Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Directed by: Barbara Spevack
Written by: Barbara Spevack
Starring: Barbara Spevack, Jennifer McLuskey, Alastair Rennie, Paul Lapsley
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock! Time for a little horror film. Writer, producer and director Barbara Spevack creates When The Ticking Stops, a tale bound to fill the audience with suspense.
It is night-time and a drunk man approaches a young man, Brian (Alastair Rennie), at a bus stop and tells him that he can hear ticking that the Ticking Man is going to kill him. Brian ignores him and the next day the drunk man is found dead, apparently from a heart attack. Detective Arianna Winters (Barbara Spevack) arrives at the scene and Brian tells her about his encounter with him the night before. Arianna investigates and finds out that the Ticking Man is a sort of urban legend and apparently has been committing murders for over a century. All victims are left with a watch face carved into the back of their left wrist and the hands of the warch point to the time of death. Supposedly, the Ticking Man kills in order to steal time from his victims so he can live longer. She also discovers that she had dealt with a similar case before. A few months later she receives a frantic call from Brian, who informs her that he can hear ticking and that the Ticking Man is after him. Arianna rushes to his location only to find him dead, with a watch carved into his wrist. She then encounters the Ticking Man himself, who murders her too.
The music and sound effects are definitely among the film's best qualities. Throughout the film the music that plays is creepy and perfectly captures the mood of the situations, such as when characters are being pursued by the Ticking Man. When he is about to claim his next victim, the score becomes intense and the sound of a large clock ticking is heard, becoming louder and louder, which is also what the victims hear. It is a very effective technique and is bound to send shivers down the viewer's spine.
Arguably the film's highlight occures when the Ticking Man makes his appearance. Arianna has just found Brian's body and she sees the killer's shadow on a wall. The direction and lighting is outstanding at this particular moment and it resembles a shot from the 1922 film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. She then goes after him, only for him to ambush her. Throughout this whole sequence the intense music and ticking is heard and when she comes face-to-face with the Ticking Man, the music and ticking become louder than they had ever been throughout the film. The Ticking Man's appearance deserves a great deal of praise because he is truly terrifying! He is dressed in a black suit and black top hat. His skin is pale, his teeth are rotting, his fingernails are pointy like claws, his eyes have 'death' written on them and he is holding a pocket watch. As he approaches her, the fast cutting does a fantastic job in creating tension and dread, as the film constantly cuts between the two of them and zooms in on their faces, capturing Arianna's terror and the Ticking Man's satisfaction in enforcing that terror as he grins. Although his appearance is brief, thanks to actor Paul Lapsley's performance, the music, sound effects and the make-up and clothing, it leaves a significant impact.
The film also gains from strong performances. The protagonists are successful in bringing to life the emotions that their characters are going though. Spevack in particular is very convincing in her portrayal of a detective who becomes obsessed with the Ticking Man and when she reaches the moment where she is about to meet her doom, the terror is written all over her face.
The screenplay is very well structured. Spevack does a great job in creating a narrative that the audience wants to follow and will lead them to a hear-stopping final. She also creates a very interesting character in the Ticking Man, making the viewer want to know more and more about him.
When The Ticking Stops is a great view for anyone looking for a nail-biting experience. The audience will never listen to the sound of a clock ticking the same way again.