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Case Number 18228: Small Claims Court

Buy Circle Of Eight at Amazon

Circle Of Eight

Paramount // 2009 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 2nd, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker just can't square with this circle.

The Charge

They've been expecting you.

The Case

From what I've read, Circle of Eight was originally an Internet series. I've never actually followed an Internet series and know little about these things.

Circle of Eight is now available on DVD, and I can tell you this.

It's crap.

Young Jessica (Austin Highsmith) moves into a creepy building called The Dante (foreshadowing through a classic lit reference!!) on New Year's Eve. She meets her predictably and badly acted quirky neighbors, including the building's manager, a couple of couples, a mysterious yet soulful fellow who seems drawn to her (Ryan Doom—that's the actor's name, not the charactrer's name), and a geeky guy who is constantly filming her with an assortment of video cameras (DJ Qualls, Road Trip, the sole recognizable name in the cast).

Ominous things begin happening before she's even in the building, and in case you miss their ominousness, these bits are presented in slow motion with a music blart. To add to the ominousity, these strangers seem to know things about Jessica. Even more ominously, Evan keeps reassuring her that she'll "understand soon" ("Understand what?" she fails to ask) and the other tenants say things like, "We've been here…FOREVER!" (cue music blart) People also make comments about getting "it" right this time, often out of Jessica's earshot—thus killing that whole victim's POV thing that films like this live and die on.

As Jessica traipses about the dark and foreboding building (is there any other kind?), the bodies of her neighbors begin popping up. It's like those scenes in the Friday the 13th movies where the virgin discovers what happened to all the other campers, only stretched out to about 40 minutes and not at all gory or scary. She runs to get help—bringing back a cop at one point and her surviving neighbors some other times—but then, the bodies disappear. Poof! Just like that.

So, is Jessica nuts? Is everybody else nuts? Is The Dante a building of evil? Would she be better off forfeiting her security deposit and heading off to the nearest Motel 6?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

And the movie is crap.

In the normal "moving into a scary building" movie, the new tenant is portrayed as relatively normal, and the new neighbors roll out their oddness over the course of the film. In Circle of Eight, Jessica isn't normal so much as she is dull and clueless. She's not an interesting character, and she does dumb things pretty much from the get-go, so there's no real sympathizing with her plight.

Her neighbors are less sinister than irritating. They show up alone or in pairs to meet her, tell her things that reveal their character traits (he's a dork! she's a hipster!), and drop a few hints about the weirdness that will ensue, and then leave. Perhaps this was done in a half-hearted effort to make all this interesting so people would continue to watch the Web serial, but it ensures that the viewer's visit to The Dante will be suspense-free.

Circle of Eight is a tedious and incoherent mess, like a David Lynch riff gone terribly wrong. Every aspect of this film is pretentious and stupid. The characters are uninteresting, the acting is atrocious, the direction is amateurish, and the script is abysmal. The nominal mystery element—who are these freaks and why are these odd things happening?—is resolved in a jaw-droppingly lame way that makes no sense with the two or three false endings that follow. Calling it "unsatisfying" would be generous.

Could someone please explain to the people who make these direct-to-DVD things that low lighting looks awful when shot on video? It's murky and drab, and the whole business of people running around dimly lit spaces waiting to be terrified is trite.

The disc gives us three short featurettes, but none mentions the history of this film as a Web movie. A "making of" offers the actors talking about their characters, a short on the location lets us know that the place they filmed this is more interesting than the film itself, and if you've ever wondered what it's like to be a production assistant, you'll find the third featurette informative.

The Verdict

Guilty. Deport it to YouTube.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 15

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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