THE CIRCLE (2012)
Directed by Michael Lansu
Written by Michael Lansu & Carolyn Shoemaker
Starring Caitlin Costello, Kaylee Diller, Matthew Ketchum, Michael Morris, Steven Labrillo, Mark Mandrake, Rebecca Shea, Carolyn Shoemaker, Heather Johns, Corrine Pierce, Scott Xavier, William Kinney, Paul Lee, Charlie Kostrewa, A.J. Shoemaker
I had a chance to check out THE CIRCLE which is playing for free on the Kings of Horror Network (follow the link above and below to watch it). Immediately, I was struck with familiar locations in Chicago, specifically the Occult Book Store that was only a few blocks away from my old apartment in West Town. So right off the bat, this film had me.
The story is pretty straight forward. A woman seeks a medium to hold a séance for her husband’s birthday party. The couple are living in a house in Aurora that has been in the husband’s family for generations. While the owner of the Occult Book Store warns them that having a séance at a party is not a wise thing to do, they run into another medium who says she would be fine with conducting the ritual. For most of the rest of the film, the story centers on the ritual, the fallout, and the medium’s attempts to get rid of what they have unleashed in the house.
Filmed in a hand held camera/found footage style. THE CIRCLE feels genuine from the very beginning to the very end. While there are moments (especially at the very end) where the camera just happens to be in the right spot to catch something crucial to the plot, most of the time, everything feels untouched, unedited, and unmanipulated by outside hands—it feels like an authentic found footage film.
The pace is all over the place and depending on one’s interest in seances and the occult, I feel THE CURCLE is going to be hit or miss with viewers. Those who are into this type of supernatural sort of thing, I believe will find this film fascinating as it really does feel as if the filmmakers went to great lengths to make everything feel authentic and follow the rules of the séance. I’m no expert, but everything seems very legit. Still, that means there is a lot of breathing, long pauses, slow trance-like talking, and repetitious steps to the rituals that we go through as the story progresses. Three seances are conducted in this film and each one is filmed in its entirety. That’s going to be a lot of seancing for some and I feel some will have tuned out by séance two.
The seances do build towards something and the finale of the film really does make for some tense moments. The actors all sell their perspective roles well and do not feel like they are acting (another crucial detail to found footage films). So the tension and suspense is built well as the plot climaxes with the last ritual to rid the entities called upon in the earlier rituals. The film ends on a vague note, but it makes sense if you’re listening to what’s going on in the seances. I do feel some who don’t pay close attention will be scratching their heads at the way everything wraps up.
All in all, THE CIRCLE is a very low budget film that gives a pretty genuine and respectful look at the world of séance and mysticism. If you’re into the occult, I feel it might be a more interesting movie for you. The pace of the film is going to make or break this one for folks, but it is free so it’s no harm no foul either way.