Ticking Clock

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Ticking Clock
Ticking Clock.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Ernie Barbarash
Produced by Brad Krevoy
Todd Williams
Written by John Turman
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Neal McDonough
Nicki Aycox
Austin Abrams
Yancey Arias
Dane Rhodes
Danielle Nicolet
Adrianne Frost
Music byRichard Friedman
CinematographyPhil Parmet
Edited byTricia Gorman
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release date
  • January 4, 2011 (2011-01-04)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5.1 million [1]

Ticking Clock is a 2011 American science fiction- mystery-suspense thriller directed by Ernie Barbarash and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Neal McDonough. The film was released on direct-to-DVD in the United States on January 4, 2011. [2]



The movie opens outside a rundown suburban house in an older section of Los Angeles. The scene takes place in February 1999, 318 days before the year 2000. Inside, a woman is seen viciously murdered and partially dissected in the bath tub. As the killer, (Neal McDonough), washes his hands, a baby starts to cry. He approaches the baby. Despite the savagery of his attack on the woman he is surprisingly gentle with the baby, by comforting him and saying, "she can't hurt you anymore".

The movie jumps forward 11 years to April 17, 2011. Investigative reporter Lewis Hicks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is struggling with his failed marriage with his wife Gina (Danielle Nicolet), with whom he is separated, a dubious relationship with new girlfriend, District Attorney Felicia Carson (Veronica Berry) and a slumping career. When Hicks pays a surprise visit to Felicia she becomes upset when she sees he is still wearing his wedding band. She tells him she is ending the relationship due to his unwillingness to make a commitment.

Later that day, the killer attacks Felicia in her home, expressing anger over a case she was involved in concerning a child-abuse victim. When Felicia asks him if he is the boy's father, he replies "No, I am his guardian angel," before murdering her. Lewis arrives at Felicia's home but she is already dead and partially dissected similar to the woman in the opening scene. Lewis spots the killer and chases him into an alley where they aggressively fight. The killer inadvertently drops a book as he slams Lewis into the side of a dumpster. He is seen checking a pocket watch then disappears.

After regaining consciousness, Lewis finds the book, which he discovers to be the killers' killing journal. At home, he reads about Felicia's planned killing, as well as 2 more murders planned within the next 72 hours. Lewis writes the other two names down on a legal-sized note pad, and as continues to researchi, the killer suddenly appears in Lewis'study and takes the journal back and rips off the sheet of paper that lists the names of the next two pending murder victims.

Lewis tries to explain all of this to the police investigating Felicia's murder, but the lead detective (played by Yancey Arias) doesn't believe him and actually suspects Lewis of the killing. Later, as Lewis is pondering the mystery and wondering what to do, he realizes there is an old-fashioned trick to retrieve the names of the two victims from the now destroyed paper he wrote on. With a feeling of relief, he discovers he wrote heavy enough for the pen to have left impressions of the names of the other two women and their pending murder dates on the sheet of paper underneath the original one the killer destroyed. Lewis then tracks down the second woman, a school teacher named Vicki Ihling (Adrianne Frost). Wanting to keep an eye on her he asks her for a date, which she reluctantly accepts. Later that night, she changes her mind and insteads goes to a local bar.

At the bar, Ihling is approached by the killer. As they make small talk she tells him she is a teacher. He states he knows one of her former students, an orphan boy that was returned to a boys' home after a teacher at the school reported him for abusing a stray cat. Ihling becomes nervous when she realizes she is the teacher that made the report and excuses herself to the restroom. In the restroom she is attacked by the killer who angrily tells her "it was a just mangy stray that no one would miss". Lewis is able to trace Ihling to the bar but arrives too late, finding her murdered. When Lewis tries to catch the killer again, he disappears out of the window.

The police still doubt his story about the killer after this second murder. Lewis' only evidence is a small piece of the killer's coat he tore off during the first fight and a bloody fingerprint on a newspaper clipping found in the journal. He decides to send both samples to a friend at a local crime lab. When he comes to the lab to get the results, she tells him the preliminary results from the DNA test on the blood show only one result - that of an 11-year-old orphan living in a local boys' home. As if that wasn't puzzling enough, using a microscope, she shows him that the fabric of the coat reacts to both heat and cold, a quality not seen before in a fabric.

Believing that the killer may be a relative of the boy, Lewis goes to the home and introduces himself to the director Polly (Nicki Aycox) as a mentor for an organization similar to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program, and asks to meet the boy, James Keech (Austin Abrams). Polly seems hesitant as James has behavioral problems and been returned by all foster families he stayed with. James distrusts all adults and especially dislikes the nuns at the home, whom he referrers to as 'the penguins'. After some convincing, she agrees to let Lewis meet him. At first he is unreceptive to Lewis, but as the meeting progresses, Lewis offers to take him on a trip to the zoo. James eventually agrees to go.

At the zoo, Lewis asks James what he would like to be when he grows up. James seems unsure, but says he is good with math and would like to be an inventor, maybe even making a time machine so he could go back and fix his life. As he divulges his hopes, dreams and wishes, he grows more excited, and this is the only time we see the child smile.

When they return to the orphanage, James tells Lewis he wants to show him something, promising him to swear to secrecy. Lewis does so and James shows him his "private zoo"; a box with several small dead animals, including a mouse, a frog and a dragonfly. All are partially dissected in the same manner as the murder victims.

Lewis is visibly shocked but calm. James, however, becomes extremely upset at his lack of enthusiasm and appreciation for his "work" and what he has "made." He then begins to yell expletives at Lewis, ordering him to leave. Polly hears the yelling and comes into the dorm where James then angrily accuses Lewis of trying to molest him. Polly doesn't believe the accusation, stating that James has a history of making these unfounded claims. Lewis starts to tells Polly about the dead animals and James, feeling betrayed by both adults, angrily shouts and reminds Lewis that he promised not to tell anyone. Lewis decides not to say anything and leaves.

Based on the DNA results run "off book" by his friend, Lewis deduces that the killer isn't a relative of James but rather James himself, having traveled back from the future to 'fix his life'. Lewis continues to try to stop the killer and tries to find the third woman from his list he copied from the journal. The evidence leads him back to the boys' home to speak to Polly. He sees her college degree on the wall, displaying her legal name, Anne Brighton. After inquiring, she tells Lewis that "Polly" is her nickname. He quickly realizes that "Polly" - Anne Brighton - is the third woman on the killer's list. She is very disturbed by what he says and orders him to leave.

Polly/Anne calls the police after Lewis leaves and he is subsequently arrested and taken to the police station for questioning.

At the police station he tries to explain but the police do not believe him. The killer later arrives posing as Lewis' lawyer and during a private conference he reveals to Lewis that his theory is correct. He shows Lewis the pocket watch, revealing it to be the time machine he invented, and that he is James Keech as an adult in 2032 coming back to fix his past. Keech then pulls the pin on the pocket watch time machine to teleport himself to the group home, where he has already imprisoned Polly on the roof. Lewis grabs the vanishing Keech and is teleported with him.

Keech demands that Lewis get the younger James from his room, threatening to kill Polly if he doesn't. Lewis quietly enters the dorm and prepares to kill the younger James hoping to set the time-line right, but can't bring himself to kill the sleeping child. Instead, he hides James inside a restroom, and goes to the roof. Keech explains to Lewis that the woman from the opening scene was his mother and that she was the catalyst for everything horrid in his life. Because she was an abusive addict and "shit mom," he had to kill her. Her death, however, makes his life that much worse, instead of better. He reveals that each change has simply resulted in another change to be corrected. After his mother's murder, he was abused by many others. Felicia failed to win the resultant child abuse case, Vicki reported his misbehavior at school, resulting in him being moved from one abusive foster home to another and eventually placed in the group home. He believes that Polly, although being the only person ever consistently nice to him, was the worst offender. Polly will soon find his "private zoo" and send him to a mental hospital where unspeakable torturous acts are done to him. Adult James believes Polly's murder will finally break the cycle and allow his younger self a better chance in life. He intends to frame Lewis for Polly's murder, with young James capturing the supposed serial killer Lewis, thus becoming a hero and giving him[self] a fresh start.

Meanwhile, young James leaves the bathroom and follows Lewis to the roof. James sees his older self and asks Keech if he is his father, but Keech tells him the truth about being his future self. James is upset that Keech plans to hurt Poly because she is the only person who has been nice to him. On the roof, Keech reveals two more of his inventions: the small tazer-like device shown in the opening scene is revealed to actually be a cutting torch, and the knife is shown to be an advanced motorized weapon with the serrated edge cycling like a chainsaw. Lewis attempts to stop Keech, and during the struggle Keech drops the knife. James then picks it up and slashes Keech's leg. Keech pushes James away and accidentally knocks him off the roof, killing him. Keech turns to kill Lewis but as James dies from the fall Keech's pocket watch disintegrates and he disappears.

During the closing scenes Lewis is seen driving through various streets of his neighborhood. Using voice-over, he explains that because James died at age 11, the time line was "made right" and he never became a serial killer. Each of the victims is shown to still be alive. We then see Lewis driving past the rundown house where James lived with his mother. Lewis sees a very much alive 11-year-old James exit the front door to take out the trash and the two lock eyes. Finally, we see Lewis drive up to his own house and is reunited with his wife and son.

But, viewers are left to ponder - have all the wrongs really been righted? It was James's mother who started him on his road to being a serial killer in the first place, leaving the following questions unanswered: Will James's life take a different and better path? Will the cycle of violent child abuse start anew and once again be shoddily dealt with in a very broken and flawed system? Which will win this time around - nature or nurture - to determine if James will be psychologically healthy or a raging and demented sociopath?



It is set and filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 7 and April 1, 2010.


Ticking Clock has received mixed reviews from critics. News Blaze positively reviewed the movie, stating "though this plot has enough holes to qualify as a golf course, small screen director Ernie Barbarash (Meteor) manages to sustain sufficient suspension of disbelief, via a heavy dose of heady suspense throughout." [3] Dread Central panned the film, saying that it was a "fairly iffy serial killer thriller with a few decent moments and an intriguing but otherwise underdeveloped conceit behind its killer's modus operandi; the insulting ending left me wishing I could have turned the clock back and gotten those 100 minutes back." [4] DVD Talk also negatively reviewed the film, writing "Once you have accepted that you can predict exactly where the film is going, the proceedings are still watchable but far less exciting." [5]

Home media

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on January 4, 2011, and also Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 10 January 2011, it was distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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  1. "Fastlane NextGen: Initial Certification Search" (Type "Ticking Clock" in the search box). Louisiana Economic Development. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  2. “TICKING CLOCK” strikes with pics and clips Fangoria
  3. Ticking Clock DVD Review: Cuba Gooding Jr. Time Out for Terror News Blaze
  4. Ticking Clock Dread Central
  5. Ticking Clock DVD Talk