Artsploitation: Counter Clockwise (2016) - Reviewed

Only a first time director with no resources, no production values and a lot of fanboy adoration for David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Ridley Scott’s Alien and just a tiny hint of Back to the Future could make a science fiction thriller as dead on arrival as Counter Clockwise.  From the opening credits which use the identical colored screens and title card font as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to the sound design peppered with stock foley effects lifted from Alien, The Fly and The Thing to the telepods that use the identical screens as the ones in The Fly, Counter Clockwise is less a loving homage than a shameless and cynically obvious ripoff that doesn’t even try to hide the influences it proudly wears on it’s sleeves. 

Concerning a scientist named Ethan (a half-bored and confused Michael Kopelow) who inadvertently creates a time machine and becomes lost in a time paradox, the film only runs ninety-one minutes but feels like an eternity, almost going backwards in time like the title of this dude.  Ethan looks to have wandered off the shoot for Blue Collar Comedy Tour and conducts his pioneering scientific research in a garage only slightly larger than the one seen in Shane Carruth’s Primer.  Spliced in between the plot free boredom are mundane random encounters with weirdos, mobsters, and a completely out of nowhere necrophilic rape scene which explains why Artsploitation bought it in the first place.   

Starting off bad for being a woefully clich├ęd student film version of better science fiction movies we’ve already seen to death and can point out in every scene this movie steals from, Counter Clockwise actually manages to worsen with the incredulous developments which neither add up nor leave the viewer with anything to think twice about.  It doesn’t help that the production values on this no budget effort are exceedingly poor with dialogue so poorly recorded it sounds like a distortion heavy WAV file that crackles and hisses.  The first time Ethan switches on the equipment for what will become his time machine, the sounds of MUTHER being turned on in Alien can clearly be heard on the soundtrack.  Most of the music to my ears appeared to be temp music, again drawing my mind back to better movies I would rather be watching instead of this dirge.

To be somewhat fair, visually Counter Clockwise once in a while accidentally includes halfway decent camera placement while much of the rest of it just feels like a beginner turning in his thesis during the first week of film school.  That however is the only virtue this movie has, as the rest is an excruciatingly tedious slog with occasional moments of homophobia and misogyny to try and shake us up out of the comatose state the film has an uncanny ability to put you in.  I can only imagine how festival audiences unlucky enough to catch this felt when a random thug remarks to Ethan ‘I can’t believe I’m going to do this’ before proceeding to rape a dead woman.  Much like Ethan who looks as dopily half-interested and occasionally shocked as the viewer, neither can we.  Just when you thought this stillborn without an original bone in it’s body could not get any worse, it does.

Bro. Beware random flashlights!

Artsploitation is a hit or miss film distribution company of international exploitation cinema and with Counter Clockwise, I’m sorry to say they have acquired their absolute worst film since Ivan Noel’s Children of the Night.  I’ve no doubt Artsploitation will pick up many more worthwhile cinematic transgressions in the future.  One day we will get another Vanishing Waves and Idyll from them but after two strikeouts I will have my guard up going forward.


- Andrew Kotwicki