FEBRUARY 10, 2010
NOTE 2/21/11 - Can someone please comment explaining where they found this review? It was posted over a year ago yet it keeps getting hits/comments all of a sudden. Thanks!
Thanks to a couple of friends, my expectations for Circle Of Eight (actually spelled Ei8ht, which is stupid and I refuse to type it that way ever again) were pretty low. And it doesn’t get off to a good start, what with a credit sequence over black and THEN a lengthy “driving to her new home” montage (with a pop song and everything) that seems like it was designed FOR the opening credits we just saw. In other words, this 80 minute movie was going to have some padding. But then it picks up, and I have to admit, I kinda dug it.
Now, let’s get one thing out of the way - the movie is light on action, due to the nature of “what is really going on”, our heroine (the Marguerite Moreau-esque Austin Highsmith) keeps stumbling upon bodies but we never see how they died. There are a couple of jump scares and the odd suspense sequence here and there, but for the most part it’s an hour or so of a girl wandering around talking to people. And clearly someone felt the same way, which is why a random, lengthy lesbian makeout/fondling scene is inserted out of nowhere near the end of the first act. Not only do we never see these two characters again, but it’s also the only scene in the movie that occurs without Highsmith being present, which makes it stick out even more. But hey, free softcore.
So why do I like the movie? Well, for starters, all of the people in the building are delightfully “off”, but not in that horseshit cutesy indie movie way. No, they’re “off” in that they say things like “I used to host a political talk show in my panties”, and wander off of elevators during tense moments and ask everyone in earshot whether or not they want half of a burrito. Another woman begins rambling about how her unborn child might resemble noodles because she eats so much Pad Thai. And so on and so on. Every 4-5 minutes someone would deliver a non sequitur that made me laugh out loud, and it bought the movie a lot of goodwill.
I also liked the twist, although it took a bit more pondering in the ol’ noggin than should have been necessary in order to fully understand it. For a movie that debuted in 10 minute segments on Myspace, they sure are asking a lot of their target audience, since the script sort of gives you the answers in vague terms and demands you piece them together yourself. I know some folks didn’t get it at all, and also, I could be wrong! But for what it’s worth, I think it meant that these folks in the building were trapped in a Groundhog Day style time-loop on a New Year’s Eve in which they all burned to death in a fire, and could only be rescued if Highsmith’s character chose to sacrifice herself instead of trying to escape (as her botched escape kept the firefighters from saving the burning residents of the building). And based on the evidence in the file room, where she is forbidden to ever go (so of course she does), they have been in this loop for 90,000+ days. Why they can’t just lock her in her room and prevent the fire from ever happening in the first place (it starts when she throws a pillow onto a candle during a lovemaking session with a guy she met earlier that day) is beyond me, but then again, maybe I am completely wrong about the meaning of the twist in the first place. Either way, it’s the only movie in which a box of identical toothbrushes is used as a plot point, so I will give it props.
I will NOT give it props for being shot in the goddamned Linda Vista Hospital though. As soon as I read the plot description (“A young woman moves into a creepy apartment building in downtown Los Angeles...”) I knew that for the 50th time in the past 12 months, I’d be looking at that goddamned church like front façade. Can we PLEASE give this location (or at least its exterior) a rest, low budget horror movie filmmakers? Granted, few people are watching as many of these things as I am, but even the most casual horror fan has probably seen it in several movies by now. It zaps me right out of the movie every single time. As I joked on Twitter, I’d like to see a Battle Royale-style action movie where 30 low budget horror movie crews all show up to shoot there on the same day, and begin shooting/killing each other for the rights to film there.
Naturally, as with nearly all of the other movies shot there, there’s a special feature on the DVD about how the LV is really haunted, and how various crew members have been grabbed when walking around alone and blah blah blah. Look, I’m not saying it isn’t haunted, but maybe for once, one of these fucking crews can take the time to look into maybe ONE actual murder/suicide/whatever that occurred there and give their generic “experiences” some weight. The other two pieces aren’t much better; one’s quick look at the cast talking about their characters, including a couple who hardly even appear in the film, and the other is about the “life of a PA” on a film shoot, which would have been interesting if half of it wasn’t staged (why would the producer have the broom in his trailer?). There is a pretty funny gag that they play on the poor sap, where the DP says he needs 100 foot candles and sends the guy off to find some. Nothing beats a good lighting joke (a foot candle is not a physical thing, it’s a lighting measurement - in case the joke was lost on you). I just wish they let it go further, at one point he asks where he could buy some. I woulda sent him to Radioshack. Dumbass.
So it’s not particularly great, but it’s got some charm and a far more interesting twist than I was expecting (I really like the idea that these people have been in a loop for so long that they’ve started fucking around for the hell of it, sort of like when Bill Murray begins dressing like Clint Eastwood and robbing armored cars). You sort of have to read between the lines and draw conclusions for yourself (such as the pregnant couple’s odd statistics about childbirth - I get the idea that after 90,000 days, they’ve done a lot of obscure reading), which is sort of counterproductive when it’s a movie designed for the goons who spend all day on Myspace, but hey, it’s nice that they are trying to get kids to think while they watch a silly online horror movie.
That or the movie is just poorly written/directed. Either or.
What say you?