Anxieties surrounding technology have been a regular fixture in popular culture for decades, spanning the likes of J-horror’s Ringu and Pulse to recent Hollywood hit M3GAN, and even the classic Simpsons Halloween episode “House Of Whacks”. With AI technology becoming a more prominent part of modern life, it’s not surprising that techno-horror is making a comeback, with the latest offering being director and co-writer Spencer Brown’s TIM. While Brown’s feature debut taps into very real fears about advancing technology, the film struggles to spark a sense of tension throughout its predictable plot.
The film sees robotics engineer Abi (Barbarian and Black Mirror’s Georgina Campbell) move to a state-of-the-art smart home in the countryside with her husband Paul (The Last Kingdom’s Mark Rowley). She’s tasked with working on a project to create a robotic butler with cutting-edge AI technology, a Technologically Integrated Manservant (or TIM for short). As a gift from her work, she’s given a prototype model of the robot, and while she’s initially thrilled with what he can do for her, Paul is more sceptical about giving a computer full control of their home along with all their private information. Despite Paul’s warnings, events soon take a dark turn when TIM becomes infatuated with Abi.
Played by The Witcher’s Eamon Farren, there’s an uncanny appearance to TIM that makes his presence instantly unsettling from the moment he steps out of his container. Farren’s distant, blank stare and cold dialogue delivery make this horror robot a chilling presence each time he appears onscreen. What stops this villain from being as memorable as the titular killer android in M3GAN, though, is a script that plays out exactly how viewers would expect it to from the moment the couple enter their new home.
Early foreshadowing about how lifelike deep fake technology has become may underscore the dangers of AI’s place in contemporary society, but Brown and co-writer Sarah Govett are frustratingly unable to utilise these ideas creatively in their script. Viewers will see TIM’s technological deception long before Abi catches on to what’s going on, with the final twist being just as blindingly obvious to decipher.
Although Farren does a commendable job bringing a creepy robot to life, TIM, unfortunately, stumbles in its attempts to turn its timely commentary of unruly AI into a memorable outing thanks to a paint-by-numbers script, which gradually drains the thrills.
TIM is released on Netflix on 16th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for TIM here: