“Inoperable” is insufferable. A cheapjack, slapdash horror thriller about a possibly unstable and definitely discombobulated woman caught in a “Groundhog Day”-type time loop in a hospital with an emphasis is on harming, not healing, it is at once skittish and sluggish while zigzagging through a freeform storyline that suggests a fuzzy concept fleshed out with desperate day-to-day improvisation.
The movie plays like nothing so much as a direct-to-video quickie from the heyday of VHS, an impression reinforced by all the retrograde props and technology so conspicuously displayed: a flip-top phone here, a Corvette Stingray there, early-21st-century PCs everywhere. There are times when all this period-inappropriate stuff might lead genre fans to expect something like the time-tripping final twist that capped off “Final Destination 5.” But no: Helmer Christopher Lawrence Chapman and co-scripter Jeff Miller clearly are incapable of such inspired cheekiness.
Instead, the filmmakers follow Amy Barrett (Danielle Harris) as she hops back and forth between the aforementioned Stingray, stalled in a traffic jam during an evacuation mandated by an approaching Category 5 hurricane, and a forebodingly underpopulated hospital, where she is repeatedly pursued down byzantine hallways by a skeleton crew of surgically-equipped nurses, doctors and orderlies.
At one point, someone theorizes that, because the hurricane slammed into a military research center, “paradoxical time anomalies” have been unleashed, forcing Amy to repeatedly return to the place where she and two other loopers — a dutiful cop (Jeff Denton) and the lovely in his custody (Katie Keefe) — possibly met, or will meet, a bloody quietus. Or something like that. The cop has a simpler explanation: “It’s like hell or something.”
Lead player Harris is a practiced hand when it comes to horror-movie heroics (her résumé includes episodes in the “Hatchet” and “Halloween” franchises), making it all the more disappointing that, in “Inoperable,” she’s given little to do other than run, and then run some more, and then run even more after that. Worse, as she affects an exaggeratedly determined expression and aggressively pumps her arms, some of that running is borderline comical. Another problem: Her repetitive attempts to phone for help whenever Amy zaps back to her Stingray very quickly turn into the kind of running gag that inspires drinking games.
There’s more inadvertent comedy when, during pauses between clashes with the murderous hospital staff, the two female leads converse about mascara and the cop talks about taking the woman in his charge on a date in his beloved muscle car. Indeed, during these and other scenes, it’s tempting to surmise “Inoperable” actually is a parody, and not just a bad movie. Unfortunately, it’s not intentionally amusing enough to qualify as a put-on.