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David Fowler
Matthew MacCaull, Taylor Dianne Robinson, Ben Cotton
Writing Credits:
David Fowler

A bear attack during a camping trip leaves Greg and daughter Samantha trapped by a cult known as The Circle.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/27/2020

• Trailer & Previews


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Welcome to the Circle [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 27, 2020)

If you take a gander at the Blu-ray cover to the left, you might think “hey, that reminds me of the art for The Boy! I’ll bet Welcome to the Circle offers another horror movie about a creepy doll!”

That would be partially correct. While Circle indeed goes down the horror path, it involves no living dolls, as instead, it follows a more psychological bent than one might anticipate.

While Greg (Matthew MacCaull) and his daughter Samantha (Taylor Dianne Robinson) enjoy a camping trip, disaster strikes. A bear attacks them and leaves them wounded.

Some young women happen upon them and take father and daughter to shelter. While this sounds good on the surface, problems soon emerge.

It turns out Greg and Samantha end up “rescued” by members of “The Circle”, a cult. Greg needs to find a way out to save himself and his daughter.

That story doesn’t sound especially original, as the notion of evil cults appears in plenty of stories, some as recent as 2019’s Midsommar. However, Circle comes with a potentially intriguing narrative, one that could succeed in the right hands.

Writer/director David Fowler doesn’t possess those hands, unfortunately. If Fowler’s hands contain even the slightest hint of cinematic talent, you’ll find no evidence of that in this thoroughly awful movie.

Circle enjoys an abysmal 2.8 out of 10 rating from IMDB readers, and that might be a good 2 points too high for this mess. To call the movie “amateurish” would overstate the competence on display.

As noted, the film’s basic concept comes with potential, but not a single moment of Circle threatens to live up to those possibilities. Instead, we find a nearly incomprehensible mish-mash of clichés and stale filmmaking choices, all wrapped inside an incoherent narrative.

Virtually nothing about this disaster makes the slightest amount of sense, and Fowler’s choice to jack up the “tension” to 11 from Minute One doesn’t help. A good movie would introduce us to the Circle gradually and build the creepiness, but instead, Fowler makes the cult members seem… well culty right off the bat.

That crushes the evolution of the tale’s natural spookiness and makes the stabs at scares impotent. When a story pounds us with phony drama from the opening, it comes with nowhere to go, so it can’t escalate when it needs to do so.

Perhaps Fowler sensed the trap he’d laid for himself, as he turns Circle almost literally into a different movie about one-third of the way into the tale. Out of nowhere, we meet a trio of “cult-busters” who plan to enter the Circle and rescue a brainwashed woman.

To call this shift abrupt would be an understatement, and the film fails to integrate them well. We lose track of Greg and Samantha for a long period, and though the divergent threads eventually tie together, the movie can’t do so in natural manner.

Fowler’s dialogue does him no favors, as Circle comes with so many silly lines that I can’t help but wonder if Fowler really wants to parody the genre. We get groaners like “this is some multi-dimensional kung fu we’re getting into here, boy!” and “if you’re restless, stick your thumb up your ass – it does wonders!”

Maybe Fowler does intend Circle to spoof the genre – can anyone actually write those lines with any level of seriousness? – but I can’t find anything else here to imply that the movie leans toward wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Indeed, Fowler appears to treat everything in a relentlessly serious manner that makes the film’s basic idiocy even more mind-numbing.

The actors do their best with this awful material, but none of them show nearly enough talent to sell the crummy lines. I’d like to pick out a good performance among the bunch, but all seem so amateurish that I can’t cite anyone who seems even mediocre, much less appealing.

Even at 92 minutes, Circle becomes a total endurance test, as the movie’s utter lack of redeeming qualities makes it a waste of time. Ridiculous, incoherent and basically incompetent, nothing about this film works.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B- Bonus D-

Welcome to the Circle appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Apparently shot on 16mm film, this became a drab presentation.

Sharpness varied and never looked better than “pretty good”. Some of that appeared to stem from the movie’s blown-out photographic style, and some of that came from the limitations of the stock, but I still thought the end result appeared less precise than one might anticipate.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a natural layer of grain, I suspected no digital noise reduction, and the image lacked print flaws.

In terms of colors, Circle opted for a heavy sense of green/yellow. The hues seemed fairly dull even within those confines.

Blacks tended to feel a bit inky, while shadows looked somewhat flat. Again, the movie would never become a showcase due to the source, but it still turned into an awfully bland image.

Don’t expect much from the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, as it also lacked much to excel. Given the nature of the narrative, the mix emphasized music and creepy atmosphere.

In general, those elements worked moderately well, as the score expanded across the channels in a positive manner. Effects came with less to do and emphasized the forward speakers more than I might like, but the soundscape offered a decent sense of ambience.

Audio quality worked fine within the low-key constraints, as speech seemed reasonably natural and concise. Effects showed fairly appealing dimensionality and accuracy as well.

Music worked best, as the score appeared full and rich. The movie’s soundtrack was mastered at an unusually low level, so expect to need to crank it to reach your typical volume. Once balanced in that way, this wound up as a decent to good mix.

The disc includes the movie’s trailer as well as previews for Dead Dicks, Happy Times, The Dead Ones and Red Christmas. No other extras appear here.

Someday down the road, Welcome to the Circle might earn a cult audience as a “so bad it’s good” entry. However, I doubt it, as this atrocity falls much more firmly into “so bad it’s terrible” territory. The Blu-ray comes with mediocre picture and audio as well as no substantial bonus materials. I can find nothing positive to say about this wholly awful film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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