FEBRUARY 7, 2012
If one ever wanted to show a movie to a film school class on how to botch potentially exciting/interesting ideas, Circle would make a fine candidate. I could list the bullet points about the movie and your first thought would be “that sounds pretty great!” But if you actually watch the movie, you’d know that there is nothing “great” about it, as it spends its runtime seemingly going out of its way to bungle the job.
For example, our main group of young pretty folks are part of a psychology class who are assigned to go to the childhood home of a killer and see what made him tick (except without Busta Rhymes and Dangertainment to guide them), and the teacher adds that they will not be working with their usual group, because out in the field you’ll be working with strangers and need to learn to adapt. So I’m thinking, this is great – for once there will be a reason that these people are together when they won’t be getting along, and perhaps the lack of a prior friendship will allow for some actual character development for a change. But no, the TA who is “randomly” assigning the kids to a particular house (I guess there are a lot of serial killers in the area?) picks his girlfriend, her best friend, and another guy they seem to be friendly with, so there goes the whole idea of being with people you’re not familiar with. The only wild card is some stoner dude whose presence in the class makes zero sense (advanced psychology is hardly a throwaway class), who brings along his crazy Latina girlfriend in order to even things out to 3 guys and 3 girls, I guess.
The killer is also heavily influenced by Numerology, which is an under-mined area for movie serial killers, many of which often just go by the Bible or Satanic ritual or whatever. Finally, a different kind of killer! Well, all it boils down to is the fact that he leaves FOUR cars arranged in a particular way or kills SIX people in a semi-circle for reasons that have already escaped my mind. I think it’d be better (or just enjoyably silly) if he sought victims that had 21 letters in their name or whatever, but instead we just get scene after scene of a couple of cops trying to decipher his clues, which would be fine if A. we didn’t know who the killer was and B. we didn’t know where he was going. Alas, our killer is shown in the first scene, and it’s not too difficult to figure out that he’s going to his damn house where all of our slasher victims in training are waiting.
Unfortunately, and for reasons that baffle me to no end, the movie is heavily skewed toward the cop scenes instead of the kids, as if writer/producer Brad Tiemann assumed watching some folks trying to figure out what we already know is somehow more exciting than watching our victims do their thing, where at least we’re not sure in which order they will be killed off, or if they will find out something interesting about the killer during their “research” sessions (mostly just wandering around the house going through his stuff). I’d say for every minute of kids we get two minutes of cops, when it should be more like 10 minutes of kids for every 1 minute of cops. I mean, it’s fine that they add a police presence, and it’s good to check in on their progress every now and then, but why dedicate 2-3 minutes of screen-time to them wondering where he is, or 5 minutes on a “clue” that he left for them, when the audience already knows these things?
Worse, it takes forever for him to kill any of them, and when he does, it’s almost all off-screen. Adding insult to injury, all kills occur in a 15 minute chunk at the top of the 3rd act, so everyone’s dead except for the final girl, the killer, and (SPOILER!) the TA, who turns out to be his brother/fellow numerologist. Oh and the cop, who has finally figured out that the killer is in his own house, and arrives on the scene just in time to scramble around in the dark for a while before doing anything. This results in a criminally awful “climax” in which not one but BOTH killers get away by outrunning a trained police officer (a chief, in fact!). Come on, even Chain Letter’s ending was better than this halfassery.
Oh, and the Linda Vista is used as a shooting location, as if to say “Look, we refuse to put any effort into this whatsoever.” I swear, the day that place burns to the ground because some film crew knocked over a light and started a fire will be the happiest day of my life (assuming no one is hurt in the process). I assume it’s just super cheap to use, because otherwise I can’t imagine for the life of me why any filmmaker would want to shoot there when it’s been used so many times. Don’t they want to stick out? Find cool places that haven’t been overused (or used at all) in dozens of other movies? Even if they have to shoot inside, can’t they at least steal an establishing shot from any other building in the state?
Incredulously, this thing got a theatrical release in 2010, playing two theaters, which is one more than necessary (every movie should play in a theater once). Were you one of the ones to go see it? If so, why?
What say you?