• Welcome To The Circle (Artsploitation Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Artsploitation Films
    Released on: October 27th, 2020.
    Director: David Fowler
    Taylor Dianne Robinson, Heather Doerksen, Matthew MacCaull
    Year: 2019
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    Welcome To The Circle - Movie Review:

    Touted as a “Lynchian Nightmare” (as in David Lynch), director/screenwriter David Fowler’s occult horror film WELCOME TO THE CIRCLE tells the story of a father/daughter camping trip gone horribly wrong.

    Dad Greg (Matthew MacCaull) and tween daughter Samantha (Taylor Dianne Robinson) are out enjoying the wild on a parental bonding mission. One night, after a cute bedtime story, the two get not their sleeping bags for the night. Greg is attacked by a bear at some point overnight and Samantha escapes. Cut to a few days later and Greg - wounded but not grievously so - awakens to find himself recuperating in a cabin and tended to by rather attractive women - with names like Lotus Sky who speak in quasi-soothing psychobabble. You know, the kind of thing you’d hear at the healing crystal tent at a Connecticut medieval festival.

    But since this is a horror film, can you spell J-O-N-E-S-T-O-W-N?

    Turns out Greg and Samantha have stumbled into a cult known as The Circle - the creation of one Percy Sutton. Sutton was a former naval officer in the 1950s who created a cult that appears to traffic in banal New Age platitudes, but is actually a front for something far more sinister.

    I would be more than happy to explain the plot of this movie to you if I could. Problem is, I really can’t. This is one of the most spectacularly muddled messes of a script that I’ve ever had to deal with as a reviewer. We are also introduced to three other people stalking around in an RV later in the film. Cult deprogrammer Grady (Ben Cotton) has been hired by the sister and brother of a cult member and is trying to snatch her back. Or something.

    The problem with the film is that the rules of the cult are never particularly well explained. We are initially led to believe that the whole thing is a sham but then we are later supposed to believe that Sutton has actually tapped into something that is pure evil on a metaphysical plane. People are randomly killed and there are a number of set pieces involving mirrors and double images and yes, mannequins. One of the more amusing aspects of this movie is how it is set in an environment – presumably filmed in Canada – that so closely resembles a Friday the 13th set. Unfortunately, this movie is way too pretentious to offer us the kind of exploitation thrills THAT franchise delivered. Instead we get dissertations on the difference between “real-fake” and “fake-fake.” And because everything in the philosophy of The Circle revolves around circular logic (groan) and repetition, we have the same three or four scenes repeated endlessly. Guy opens door, runs into another room, winds up in the exact same room, but with the exact same person behind the exact same desk - repeat ad nauseam. Grady has some nice stubble and does a moderately credible intense loner routine (Cliché alert! He was raised in a cult!) but he just has zilch to work with. And how many times have we seen the plot point with the beautiful flaky women who are actually homicidal religious zealots? As for the mannequins, that gag was handled way better in the late 1970s in TOURIST TRAP. Did I mention that when Director David Fowler can’t quite figure out what to do in this movie he randomly inserts eerie black and white found footage with random images? Funnily enough these inserts are actually the best thing in the movie. They look like outtakes from THE LIGHTHOUSE with sharks and weird looking dudes holding harpoons aloft. Fowler should have made THAT movie.

    I’ve seen some positive reviews of this mess and I am frankly baffled. I could blow smoke up your ass and tell you that this was a cutting edge and unusual and ambitious horror film that messes with your head and makes you question the nature of reality. But I won’t.


    Welcome To The Circle - Blu-ray Review:

    Artsploitation Films 1.85:1 framed MPEG-4 AVC-encoded 1080p disc looks good at least. Aside from the black-and-white inserts which are clearly from inferior sources, this is a very good looking film despite the surely less than hefty budget. Colors and detail are excellent with a very natural appearance. The film also features a number of very tricky scenes shot in low light – one of which is is a scene illuminated with what appears to be be solely a cigarette lighter - but everything remains quite visible. This is a very strong transfer.

    Audio is handled by three tracks. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0. All were good strong and clear tracks with the DTS-HD option sounding the best. The sound mix was good and there was never a problem hearing dialogue. Artsploitation have also provided subtitles in English for those in need.

    Extras? Only if you count a trailer and some additional bonus trailers for other films on the label.

    Welcome To The Circle - The Final Word:

    Sorry. I just can’t recommend this one. However, IF, and that’s a big if, you have a taste for the nonsensical and would like to experience psychotropic drugs without actually taking the drugs, you might want to check this out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Welcome To The Circle Blu-ray screen caps!