is located inside a strange cave system. This allows for the interesting twist of the protagonists not realizing what is going on as they learn of the cave’s mysterious qualities along with the audience.
The movie opens with archeologist Professor Hopper (Andrew Wilson) trying to find a pair of Hippies who, while looking for the Fountain of Youth, went missing back in the 60s – an archeologist hunting for missing Hippies seems odd at first until we later learn of Hopper’s personal connection – but when Hopper turns up missing as well, after heading to explore a strange cave, his two teaching assistants Taylor (Reiley McClendon) and Jackie (Brianne Howey) decide to load up a four-by-four and go all “In Search Of” for their missing prof. For some reason this involves bringing Taylor’s friend Cara (Cassidy Gifford) – apparently her dad has the truck they need – and even more inexplicably they bring along a pair of tweens: Veeves (Olivia Draguicevich) and her annoying friend Furby (Max Wright). I’m not sure where in America this movie takes place, but they must have fairly loose child endangerment laws.
When the group discovers the rusted-out hulk of a van, one that clearly belonged to the missing Hippies, they follow a rope that leads from the van to a large cave. Leaving Furby behind with a walkie-talkie – what they expected this kid to do if things were to go south is never made clear – the group then head deep into the cave system where they immediately run into trouble. After climbing down into a massive cavern, they find themselves trapped when the ropes they were using suddenly break – as if cut – but things get even worse for our heroes when they eventually find the broken body of poor Furby at the bottom of a rock shaft. A dark twist that I didn’t expect to happen.
It’s the discovering of Furby’s GoPro that starts to clue us in on the nature of the cave, for even though it seemed that our gang spent about a thirty minutes in the cave the footage on Furby’s camera shows that he’d been waiting for their return for days. It’s Taylor who finally clues into the problem – when he concludes that the light flickering on and off at top of the cave shaft is the sun rising and setting – that time inside the cave is moving at a much slower rate than on the surface. When one of the group climbs the shaft – with the hopes of calling for help – she finds the wooded forests that they left a little while ago now gone and replaced by a post-apocalyptic hellscape.
With Time Trap, Mark Dennis and Ben Foster have created a taught and thrilling science fiction/mystery – one that constantly ratchets up the tension as our heroes slowly unravel the secrets of the cave – and raising such horrifying questions as; What does one do after discovering millenniums have been flying by while you were trapped in a cave? Could the legend of The Fountain of Youth be based on time displacement, and how can that help? And if they are in some kind of “Land of the Lost” scenario, could there be other inhabitants still wandering around the cave, and if so, are they friendly?
This film was billed as a “sci-fi time travel adventure” and it certainly hits all the criteria to qualify as such. With its barely ninety minute running time, the story just rockets along at almost break neck speeds – with one character actually getting a broken neck – while tension mounts as their situation becomes ever more precarious. The one thing I took away from this movie was the incredible sense of dread that directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster manage to build up as time goes by – quite quickly and quite literally – as we, the viewer, start to wonder if there can ever be a happy ending for this poor group.
Time Trap was originally to be in the “found footage” genre – everyone having a mounted GoPro of some sort is a testament to that – but I’m glad they decided to go the traditional route as it gave this group of young actors a bit more room to play around. I also have to point out that having 90% of the movie taking place inside a cave – with only the odd special effects shot – has to make this one of the more frugally budgeted time travel movies ever made.
We’ve had great stories dealing with the concept of time travel – Predestination being an especially fun mind-bending ride – but here with Time Trap, there is nobody worrying about the Grandfather Paradox; instead, they are on a bullet train to the future with only the hope of getting out alive. This is a wonderful low budget sci-fi adventure film that completely slipped under my radar, and if it somehow got by you as well, I highly recommend you track this baby down.