Directed By Michael W. Watkins
2010 – 88 Minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided by Indican Pictures
Article written by Craig Hamann
Michael W. Watkins’ film starts out interesting. A group of patients sit dead on chairs inside a room at a maximum security mental hospital. They’ve been slaughtered by James Bennett, a nut-job who was confined to the asylum after being arrested for several gruesome murders on the outside. Bennett kills ritualistically, thinking that somehow each life he takes is connected with Greek mythology and numerological equations. He escapes the hospital and travels to his childhood home, which unbeknownst to him is presently occupied by a half dozen grad students that are studying Bennett’s background for their thesis project. On top of that, hot on Bennett’s trail is the same U.S. Marshall that caught him the first time around, only now he’s aided by a FBI profiler as well. It all sounds good so far, right?
I wish I could say the movie continues down that path.
But unfortunately, Watkins’ CIRCLE ends up being
a big disappointment. After a great beginning, the film suddenly takes
a misguided turn into assembly line slasher territory and it never finds
its way back out. Despite having what seems to most, but not all, of the
right materials to be a cool thriller, things get bland and predictable
about halfway through the second act and finish with an unsatisfying ending.
This brings us to the main problem with the storyline. Who was it written
for? Genre fans? Maybe, but anyone who has seen their share of slasher
flicks can basically predict the beats and actions in this movie. Yes,
there are a few twists and turns here and there, including a decent one
in the third act, but a genre audience will see most of them coming from
a mile away. What’s weird is that our U.S. Marshall and his team,
plus the FBI profiler, do not see them. They’re actually confused
most of the time. Adding to the humdrum effect is that nearly all of the
so-called surprise clues and twists are revealed through expository dialogue
that tells us one thing while the visuals reveal something different.
Take the character of James Bennett, for example. We’re told repeatedly
how intelligent he is and how intricate his ritualistic methods are, yet
the most actor Sila Weir Mitchell offers in the villain role is scene
after scene of bug-eyed stares before, during, and after each killing.
This is a production that underachieved because its story needed to be stronger. The original idea behind the project is fine, but the application of the storyline idea and the forming of the characters simply isn’t all that interesting. The end result? We’re watching the film to be entertained, but instead we end up being irritated and bored. That’s a formula set for self-destruct mode every time.