Synchronic (2019): Love, sacrifice, and the time traveling drugs

The present is a miracle, bruh.

I’ve been looking for horror movies yesterday when I bumped into Den of Geek’s top horror movies of 2020. 

I thought, “What could be worse than 2020 itself?”

But I gave their ranking a chance. 

Particularly, Den of Geek’s description of Synchronic (2019) ​piqued my interest:

“Synchronic is the fourth feature film by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. It’s also their most ambitious yet in scope, genre…”

So, I decided to give it a try. 

***Spoilers after this line***

Two paramedic best friends, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan), have been tending to weird deaths in New Orleans. 

These bizarre cases were linked together by a new designer drug, “Synchronic”. The drug was being legally sold at marijuana dispensaries, but its horrendous side effects were unknown to its users. 

Unfortunately, Dennis’s daughter, Brianna (Ally Loadinnes), took Synchronic with her friends one night and has been missing since. Dennis, distraught by her disappearance, sabotages his job, marriage, and even his friendship with Steve. 

Anthony Mackie sitting on a couch with his dog, Hawking.

Meanwhile, Steve discovers that he has a tumor on his pineal gland and has only 6 weeks left to live. Refusing to feel defeat because of his fate, he decides to stop the deaths caused by Synchronic. He drives to one of the dispensaries and buys all the Synchronic stock.  

After a brief altercation with a dispensary’s attendant, a stranger offers to buy Steve’s Synchronic pills for $2,000. Steve refused and drove him away. 

Unbeknown to Steve, the guy followed him home and told him the truth. Apparently, he was the chemist who developed Synchronic.

He frantically explained that Synchronic makes its users visit a different time period by messing with their pineal gland. 

The chemist likened time to a vinyl record, where all the past, present, and future exist at the same time. Meanwhile, Synchronic is like the phonograph needle that lets users visit those different points in time.  

Interestingly, Synchronic only works on teenagers, since their pineal glands aren’t calcified yet.

Sounds real fun, right? But there’s a catch. There always is.

Knowing he has an immature pineal gland like a teenager’s, Steve decides to take Synchronic and find Brianna for Dennis. 

During his trips to different time periods, Steve finds out that Synchronic’s effect wears off in 7 minutes. If the user doesn’t return to that exact spot where they took the pill within 7 minutes, they will be stuck to that time period… forever. 

After many unsuccessful trips, Steve admits to Dennis that he has been trying to find Brianna by taking Synchronic. 

One night, as Steve and Dennis were hanging out in their favorite spot that has a big boulder, Steve suddenly disappears out of thin air. This leaves Dennis in shock and confusion.

It turns out that Steve took Synchronic earlier, and has now been brought back to a time during the civil war. 

A few minutes later, he finally catches a disheveled Brianna. Amid the bomb explosions, they stumble to return to the spot where Steve took Synchronic. 

But before they could return to the present, a whistling racist S.O.B. soldier sees them and threatens to shoot Steve. 

Steve, noticing a buried grenade in front of them, challenges the soldier to move forward and “claim him.”

At first, the soldier steps over the grenade, but he gets distracted by the nearby explosions and steps on it. He was instantly blown into pieces. Yay!

Brianna, having taken a Synchronic pill from Steve earlier, successfully returns to the present. She reunites with an appalled but relieved Dennis. 

Dennis then finds Steve, sitting on the boulder, fading in and out of their sight like a glitchy hologram. 

The movie ends with the two best friends shaking their hands, as Steve disappears like a ghost. 

Synchronic exceeded my expectations.

At first, I expected a gritty, horror detective movie that uses an incomprehensible time travel logic.

But I was wrong. 

Synchronic is one of the best time travel movies I’ve watched so far. I love the way it explained and portrayed time travel.

Additionally, it’s not a horror film but a suspenseful chase movie. 

Sure, the mutilated, burnt-to-a-crisp corpses at the crime scenes looked horrific (as they should be)—but the movie’s most unnerving part is the time travel element itself. 

I also screamed in frustration when Steve’s dog, Hawking, got left behind in the past. I mean, why didn’t he just bring a tiny mouse to find out if he can bring back another living thing from the past?! Poor Hawking! 

With that said, I like how the movie ended without concluding if Steve has successfully returned to the present. Earlier in the movie, Steve mentioned that the “present can be an anchor,” so I’m not really sure if he disappeared into oblivion forever. 

Behind the suspenseful chasing, Synchronic is a good story about love and sacrifice.

This review was first published on my Letterboxd account. Follow me on Letterboxd for more film reviews!

By Tricia Hingpit

conversion copywriter & UX writer from Davao City, Philippines.

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