Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Circle of Eight – Review

Circle of Eight – Review

Sep 13, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Stephen Cragg, 2009

Originally released in ten-minute segments on MySpace.com, Circle of Eight tells the story of a New Year’s Eve tragedy that continues to be re-lived day after day.  Director Stephen Cragg, best know for his work on television, creates a movie short on action and heavy on dialogue, where 90% of the film follows the wanderings of a young lady through the halls of an apartment building.  Although there are plenty of reasons I should have walked away from the film with a bad taste in my mouth, I actually give the movie a favorable rating and if for nothing else recommend it for its incredible ability to pull of a plethora of non-sequiturs every couple of minutes.

Jessica is a young lady who is moving from the boring farming country of the mid-west to a more exciting life out west in the big city.  She is also moving away from a tragedy that has plagued her life – losing her younger brother in a drowning accident.  We learn that Jessica, in fear for her own life, let her brother drown.  She moves into the “Dante” apartment building and from about the 5 minute mark, we are greeted with a host of bizarre, creepy, and at times funny characters.  These folks seriously have issues, not the least of which is an tremendous indifference to the private life of Jessica as they will barge in on her at any given time, even while she is bathing.  Much of the conversation is difficult to follow, tipping the viewer off that we might have to wait till the end of the film for it all to make sense.  Evan is the love interest for Jessica, and although he certainly is not quite as whacked out as the rest of the apartment residents, he nevertheless comes across as mysterious and unique.  The dialogue during a majority of the film is at times downright hilarious – including unbelievably random lines in the midst of great turmoil.  For example, only seconds after Jessica discovers another murdered body, she and a few other people are greeted by Ed, the eccentric landlord, and he asks if anyone wants half of his uneaten burrito.  Nevertheless, apart from the funny moments, there is also an overall feel of uneasiness throughout the film that works very well.

Essentially, Circle of Eight takes the “Groundhog Day” concept to the next level.  The apartment building name is obviously drawing from Dante’s Inferno, the famous first part of the epic Divine Comedy.  We are left to think of the apartment as a certain kind of purgatory where the only way its residents will survive is if Jessica makes the right decision.  Unfortunately, after 90,000 plus days, she has yet to do so.  Unlike Groundhog Day where the other characters were unaware of the repeated day, all the residents know exactly what is happening and this explains some of their incredibly “off” behavior.  After all, when you are experiencing the same day 90,000 times in a row, you begin looking for new ways to live it.

The film has way – and I mean way – too long of an opening credit sequence, followed by what can only be described as yet another opening credit sequence without the credits.  That, combined with a completely unexplained and pointless lesbian make-out scene from two characters we never see or hear from again, shows that the filmmakers were needing to add some “stuff” to their film to fill it out.

Still, the movie makes the viewer think.  It does a pretty good job of providing enough detail to explain what is happening but leaving just enough for us to figure out on our own.  It seems that the “8th circle” could be a reference to the 8th circle of Dante’s Inferno, pointing to the concepts of purgatory and fraud.  It is a movie of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, and so on, until Jessica finally learns what she needs to do.  Our past experiences should and must shape us into people who learn from them and have the discipline to do the right thing.  The film ends with Jessica finally figuring it out and saving the residents of Dante.  Mysteriously, her and Evan’s body are never found.

The movie speaks to a crucial aspect of spirituality, that being second chances.  The character of Jessica mirrors all of humanity by knowing full well what she ought to do, but failing time and time again to actually do it.  In this way, the film accurately describes a Christian position that it is “never too late” to change.  The film also deals with the reality of Hell, although it does so in a way that uses Hollywood liberties.  Although we certainly have second chances while on Earth, the same cannot be said of the afterlife.  Thus, the film aligns more with a Roman Catholic view of eternity than it does a Protestant view.

Overall, I enjoyed Circle of Eight much more than I expected.  Take a look when you have 90 minutes and nothing much else to do.

One comment

  1. Utter Rubbish. The film failed to explain why Jessica had to die. It was utter pap and a complete waste of 90 mins of my life, of which I will not get any ‘second chance’. Poor acting, poor dialogue, poor film.

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