What would you do if you had the ability to freeze the world and all the people in it? Rifle through friends’ medicine cabinets without fear of being caught, compose witty comebacks to any slight, catch up on sleep and still make it to work on time? The new independent film Suspension — showing Sunday, June 1 at the University of Southern California — asks this question and suggests it’s the sort of power that could absolutely unmoor an individual, especially one a bit off balance to begin with.
In the wake of a car accident that kills Daniel’s (Scott Cordes) wife and son, Daniel rebuilds his son’s camcorder and discovers that pushing the pause button literally stops time. While the rest of the world is on hold, only he stays in motion. Having had a few brief encounters with Sarah (Annie Tedesco), the widow of the other driver involved in the accident, Daniel becomes fixated on using his power to help her.
Unlike many of today’s films in which it becomes clear exactly what will happen in the first five minutes, Suspension leaves the viewer guessing its ultimate direction for some time. At the film’s beginning, the audience sympathy lies squarely with Daniel, even as it becomes more and more clear that he’s becoming unhinged and his fixation on Sarah will lead to dire consequences. As his presence becomes more threatening , the film shifts in tone and lands in stalker territory. This is when the premise and the plot really gel. Stalker films routinely explore the feeling of being watched and powerless, and coupling this with the idea that the victim is literally stuck while her harasser moves about freely nicely ups the tension.
Freezing time is an intriguing premise, one whose screen origins date back to a 1963 Twilight Zone entitled “A Kind of Stopwatch.” In this episode, a highly unlikeable loudmouth is given a magic stopwatch and uses it to rob a bank. As he’s walking out with a cartload of money, the stopwatch crashes to the floor, thus leaving the rest of the world frozen in place forever. (It seems no character can use their freezing powers for good.) The premise made for a classic half-hour episode; however, during the course of Suspension’s running time poor Sarah is started and stopped so many times that the gimmick verges on wearing thin. However, the growing sense of dread and raising of the stakes with each subsequent freeze will keep viewers engaged until the film’s end.
Suspension will be shown as part of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts summer film series. Every Sunday in June, the SCA will be showing a recent film either written or directed by a young graduate. Both director/ producer Ethan Schaftel and screenwriter Aris Blevins are SCA alums.
The screening takes place June 1 at 7:30 on USC’s campus at the Norris Cinema Theater and admission is free. For more information, click here.
For more on the School of Cinematic Arts Alumni Screening Series, click here.
Written by Maggie Flynn