Review – Circle

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Review – Circle
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Circle
Drama, Horror, Science Fiction
Rating: NR
Prod. Co.: Taggart Productions
Distributor: Votiv Films
October 16th, 2015
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Circle is a recently release film written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Micione. Both are not new to their roles, having worked together on the television series The Vault, which ran from 2011 to 2014. This effort has picked up for distribution through Votiv Films, and is currently trending on Netflix instant at the time of writing this review. However, does a movie discussed as a take on population control or even the status quo stand as something well worth watching, or is it nothing but more overly pretentious independent science fiction fodder?

Circle takes fifty people from Earth, throws them in a dark room, and after some violent encouragement on the part of those who trapped them, as well as some discovery on the part of the humans themselves, they quickly realize it has become a life or death democratic situation for them. The lights on the floor symbolize who the person is voting for and who got the most votes to be the next to die, and those lighted arrows are only viewable to the person in their own circle. One by one, these “contestants” bicker and debate to survive, or simply walk off the circle and commit suicide to give someone else a chance at making it through alive. One room, one objective, and a ton of back and forth quibbling. Yes, that’s literally all this eighty-six minute effort presents the viewer as far as the concept goes, leaving it more a film pitch than enough to fill out a near ninety minute movie and keep those watching interested the whole time.

However, Circle does stand as one of the most grossly offensive science fictions films for one specific reason: It cannot figure out what its own message is. Writers Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione take a simple idea of putting the primal desire to survive on display within a group of people trapped in a room with no escape. The large task of writing this film was to figure out characteristics for each one and how they would either influence the group, or how they could be influenced. In a way, Circle built itself up in an Orwellian manner similar to Animal Farm but got lost in itself fairly early on. And the reason for that was because none of the fifty knew why the hell they were there, leaving it to be way too broad a story to tell within a just over eighty minute span of time.

Yes, the entire point of the film is that they don’t know why they’re all there, but the speculation becomes the downfall. One idea after another is hurled at the viewer as everyone tries to figure out what’s going on. Ideas of what may be the key of their salvation constantly change as one is proven incorrect through experimentation in a fatal scientific method scenario. From trying to weed out by age, homosexuality, who the biggest sinner is, if the whole thing is racist against black people, illegal immigrants that can’t speak English, the list of hot button topics we’re stuck dealing with day-to-day goes on and on, even past the conclusion of the film. Many of these concepts can be found in pre-existing science fiction films as well, all handled a hell of a lot better too, not to mention speculative of some creepypasta stories you’ll read for free on the internet. In fact, this whole film kind of feels like someone threw up a science fiction library into a brown paper bag, shook it up, and put the pieces together into that very internet horror sensation.

This leads to the problem of the conclusion, where the direction should begin to come to light and be more obvious. Instead, these all end up detrimental messages about society as a whole. What seems like a general statement about population control a la Logan’s Run becomes preachy and, at times, even in favor of the status quo despite the outcome. Statements about survival by just keeping your mouth shut and “hiding” (though this doesn’t help one of the younger girls any), essentially becoming an introvert whilst the rest of civilization crumbles down around you is one of the worst things anyone can suggest about a human being, not to mention the running subplot of the rights of the unborn that amp up towards the end in a way that makes you groan loudly in disgust.

So, what’s the point of the film? Who knows! Nothing is ever explained. It’s literally just meant to be a representation of society today with some political grand standing thrown in for good measure. A lot of the latter may actually be unintentional, or perhaps just poorly written if any message exists at all. Who knows, the whole point of this may not be a social experiment of dire proportions in the viewer’s eyes, but rather a pot luck of humanity and it’s beliefs for only the simple reason of entertainment for the beings watching in the film, as well as those of us in the seats. However, the impressions do still exist, and if the film gets one thing right in that respect its that there are many weak-minded people in the world willing to obey and follow the stronger, while those aware of the power will trample the weaker to reach their goal, often being counter intuitive to the last few drastic statements incorporated in the film’s writing that just established morals which are detrimental to us a species, or at least right down to the local community surrounding each of us.

But, perhaps, that’s thinking a bit too broad, or perhaps even a little emotional on this end. All that stands as something the viewer should only really take into consideration when it comes to how it may or may not impact whether they want to take the time to sit down and watch this survival piece. It’s understandable, and one that would probably not even make its way into a critical review to that extent if it weren’t for the fact that this film is incredibly boring.

Circle had so many opportunities to do something unique by the end, especially given the two that wake up earlier than the others. There’s very little room for character development and because these two are special to the others, like the black sheep of the flock, you can’t help but immediately have a little attachment to them as opposed to the others. Having those individuals survive and help the story along as much as possible would allow the viewer a chance to root for someone make it through to the end of the film. The issue here is that, if/when they go, you need others to keep interest up. Other than a few who start to reveal their characters and are essentially killed for their opinions or beliefs (another veiled reference at keeping quiet and going with the status quo, and the other perhaps a shot at religious intolerance to other religions?) you’re left with blank canvases with no back story, just manipulation or prey for those big bad wolves to take advantage of to better their own chance of survival and leave you with general assholes you hope die, effectively bringing you in as a voting member of this mandatory committee.

Aside a myriad of possible messages (if they are meant to be interpreted that way because who knows at this point) and a cast of at least forty untouched white sheets of paper you could care less about other than a few things that come up in dialogue or are visual cues, Circle feels very restricted, a sensation that does work in its favor. The point is they are in a room, later learned to be some part of an alien ship, with only red circles, light-up arrows, and a center console piece that kills via lightning bolt. There is no sign of possible escape, you can’t touch another person or risk imminent death, and you die instantly if you step off the circles. You are basically stuck there, watching everyone die around you, waiting for your turn, which is perhaps the scariest sensation one could experience in life. The sense of hopelessness, that you genuinely cannot do anything to save yourself or someone else, something you would have to live with for the rest of your life if you make it through this as an innocent, is something not many people can do, or even begin to predict how they would handle a similar event. This is honestly the only real engaging aspect that makes Circle even remotely worth watching, let alone memorable in the slightest degree.

The final thing that needs to tackled is that the movie changes its own rules half way through. Initially they realize there is only one minute to debate as to who the next to go is. Eventually, when it becomes obvious roughly fifty, maybe fifty-one minutes not including credits and production logos won’t pad this out to a full-length feature film, the time suddenly changes to two minutes, with everyone acting as if that’s been the rule all along. It also doesn’t help that the ending is so painfully poor and open to speculation after suffering through an approximately thirty minutes of filler that you will probably jump out of your seat and ask if people can really be that freakin’ stupid or unobservant in such a situation, though in a far more vulgar manner.

Other than that, Circle stands as another entry in the “nearly everyone is a hateable douchebag you just want to see die among the brain-dead sheep waiting to be slaughtered by the killer” syndrome of horror themed films today. This has no real idea of its point to exist, leaving the viewer confused as to what they were supposed to take out of this movie. Sure, random things do happen in life without any real point, but a pretentious film like this absolutely needs one other than a conclusion that hints at an early line delivery showing relation to the title being more than just about the fifty people standing in a circle waiting for their execution. This is more than likely due to there being two writers, as you can almost sense a shift in styles while watching it, jumping from general story that focuses on society as a whole, to standing atop a soap box bashing the viewer over the head with imagery to get a hot button topic buried into your skull. It’s incredibly rough to watch, especially when the tide turns against the child and a pregnant woman, and there are very few moments that leave you a bit on edge. Only once, however, does that tension pay off with a different direction, but even then the death makes no sense at all as to why this person died for so many reasons related to those underlying messages. Circle had potential, but what we’re given is just a near ninety mass of confusion that leaves the viewer frustrated and grossly underwhelmed.


Overall Score: 2.5/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.