Ethan Walker is a brilliant scientific engineer, though he doesn’t look it with his long fire-hued beard and pot-belly midsection, but Walker, along with his colleague, believe to have accomplished the impossible: teleportation. When Walker decides to try his machine on himself, the realization of something terribly wrong overwhelms him. Walker didn’t invent a teleporter, he accidentally constructed a time machine, sending himself six months into a grim future where his wife and sister have been brutally murdered and he’s the sole prime suspect. The only way to make sense of the future and to solve the crime against him is to travel back to the past multiple times to unravel a sinister plot and stop the murder of those close to him.
To simply and conventionally tagline “Counter Clockwise,” George Moise’s 2015 directorial debut can easily be described as Terry Gilliam meets David Fincher. Part sci-fi thriller part dark comedy, the adventure of Ethan’s misadventures ingeniously signifies a harsh outlook on the saltiness of our predetermined universe while encountering outrageous and weird characters along the time warp. Ethan, no matter what he does or how he does it, has to use the accidental time machine to thwart the brutal death of his wife and sister and while his reasoning sounds fairly comical being the groundwork of what Albert Einstein calls madness, on-screen it’s rather heartbreaking and tragic to see this guy, an everyday looking joe, desperately attempt to deconstruct, from the unsolicited help of his future selves, a dastardly plot that will destroy everything he holds dear.
Penned also by George Moise, based off a story by brother Walter Moise, along with the film’s lead star, Ethan himself, Michael Kopelow, “Counter Clockwise” will change the way critics will perceive time travel storylines by not as a means of zipping back only once to change the forsaken past, but as a respawning Shakespearean tale of tragedy in order to continue to amend a hapless situation. A respawned Super Mario had more luck saving Princess Peach through the thicket of Koopa Troopas and the fire breathing Bowser. Though the character Ethan repeats his voyage, the way “Counter Clockwise” is written doesn’t convolute itself in the repetition, staging clues as a window into beyond the present and generating eerie and problematic, if seriously disturbed, episodes that doesn’t give Ethan a minute from tirelessly being objective. Combine those elements with George Moise’s neurotic direction and the result seizes to capture not only science fiction aficionados, but movie enthusiasts of every category in this genre-breaking feature. From the first moment of the opening scene, a strong familiar inkling of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” washes over you; the subtle hum of machinery, the slow panning from side-to-side, the very soft touch George Moise applies is uncanny and so endearingly respectful that the direction doesn’t feel like an absolute rip of Scott’s 1979 space horror classic.
Kopelow is the centerpiece that glues the story whole. As Ethan, Kopelow’s gentle giant approach is such a stark contrast to the surrounding darkness that has embodied nearly every other location and character, even his lip flapping, hard loving mother. Extreme opposite on the polar spectrum is voice actor Frank Simms as Roman, head of major corporation aiming to steal pioneered technology from Ethan at any cost. Simms’ talent has two settings in this film, hot and cold; his sound binary method works to composite a character so reasonably rational that when Roman snaps, a trickle of pee squeezes out and runs down your leg at his abrupt and menacing counter personality. The rest of the cast follows suit with pinpoint precision on their coinciding characters and even the eccentric cameo performances were otherworldly good from Chris Hampton’s relishing water fountain patron to Marty Vites one-eyed creepy landlord. Ethan’s landed in bizarre world that hums a very familiar tune in Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” while the amount of downbeat content spurs moments of gritty David Fincher thrillers, especially in one particular scene with the brawny New Jersey native Bruno Amato being the ultimate bad guy henchman by raping a dead woman for spite and for pleasure. The cast fills out with Devon Ogden, Kerry Knuppe, Joy Rinaldi, Alice Rietveld, and Caleb Brown.
The Sex Scene Crew production, “Counter Clockwise,” is not an effects driven project. The indie sci-fi film relies on the trio of coordination efforts in refined editing, camera angles, and practical effects to deliver the intended message. Like I said before, George Moise is neurotic, providing the attention and detail to every scene as if a climatic money shot. Value is placed in the story and in the direction rather than diluting and cheapening with overrated, big budget computer generated special effects that can snap a film’s heart and soul like a thin twig. The biggest effect comes in the form of a composite, placing two Ethans in the same scene and working action off each other. Even the time traveling sequences are a basic edit that’s well timed with simple lighting techniques, gentrifying low budget films more toward a respectable level of filmmaking.
Artsploitation Films’ DVD release of “Counter Clockwise” is an edgy rip in space time continuum sci-fi thriller presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio option. Image quality pars well with modern releases and the same can be said about the audio, especially with the prevalent dialogue. Aside from conventional specs, Moise adds a sensory surplus to stimulate sight and sound hell-bent to strike an unnerving chord strummed simultaneously with providing an awesomely surreal effect. The DVD contains bonus features include “The Making of Counter Clockwise featurette, going behind the scenes of pre-production, production, and post-production. There are also five deleted scenes with commentary and a trio of commentary tracks that include the director, director and editor, and director and co-writer. “Counter Clockwise” is 91 minutes of time hopping suspense, packed with adversity and pitch black humor from start to finish and finish to start.