The Movie Waffler First Look Review - WELCOME TO THE CIRCLE | The Movie Waffler


welcome to the circle review
A father and daughter's camping trip is disturbed by a mysterious cult.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: David Fowler

Starring: Heather Doerksen, Matthew MacCaull, Taylor Dianne Robinson

welcome to the circle poster

Some film-makers seem to be operating under the assumption that the more abstract and impenetrable their films are, the more likely they are to be considered things of artistic merit; and sometimes the idea of being entertaining or interesting gets lost along the way.

This is one of those films.

Starting with some nice old-timey opening credits overlaid with a lovely song, writer/director David Fowler puts us straight into the tent with Greg (Matthew MacCaull), who is on a father/daughter camping trip with his child Samantha (Taylor Dianne Robinson).

welcome to the circle review

During the night there is a confusing and vicious beasty attack where it’s unclear exactly what happened, but Greg awakens to find himself bloodied and alone.

A car full of women appears and they say to him that “it looks like a bear attack” before taking him to their commune to recoup from his injuries.

When he awakens sometime later, they introduce themselves to him as ‘Lotus Cloud’ and ‘Skye’ – so far, so hippie.

At his urgent enquiries about his Daughter, he is told that Samantha is in ‘Bubble Class’, which is exactly what it sounds like.

He is taken to where she is cavorting happily and blowing bubbles with her teacher, but he doesn’t recognise her at first as her innocent childish visage is covered by a great big creepy mask that she outright refuses to take off.

“You should meet Matthew”, indiscernible hippie girl #1 says; and then they take him to see Matthew.

Matthew is intense. He tells Greg about their cult ‘The Circle’, and their founder Percy Stevens. He then spouts some mystical claptrap while Samantha again cavorts blissfully in her creepy mask.

welcome to the circle review

Later that night, Greg awakens from nightmares only to witness what seems to be a cannibalistic ritual; but due to circumstances out of his control, he has to spend the night in the Circle's dubious care.

The only explanation offered to Greg at breakfast the next morning is ‘the message is the message and the meaning is the meaning’.

An escape attempt is thwarted by bratty Samantha and then Greg is wandering the forest encountering mannequins in various tableaux.

It’s all interspersed with random silent black and white footage that only intermittently seems to relate to the actual narrative and does nothing but muddy the waters and pull you out of the film, over and over again.

There’s no clear sense of who our protagonist is as it's now that we are introduced to ex-cult member Grady (“I was born here”, “I have no compassion”) leading some kind of expedition to rescue someone, even though the cult mostly seems to be populated with mannequins and only about four actual humans.

It goes into an even more bizarre tangent with lots and LOTS of expositional dialogue that is really too much work to follow. And then it ends.

welcome to the circle review

The lack of a coherent storyline robs this film of any sense of dread or fear, which doesn’t seem to be a goal of the filmmakers. I’m unsure if this is meant to even be a horror or just a fever-dream.

There are flashes of an intriguing and disturbing movie that might-have-been in the mannequins, mirrors and feedback loop. The concept of cults is in itself fascinating, so it’s a pity the ingredients were squandered.

The acting by all concerned is good, the direction is workmanlike but fine, the set design by Azul Hicks is delightful, and the songs by Jo Krasevich are really wonderful and the highlight of this movie.

It’s unfortunate then that the sum is not equal to its parts; but ultimately this is just confusing and inaccessible stuff with an elusive point.

Welcome to the Circle is on US VOD/DVD/blu-ray now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2020 movie reviews