Repeaters (Carl Bessai, 2010)
The whole time I was watching Repeaters, though it did not detract from my enjoyment of the film, I kept wondering why Carl Bessai’s name sounded familiar. After the movie, I pulled him up on IMDB and found I’d seen one of his movies previously—Severed: Forest of the Dead, which was a good deal more enjoyable than it had any right to be. The same could be said of Repeaters.
Plot: we open in a rehab clinic, with the usual assortment of idiots, jerks, and the occasional decent person who went wrong. Three of the non-jerks, Kyle Halsted (Slither‘s Dustin Milligan), Sonia Logan (The Haunting in Connecticut‘s Amanda Crew), and Michael Weeks (Crossed‘s Richard de Klerk), have formed a loose bond against the jerk contingent. In the opening sequences, we see everyone in group, and group leader Bob (Benjamin Ratner, returning from Severed) instructs his charges that today is the day they will go out in to the world, find the person they feel they most hurt with their addictions, and beg forgiveness. (Depending on to whom you talk, that’s either step eight or step nine.) The day goes just about as you expect. Kyle attempts to connect with his younger sister Charlotte (Fido‘s Alexia Fast), gets blown off, and is told by his former high school principal to get off the grouns or the cops will be called. Michael heads for jail to see his father (Watchmen‘s John Tench), and it’s good there’s plexiglass between them. Sonia, too, goes to see her dying father (The Core‘s Hrothgar Matthews), and while it’s a bust, it’s still the most successful of the three. They go back to rehab, share their experiences, etc. That night, there’s a nasty electrical storm, and all three of our principals are shocked through various agents. When they wake up the next morning…it’s not the next morning. It’s Wednesday again, and the three of them soon realize that they are reliving the same day over… and over… and over…, and soon they begin exploring the implications.
Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, in that horrible Lifetime Original Movie way. I was thinking the same thing while I was watching it, and was actually half-prepared to give the movie a rotten review based on my being almost certain it was going to go in that direction. It is a credit to Bessai, as well as a testament to how much he grew as a filmmaker in the four years between Severed and Repeaters, that yes, the movie does go in that direction at the end (sorry for the spoiler!), but by that time, Bessai and screenwriter Arne Olsen (All Dogs Go to Heaven 2) have loaded the climax with so much of these three characters’ personal baggage that going in that direction not only makes perfect sense but almost—almost!–doesn’t feel like the crappy, overwrought cliché that it is. I’ll put it this way, it’s not Lifetime Original Movie, it’s at least ABC Movie of the Week back when ABC Movie of the Week actually meant something. Olsen obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about the implications; I certainly can’t say I’ve seen every Groundhog Day-style movie out there, but so many of them play the situation for comic relief that the darker side rarely gets any play. Olsen worked that vein as hard as he could, and he did it well. This isn’t timeless cinema by any means; no one here is a great actor, though all are competent, and Bessai is a fine genre director, but no one will be mistaking him for Bela Tarr or Werner Herzog anytime soon. But if you’re looking for a slick, well-written, satisfying genre flick, you probably overlooked Repeaters the first time around. You should give it a look now. ***