5 Great Time Bending Horror Flicks


The idea of time travel has always fascinated me.  The concept of going back in time and reversing a terrible decision into a positive outcome is extremely tempting.  In addition to that allure, the questions and theories regarding the ancillary effects of time travel are what really interest me.  For example, if you go back in time and kill yourself, will you (the murderer) instantly disappear?  Are there multiple dimensions where different outcomes occur and created their own alternate timelines? 

As you can clearly see already the possibilities are endless for a robust discussion of the theoretical effects of time travel.  Many movies have tried to tackle the idea of time travel, but most end up failing with either their gaping plot holes, or questionable character motivations.  So, I’ve scoured my DVD collection to bring you five Horror Movies (OK… well… uh…. A lot of these are “thrillers” which as we all know, is the same thing as horror) that effectively use time travel to deliver us a great product.

Time Crimes (Dir: Nacho Vigalondo 2007) A shockingly low budget Spanish film that explores not only the theories of time travel, but the topics of voyeurism, personal responsibility, and a good heaping of violence thrown into the mix.  There are always constant complicated and contradictory questions and theories that accompany any time travel film, but at the same time, Time Crimes is presented to us as simply as possible.  The film moves forward with little nods to previous events being shown to the viewer but not explained until later which most of the time are truly trivial.  If we miss a reference or forget something that has happened, it doesn’t matter because the action forces the story forward causing an interesting and somehow an easy movie to follow.  It’s also interesting to see how time travel can screw things up to the point where going back and changing one event can lead to overly complicated ruses causing characters to act differently than they ever would.  While yes, this is more of a thriller than a horror film, I guarantee that fans of the genre will not be bored.

Donnie Darko (Dir: Richard Kelly 2001) Having grown a bit of disdain for the film after teenage Hot Topic addicts got their black nail painted hands all over it (while crying about their boyfriends/girlfriends) on it, it was difficult for me to go back to this film with the same mindset I have on my initial viewing in 2001.  With time and years of film analysis under my belt, I was able to approach the movie professionally and without personal taste interfering and I have to say that Donnie Darko is a pretty great time travel movie.  The film feels like an 80s infused high school themed episode of the Twilight Zone complete with foreshadowing rabbits, pedophiles, and rogue airplane engines that magically enter time vortexes.  Much like all good time travel movies, the concepts of personal responsibility is explored and theorized extremely well.  I know we all wish that Richard Kelly would find his groove again after Southland Tales and The Box failed to capture the majesty and allure of Donnie Darko. 

Primer (Dir: Shane Carruth – 2004) This low budget indie exists to show us how with a good concept and a great script, you can come out on the other end with a great film despite having next to no money.  It’s a story about two engineers who accidentally create a device for time travel and use it to go back in time and make some money on the stock market.  Of course, they begin to abuse the power, and use it on their everyday lives which end up turning into a pretty big problem paradox.  Due to their engineer speak as well as a dauntingly complex timeline complete with numerous doppelgangers, this one requires multiple viewings to even understand what in the hell happened.  Since the movie is so tightly knit and extremely well written, multiple viewings won’t be a problem, they’ll be a pleasure.

12 Monkeys  (Dir: Terry Gilliam – 1995) Terry Gilliam brings us a post apocalyptic world where the entire surface of the planet is completely inhabitable.  Bruce Willis is in some sort of jail (for reasons unknown) that has been chosen as a soldier to go back in time and essentially investigate the events that lead up to a virus taking out most of the population.  Based on the French film La Jatee and starring Brad Pitt as a rich heir who is completely insane, Terry Gilliam absolutely nailed the fundamental concepts of fate, human responsibility, and sacrifice.  If you haven’t seen this one yet, you can skip reading the rest of the article to check it out, I will not be offended. 

Army of Darkness (Dir: Sam Raimii - 1992) Who doesn’t love Army of Darkness?  Now maybe, and I mean just maybe, this may be the weakest entry into the Evil Dead Trilogy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome in its own right.  Ash fully evolved into a one liner machine as he goes back in time to lead a band of knights against the otherworldly Deadites lead by evil Ash.  I know it isn’t exactly a movie about time travel per se, but there aren’t really a whole lot of time travel-centric horror movies out there and in addition, any list that I can put Army of Darkness on, I will do so. 

So, yes I am aware that some of these films aren’t horror films in the strictest sense, but they are all engaging, fun, and will leave you begging for more at their conclusion.  They may be more in tuned to a night of thinking and discussion rather than a six pack and some pizza, but you’ll still get the jitters, the jolts, and maybe a little bit of the how-do-you-do’s.  Have I skipped any awesome Time Travel Horror movies?  Let me hear about it!

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