Circle is a 2015 psychological horror film, of sorts. A group of 50 people wake up in a large circle, each of them standing on a marked spot. If they move from their spot, they die. None of them know why they are there or remember anything that happened. As they are talking, they learn that there is a countdown every few minutes, and at the end, someone dies. Through experimentation, they discover that they are voting to eliminate each other.
Circle is an interesting movie because the entire thing plays out in the room and through heavy dialogue. There is no action, nothing in the way of gore, and the situation plays out in a pattern of debate then eliminate. However, the movie still manages to build tension, which is a must for this movie since it has such a specific way of telling the story. There are a few deaths that are expected, but many of them are actually surprising, and it maintains a decent level of suspense. The movie also very clearly has a lot to say about humanity, and it can go to dark places. Both the tension and this reflection of people manage to keep in horror territory despite having an extremely limited way to be horror.
There are also a lot of different plot points coming through. People trying to figure out what is happening, what the point of this is, and ultimately who is worth saving.
The problem with this is there are times when the movie gets very heavy-handed. A lot of people fall into a bit too much of a stereotype, and there is a heavy political message coming through. It is not that this is entirely unbelievable; it just feels a bit too much at times. Although in fairness to the movie itself, it could be that I am just suffering a little bit of political exhaustion.
Still, it is not terrible, and overall the movie is pretty fast-paced, so while there are some moments that I didn’t really enjoy, nothing lasts too long.
The movie also poses some interesting questions as the plot unfolds, and we see the group fracture and begin to show their true colors. With fewer people, I think that the subplots and characters themselves could have been developed more, but what is there gets the point across.
In the end, I am glad I saw this movie. It was a cool experiment and kind of a sci-fi twist of the 12 Angry Men formula. The ending is solid and really drives home the point. It is also well-acted, and I give everyone in it credit. Some performances were a bit weaker, but considering the challenge presented to everyone, I was impressed. Again, there were a few drawbacks, including it being slightly heavy-handed, but in the end, it was an interesting movie.
It stretches “horror” as a genre, and I could see most calling it a thriller, but I have my own issues with that subgenre, which I will not be ranting about here. I say this only because I don’t think every genre fan would enjoy it, and I think a lot of non-horror fans could. But again for me, it’s worth a viewing if for no other reason than to appreciate what this movie managed to do.