Circle of Eight (2009)
We're All Doomed
Strange goings on and mysterious deaths in a block of apartments called "The Dante", if that doesn't sound both obvious and cliche I don't know what will. Coupled with some scenes of lesbian love making which have no purpose and a director who employs an annoying punchy editing style during the opening 5 minutes and you have "Circle of Eight" a movie which to be honest had me reaching for the off button. But I am glad I didn't because the annoying opening styling and what seems a very obvious movie paves the way for what ends up a great concept one which when you realise what is going on will have you smiling. It is spoiled slightly by a prolonged ending which brings closure when ambiguity would have been superior but you find yourself suddenly admiring this clever idea after that initial feeling of disappointment.
It's New Years Eve and Jessica (Austin Highsmith) heads in to Los Angeles to move into her new apartment in a block called "The Dante" where the quirky Ed (John Bishop) manages the place from his office in the elevator. Ed is not the only strange thing about the apartment block as she meets the other residents who not only let themselves in to her apartment but already seem to know so much about her. But the strangeness doesn't end there as whilst Jessica immediately hits it off with artist Evan (Ryan Doom) she starts discovering the other residents dead yet when she returns they are gone leading her to think she is going crazy or someone else is trying to make her think she is.
So as already mentioned the set up to "Circle of Eight" screamed cliche to me as not only do we have the story set on New Years Eve but in a building called "The Dante" which in one of many strange early scenes we see on fire. Now this leads you to immediately make judgements especially when we meet the ominous Ed and to put that bluntly you begin to think we are talking some Hell house here with Ed being some form of manifestation of the devil. And it does little to make you think other wise from the strange and often inappropriate other residents to a scene which sees the creepy Randall recording two lesbians making out in a room. And then when Jessica starts seeing the other residents dead it just reinforces that feeling of obviousness.
But then after what seems a lot of obviousness we get the reveal and not only did this put a smile on my face but everything I witnessed fell into place to show what a clever concept the movie is. I say concept because it isn't perfect and there are same gaping holes in the plot but then we are talking a fantasy storyline. And on the subject of not being perfect I have to say the opening scene where we meet Jessica as she drives through L.A. singing may in the end be significant but the choice of jerky editing and the fact it goes on too long makes it annoying.
Now I try not to give spoilers in my reviews but having read many negative reviews from those who just don't get the movie I feel an urge to explain so for those who don't want to know what happens jump to the next section. Basically think "Groundhog Day" but as a sort of horror movie where we have these residents of "The Dante" in limbo forced to live their final day over and over again with the key to changing what happens rests on changing Jessica's actions. Now you can pick this to bits but it is a surprisingly clever and amusing idea which could have been developed into something better but even so "Circle of Eight" does a good job using it.
So spoiler out of the way, it has to be said that with so much of "Circle of Eight" feeling predictable and obvious the characters and acting is for the most what you expect. Now that isn't a bad thing as Austin Highsmith as Jessica is watchable whilst both John Bishop and DJ Qualls are well cast as two of the creepier of characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Circle of Eight" is by no means a perfect movie but it is an amusingly clever movie which lulls you into a false sense of security before then revealing the truth, a truth which will make you smile even if you then begin to pick holes in the concept.
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