This tale of a homemade time travel device’s aftereffect on a woman and her time cat companion is definitely interesting enough for most of the runtime, even if eventually it feels like wheels are spinning a bit. Really though, for most of Shifter I was on board so don’t let the slightly underwhelming wrap up deter you. 

Theresa Chaney (Nicole Fancher) spends a lot of time in the barn. Theresa’s an industrial worker bee for a living, punching the clock and dealing with a bitchy supervisor, Felicia (Leesa Neidel). Theresa still lives in the childhood home where she took care of her ailing father (Ben Hall) all alone until he passed away after her uncle (Paul T. Taylor) couldn’t take helping anymore. Theresa spends a lot of time in the barn because she’s built a time machine. A former high school acquaintance (Stephen Goodman), a local library employee (Ashley Mandanas), and a tomato crazy neighbor (Jamie Brewster) are among those touched when Theresa and her cat, Bernard, take a dangerous & destabilizing journey through time. Will Theresa figure out what’s going on and be able to fix things before it’s too late?

Aside from some brief, pointless narration to get Shifter started (stop doing that, Movies) I think the first 2/3rds is rather effective. We’re dropped into things with just enough information being parceled out to follow without being beaten over the head, plus thankfully certain time travel movie elements aren’t treated as worthwhile reveals. By that I mean seeing a hooded figure bump into someone, glancing at a stranger’s feet under a stall as they vomit, and things like that–which are obviously our time traveler at different stages–aren’t dragged out forever so the audience is constantly waiting for characters to catch up with us. 

I also didn’t feel like I was being strung along until the next time travel cliche, but I think that’s helped by things being more about Theresa herself than any particular convoluted story to get through. There are certainly other characters bouncing around doing this and that, but this is Theresa’s story first and I think Nicole Fancher is a solid enough anchor. Honestly, her character reads a bit autistic to me which I think makes sense for someone who could build a time machine in a barn. Oh, and the computers she uses for her barn time machine look *so much* like the ones from Aliens that I’ve decided they are.

Quick sidenote: be prepared to see someone vomit a bunch! It’s not explosive or notably disgusting, it just happens a whole lot. I liked that even while vomiting there wasn’t a bunch of toilet touching/holding/caressing. Yeah, I know that sounds a little weird but it drives me crazy how often in movies/TV when someone vomits they get obscenely up close and personal with toilet bowls to the point I can’t believe people actually do that. 

Anyway, with most time travel stories it’s best to not push too hard on logistics and more experience what it is characters do with it so I did appreciate the laser focus on Theresa. This is absolutely a low budget, low-key, personal scope kind of story (with a time cat for good measure) about a lonely, repressed woman who makes a time machine because she can and the aftermath it has on her life. It’s also a much nicer looking movie than I would have expected and I thought the score was quite effective–it occasionally reminded me of Hannibal (the TV series). Overall, even with what I’d consider a bit of a ho-hum finale I still found this one mostly interesting with enough forward momentum to get us to the finish line.

 

6 out of 10 Time Cats

 

Shifter
RATING:UR
Runtime:1 Hr. 26 Mins.
Directed By:
Jacob Burns
Written By:
Screenplay by Jacob Burns
Story by Jacob Burns and
Zachary Burns