That Bradley King's debut Time Lapse half-succeeds is a small miracle. There's an awful lot going against it. The production values are on the distractingly cheap side. The sparse interior sets seem uninhabited; the guns and baseball bats appear to be made of plastic; and the face on a supposedly charred corpse resembles an overgrown Tootsie Pop with wax lips.
The main actors, Matt O'Leary (as a failing painter), Danielle Panabaker (as his frustrated girlfriend/roommate), and George Finn (as their other roommate, a luckless gambler), have their stellar moments but more often register as sheepish or overwrought. The plot -- the trio discover that their dead neighbor's photography machine is targeted at their apartment and can take pictures of events 24 hours before they occur, which, naturally, changes their lives first for the better and then for the worse — is clever but teeters dangerously close to incoherence.
But Time Lapse achieves an aura that is rather new to the horror genre, that of torpid tension. Because the characters rely on the photographs to map out their lives, they can't escape their claustrophobic dwelling, and so their doomed solemnity lends the film an often flesh-crawling dread. The inevitable sexual tension between the three tenants is handled with relish. And King has a knack for inventive head-injury scenarios: In the best sequence, a man about to throttle another with the claw-end of a hammer is knocked out with a crystal ball.