Horror films come in many forms, often dealing with the supernatural, finding true fear in expanding our reality to even darker places. Truly horrifying things, however, are found in the quotidian events we somehow survive, those moments that itch at your skin without the need of some zombie, ghost or vampire to escalate the impact. One doesn’t need some escapee from an institution wielding a chainsaw or some parapsychic schoolgirl intent on revenge.
Sometimes, true horror can take the form of a family trip at a resort hotel in Acapulco.
A deliciously dark comedy, Sebastian Hofmann’s Time Share (also known as Tiempo Compartido) works on deeply psychological levels for anyone that’s spent any time at a luxury resort. Like few films before it twists the cult-like atmosphere of such mini-paradises into a macabre nightmare of bureaucratic efficiency and high pressure salesmanship. It’s a world where everyone is sincerely apologetic yet doing nothing to make things right, provoking a sick sense of frustration and angst for the viewer. It’s where some time away with your partner is interrupted by their insistence that the kids come first. It’s where the somber glide of fish in tanks take on a hypnotic queasiness, and where a simple game of tennis can feel a matter of life and death.
What’s so wonderful about the film is its restraint in what it draws from, making epic the merely mundane. Its mood is entirely set by the humdrum events of life at the resort, and it never devolves into something more heightened than that. By shining its lens on this strange human condition of finding life away from regular life, of carving out an island of time for relaxation but succumbing to collective spirit of a place, it twists our very perspective just as handily as a Romero film uses Zombies to take a crack at consumerism. Yet Hoffman’s film needn’t use anything as paranormal to make its point – by simply playing out the pedestrian events of life in paradise, the darkness and dread floats atop all on its own.
This is a film of subtle aggressions and character compromises, where the one person crying for sanity appears the most insane. The cast, including Luis Gerardo Méndez, do wonders to keep the mood as eerie yet familiar as possible. The casting of RJ Mitte (aka, the kid from Breaking Bad) is certainly against type, and his strained Spanish certainly seems at least an unconventional decision.
The film is shot beautifully, almost as if Kubrick shot some vacation footage. Giorgio Giampà’s stellar score would be perfect in any Argento flick, and is definitely the most overt aspect of setting the film firmly within the horror genre. Yet of course even this manipulation through sound is part of the clever machinations of the film, guiding us along as narrative where we’re convinced there’s going to be some supernatural underbelly to the whole affair. Giving nothing away, the true terror of the entire film is how conventional it all is.
Creepy, clever and caustic, Time Share is a terrific film that crawls under your skin by providing deeply resonant moments for anyone that’s been subject to such supercilious silliness at a resort. It’s a film that’s all the more effective as the mood it sets is echoed any time one is asked to participate poolside or signup for a wonderful investment opportunity, far more common than stumbling upon a demon in your daily travels. Hofmann’s work is both mature and effective, and unlike so many films that will rely upon arterial spray, severed limbs or some psychopathic or paranormal nonsense, his film leaves one with a lasting dread not soon forgotten.