With Lovecraftian time-trap horror The Endless, filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson proved their ability to craft ambitious sci-fi on a limited budget.
Synchronic tells in some ways a more of a conventional narrative, but one that plays into many of the same themes of regret and feeling trapped.
Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are paramedics working the night shift in New Orleans. A recent spate of inexplicable injuries – spear wound, snakebite, spontaneous human combustion – lead them to a new designer drug, Synchronic.
We experience its effects through the eyes of its users: a forest springs up in a motel room, an elevator becomes a desert of vast eternity; accompanied by a wavering chorus of sheer holy terror. Steve and Dennis’ only hint is a mysterious, ancient coin and a single sentence graffiti’d on the wall of a derelict: “TIME IS A LIE”.
When Dennis’ teenage daughter Briana (Ally Ioannides) goes missing, Steve begins experimenting with Synchronic; convinced it might be the way to bring her back. To say more would be to spoil the surprises that Synchronic has in store – let’s just say, to quote, an emphatic Steve, “The past sucks!”. Which it does, vividly, in all its many forms.
The film is set in New Orleans, still recovering from the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. Moorhead’s cinematography casts an otherworldly pall, augmented by Jimmy LaValle’s ambient score. Both are suggestive of the state of limbo that pervades the city and our protagonist’s lives.
Steve is a ladies man and party animal; still hooking up with virtual strangers, stirring each morning with a hangover. Dennis and wife Tara (Katie Aselton) are dealing with a newborn baby, eighteen years after the birth of their first child.
Synchronic, as with The Endless, is about the ultimate inevitability of moving on; in whatever form that happens to take – in this case, a powerfully ambiguous one.