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Plot: woman is targeted for termination by cybernetic adversaries from the future

As if Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995) wasn't enough of an insult Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (Prey Harder in certain territories) was stitched together from excess footage of the first sequel, with an additional 11 production days. Where Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995) stole from obvious sources, Predator (1987) and Rambo (1985) for the most part, it at least attempted, however meagerly, in some way, to continue the franchise in a new setting. Nemesis 3: Time Lapse has no such aspirations, and shows no interest in building on the initial promise of the original Nemesis (1992) with Olivier Gruner.

Battered and bloody Alex Raine (Sue Price) wakes up in the East African desert with no recollection of what happened to her. She retraces her steps and encounters Farnsworth 2 (Tim Thomerson) who offers to help her get medical attention. Farnsworth 2 gives her "a shot of endo" activating a latent memory warning her to not let Farnsworth 2 get her DNA. She quickly turns the situation around, and kills Farnsworth 2 with his own gun. Alex then passes out as past memories start to wash over her...

After the destruction of Nebula (Chad Stahelski) Raine was taken in by local rebel troops. Once cyborg insurgents wipe out the pocket of rebellion Alex' necklace starts glowing and a light appears in the distance. Following the light source, Alex runs into her half-sister Ramie (Ursula Sarcev) who explains that she has 20 half-sisters, but that Raine's the only one able to procreate, and thus start a genetically enhanced breed able to withstand the cyborg oppressor. Farnsworth 2 and a group of cyborgs imprison Ramie and her sisters and Alex teams up with Edson (Norbert Weisser) and Johnny (Xavier Decile), a somewhat damaged descendant of Max Impact from Nemesis (1992). Edson and Johnny are captured in the chaos when bounty hunting twins Lock (Sharon Bruneau) and Ditko (Debbie Muggli) raid the compound where a reprogrammed Nebula is massacring cyborgs. Alex manages to rescue her rebel friends, but then Farnsworth 2 sends a drone that destroys their jeep leaving Alex battered, bloody, and without memory.

Nemesis 2: Nebula wasn't the most graceful of sequels, but it at least attempted to steer the Nemesis franchise into a new direction. Nemesis 3: Time Lapse is the worst kind of sequel as it ignores both the original and the first sequel, and seems in no hurry to actually forward the narrative. As a stand-alone action movie it's functional enough, but it's not as if Nemesis 2: Nebula had raised the bar particularly high to begin with. Instead of setting up a plot device to let Raine get back to her own time, or at least send her on a mission to stop the cyborg uprise before it begins Nemesis 3: Time Lapse does neither. It's so aggravating and creatively regressive that it actually diminishes what little Nemesis 2: Nebula got right. Things wouldn't improve with Nemesis 4: Death Angel later in the year.

The new additions to the cast are hit-or-miss. Sharon Bruneau and Debbie Muggli are fun in their roles as wisecracking bounty hunter twins, but their little subplot is never developed enough to be of any importance. The same goes for Ramie, Johnny, and the 20 half-sisters which really must have been something of an afterthought. Under normal circumstances they could, or should, have been the crux to some sort of plot resolution - but Albert Pyun was apparently in no rush to tie up any loose ends, or develop any character beyond the rough contours of their designated archetype. The Ramie, Johnny, and the 20 half-sisters subplot is interesting enough to build an entire new Nemesis feature around, but that sadly never happened. The action is explosive enough but none of the set pieces are particularly involving. Especially in light of how the greater cast of villains are reduced to nothing more than one-note cannon fodder for heroine Alex Raine.

Not that the Nemesis series was ever known for its special effects work, but Nemesis 3: Time Lapse takes a plunge in that department as well. The pyrotechnics, stunts, and rubber suits are decent enough, but it are the visual effects that make Nemesis 3: Time Lapse the eyesore that it is. Instead of practical - and prosthetic effects there's now an excess of badly super-imposed, Windows 95 post-production effects, of which the neon glow over the antagonists’ eyes, the ripple effect on the dune buggy, and the morph fx used for shapeshifting characters are especially heinous. The lengthy flashback that makes up with bulk of the feature comes with a blue filter that probably only adds to the confusion. There's no shortage of explosive action scenes and the plot, or lack thereof, never gets in the way of the gunfire action. Pyun might not be much of a writer, but he always shoots action scenes well despite a lack of budget. Sue Price always handled herself well during action scenes, and here she does also. Price is the last person to blame for the mess that the Nemesis franchise became.

Somewhere in Nemesis 3: Time Lapse there's a halfway decent action movie. There's no shortage of action, for one thing. Pyun might not be much of a writer, but he always lenses action scenes well no matter how small the budget. Had Nemesis 3: Time Lapse focused on a battle of wits and endurance between the bounty hunter twins and Alex with a few supporting characters acting as allies or cannon fodder, and Ramie and her tribe of half-sisters as the prize it could have been so much more, and so much more effective. As it stands Nemesis 3: Time Lapse is the busiest of the four Nemesis episodes but has nothing to show for it. Just like Nemesis 2: Nebula before it Nemesis 3: Time Lapse doesn't feel much like a sequel, and it would probably have been better as a stand-alone feature. Not that Nemesis sequels would get better with time. In fact the opposite is true.

The California Bay Area has long been a home to some of the most technical death metal around. The slow but inevitable dissolution of Necrophagist, the continuing studio hiatus of Odious Mortem, and the folding of Spawn Of Possession and more recently Brain Drill has acted as a catalyst for the formation of several domestic and international supergroups. Continuum from Santa Cruz was formed in 2009 by sometime Decrepit Birth guitarist Chase Fraser and is home to former members from Brain Drill, Inanimate Existence, and post-Jacoby Kingston Deeds Of Flesh. After several years of incubation Continuum debuted in 2015 with “The Hypothesis”. “Designed Obsolescence” harkens back to the halcyon days of pre-2005 when Unique Leader was a boutique label specialized in death metal exclusively. With Inherit Disease no longer under contract, Continuum is hellbent on replacing them as the label’s flagship act.

Fraser has surrounded himself with quite the talent. Riley McShane is also in Allegaeon and fronted Inanimate Existence for an album, Ivan Munguia has played with Odious Mortem, Nick Willbrand has recorded an album with Flesh Consumed, and Ron Casey is probably the most in-demand drummer of the last decade and a half. He, like Munguia, was involved with Brain Drill and appeared on their “Quantum Catastrophe”. With an assembly of this caliber “Designed Obsolescence” could’ve easily succumbed to masturbatory excess and egocentric indulgence, yet somehow it never does. Fraser is able to rein in everybody’s showboating tendencies and everything is always in service of the song. The only somewhat puzzling choice is placing Ivan Munguia on rhythm - instead of bass guitar. Willbrand is certainly up for the task but he’s no Jeroen Paul Thesseling, Linus Klausenitzer, Steve DiGiorgio, Michael Poggione, Erlend Caspersen, Giulia Pallozzi, or Éric Langlois. Which doesn’t make Continuum any less than a gathering of local mega talent and something that sounds right at home next to Omnihility, Equipoise, and latter-day Decrepit Birth as well as Canadian acts Augury, Beyond Creation, and First Fragment. For better or worse, Continuum is very much a product of its time.

Continuum takes more than a page or two from now-defunct Swedish act Spawn Of Possession and the shadow of “Cabinet” and “Noctambulant” looms large over “Designed Obsolescence”. Fraser and his men give it enough of a Californian flavor and his soloing is more than a little reminiscent of somebody like Jonas Bryssling. McShane for the most part sounds like Obie Flett from Inherit Disease but tends to alternate more between highs and lows. The swelling orchestral flourish in ‘Designed Obsolescence’ is a nice little touch that immensely enhances the atmosphere. The concept isn’t whole that novel as Soreption did it earlier on “Engineering the Void” in 2014 and bands as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Scrambled Defuncts have made it their entire raison d'être. ‘All Manner Of Decay’ is custodian to probably the best solo of the record. The bass guitar is felt more than heard but is allowed slightly more space in ‘Autonomic’. ‘Repeating Actions’ concludes with the same riff that opens ‘Theorem’ thus creating a semblance of inter-track continuity. The stars of Continuum are definitely Chase Fraser and drummer Ron Casey. The more progressive setup gives Casey is far more freedom to flex his muscles, whereas the narrow confines of Brain Drill restricted what he could do behind the kit. The Pär Olofsson artwork really drives home how apt the Spawn Of Possession comparisons are. At this point you’d imagine the scene having on moved on from Olofsson. Apparently not. For a band as forward-thinking as Continuum it’s surprising that they haven’t discovered Guang Yang, Aditia Wardhana, César Eidrian, Federico Musetti, Dusan Markovic, Monte Cook, or Johnson Ting yet.

It’s not so much a question about ability, either individually or collective, but whether Continuum will be able to differentiate itself enough from competition, foreign and domestic. While there are some mild New Age textures and sparse orchestral enhancements it remains to be seen how and if Continuum will be able to differentiate itself from similar acts as Inanimate Existence, and post-“Procreating An Apocalypse” Inherit Disease. Inanimate Existence is aesthetically different enough through its New Age spirituality imagery and Inherit Disease were among the earlier to push a dystopian futurist and technology-based lyrical concept. Not that that was in any way novel in and of itself. There was after all a little band called Fear Factory who did it earlier than anyone else. The concept of “designed obsolescence” has been commonplace in industrial design and economics for several decades and concerns the intentional planning of a product to become obsolete within a set timeframe as to generate long-term sales volume by repeat purchases of said product. The lyrics about the omnipresence of technology, artificial intelligence, the singularity, and the loss of identity in the digital matrix are interesting and certainly eloquent enough. There’s certainly something slightly ironic about an album title like this when Continuum is one among many such ventures and one bound to tie itself to a certain time-period.

Unique Leader remains one of the most reliable houses of quality death metal, although they arguably lost some of their luster when they started signing deathcore en masse. Continuum is as good as anything from the Unique Leader stable and that they sound like one or two bands that used to be on the label is probably not just a happy coincidence. As a product of the death metal arms race “Designed Obsolescence” sounds like a throwback to the bygone days of 2004-2005 when technical death metal was really taking flight as a genre after the release of “Epitaph” from Necrophagist. In fact Necrophagist would come to define the next decade even if they never came around to releasing that eagerly anticipated third album. Perhaps it is that drives bands like Continuum, the urge to fill that void left by Germany’s last important death metal band. It’s not a bad spot to be in, anyway. With the promotion department of Unique Leader behind them the best is yet to come for Continuum. Here’s hoping they further expand on what they’re pushing here. There’s potential aplenty, for sure.