I held out almost little hope for Michael W. Watkins crime thriller slasher film about a Greek mythology obsessed serial killer who has a penchant for gathering and murdering his victims on the basis of fulfilling some need within him to manifest some Greek legend, but “Circle” gradually proved me wrong as it progressed. While it’s not a masterpiece by any definition, it definitely is a solid horror film with some roots in the formula cop sub-genre in which we’re following two mismatched hard boiled cops on the track of the vicious Bennett, a mastermind and genius psychopath who manages to break free from his asylum after ritualistically killing off a group therapy session he was engaging in.
What is shifty and suspicious is that he was in a high security facility and walked out and now the man who brought him to justice originally is back on and seeking him out aggressively. Noted character actor Peter Onorati saves what could have been a boring character and turns him in to a truly entertaining hero who is your typical cop with nothing to lose and finds a motivation to catch Bennett once again and figure out how he masterminded an escape in an inescapable asylum. Kinsey Packard is solid as his partner Kathy, an FBI agent who intrudes on the case and works along side him and his co-workers to track down the killer and figure out the entire plan for Bennett’s ritual murders which involve mathematics, Greek mythology, and help from the outside.
Around the time of Bennett’s escape, a group of crime students are heading to his old house to study his belongings and figure out his motives. And Bennett is on the way there to finish his business in the process. The film is amped up considerably with rising tension and suspense as it goes on as character Richard and Kathy struggle to find out where he’s headed all the while Erin Reese gives a very strong performance as criminology student Chloe who is embroiled in a relationship with a fellow student and faced with fighting off Bennett once she discovers he’s headed home. There’s also some strong supporting performances from Peter DeLuise and the always gorgeous America Olivo.
Watkins directs with a luster and zeal that makes “Circle” a respectable little crime thriller that also works as a slasher film as Bennett’s carnage reaches in to his home as he picks off the students preparing for his final ritual that remains a mystery until the final half. When I sat down to watch “Circle” I wasn’t entirely sure what the intentions of writer Brad Tiemann was and what he was trying to put down before the audience. “Circle” begins as something of a gritty crime thriller, and then heads in to territory that feels an awful lot like a pitch for a cop series with an opening sequence, and rolling credits as well as an open ended finale that is never quite made coherent for the audience. Is there a sequel in the works, or is this the hope for a television show?
Nevertheless much of our suspicion toward the goal of the film is nothing but an after thought as Tiemann can never decide what kind of film he’s making. Sometimes the movie heads in to straight camp territory, then it drops down in to cliché slasher trappings and plot devices, and then it tries desperately to be a poor man’s “Silence of the Lambs.” Meanwhile I’m still wondering why these top drawer detectives couldn’t figure out the entire time that he was headed back to the very home he resided in while committing his murders. It really doesn’t take a genius, and the audience will undoubtedly figure out the big surprise reveal in the finale way before the writers intend to.
Ultimately the motives of Bennett and his mystery partner is absurd and doesn’t justify all of the time spent on decoding these patterns in the end. It just simply makes no sense, and there’s not a lot of reason to pop this in and watch it again once you’ve realized it was all basically for nothing. Michael T. Watkins crime horror thriller is definitely not going to re-invent the wheel. Often feeling like the pilot to a television drama with an unfocused narrative and plot holes, “Circle” is definitely a flawed film, but for what it is, it’s a solid and interesting horror entry with great performances, a tense second half and America Olivo. You can’t go wrong with her.