Sunday, 27 March 2016

Circle Vs Circle Jerk...

So, for the past few months I kept seeing this film on Netflix and every time I was all like, 'nah, not really in the mood for that tonight,' until one day last week I finally gave into the temptation. 
The premise sounded kind of interesting - 50 strangers wake up in a circle and, one by one, slowly start to realise that they have been abducted and that each of them is about to be killed in turn. 
But the process isn't random.
By voting with their hands, they can decide between them who is going to be the next of them to die.
There are only two rules - you cannot vote for yourself, and if you attempt to leave the circle, then you yourself are killed and you become the victim for that round.

The problem I had was that I kind of felt I had seen all of this done before - and done better - by Catt Dahman in her novel, Circle Jerk.

In Catt Dahman's book, a group of apparently random strangers all wake up to find themselves in cages, handcuffed to the person in the next cell and in order to be rewarded with food, or weapons, or luxury goods, they all have to undergo a series of grisly tasks - which normally involves some kind of mutilation, either self-mutilation or on the person in the next cell along! The idea being that they are all being forced to undergo the ultimate psychological experiment, designed to investigate just how far they are willing to go in order to survive.

My main problem with the movie, Circle was that it all just seemed to go on for way, way too long.
About half way through, I started to lose interest and I no longer found myself caring about who lived and who died anymore.
This probably had a lot to do with the film having such a large cast to begin with.
Where Catt Dahman's book is better is that we only start off with a handful of characters. This gives you ample chance to get to know the characters and form some kind of bond with them. 
With Circle, there are several characters who never even get a chance to speak before they are bumped off - and the process of death comes across as far too clean and clinical. A laser, firing from the centre, dispatches each of the contestants in turn as they lose their vote, only for their bodies to then be whisked away into darkness. 

There are some interesting moments - don't get me wrong, the film isn't all bad - namely when the group start trying to decide how to choose which of them will be the next to die. One guy comes up with the idea of picking off all the older people as they have less of their lives ahead of them, but soon the voting becomes even more strategic as people start pairing off in different factions. It is painfully obvious right frontman start that this film is less about the violence and more about asking deep, philosophical and often moral questions but watching this, you are often left with the feeling that the director is less pointing those questions at you, rather more forcing them down your throat.

Circle Jerk, on the other hand, is far less subtle - it is another of Catt Dahman's books intended solely to shock and disturb you, and both in equal measure - and so makes no bones about trying to be clever; instead wanting only to provoke a reaction in much the same way as movies such as Hostel and the Saw franchise.

It is probably unfair to compare Circle and Circle Jerk, not least because they are two very different media, but even the film, Would You Rather - which I reviewed recently in an earlier post - was better than this drab and uninspiring offering.
The ending of Circle, when it comes, is disappointing and leaves you with few answers and very little satisfaction - in contrast, both Would You Rather and Circle Jerk provide much more closure and so end up being a lot more satisfying to enjoy.

Circle gets a very average 3 stars out of 5.

Catt Dahman's Circle Jerk, however, gets a much more impressive 5/5.

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