September 2, 2023

Stare Into the BLACK CIRCLE

2018 / 103 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Back in the ‘90s, I used to make programs which were broadcasted on a local public access channel, mostly things I could shoot and edit myself. For one of them, I slapped a dartboard shaped black & white contrast pattern onto a turntable and shot it for 30 minutes. By happy accident, I discovered it did weird things to the eyes… staring at the spinning pattern for a short period and looking away created the illusion that the room was morphing & twisting out of shape.

Writer-director Adrian Garcia Bogliano does the exact same thing in the prologue to Black Circle, with an unseen narrator urging the viewer to stare at the image. Though I should sue the guy for plagiarism, the scene is a highly effective way to immerse the viewer, especially considering the film’s intriguing subject matter.  

The story itself is about siblings Celeste and Isa (Felice Jenkell & Erica Midfjäll) who acquire an old self-help record from the 1970s, which promises to improve the listeners life through a type of hypnosis. Listening to it each night for a week will supposedly take away all the negativity in your life. Instead, it convinces the girls that they’re being stalked by a monstrous entity.

"The bathroom's over there...second door on the left."
They seek out the woman who made the recording, Lina (Christina Lindberg), who gravely informs them it was part of a failed experiment. What listening to the record actually does is create a doppleganger that becomes stronger with each listen. Now Lina and her cohorts must use hypnosis to perform a sort of reverse-exorcism before the girls' doppelgangers grow strong enough to replace their hosts.

It’s a pretty cool concept, which Bogliano effectively presents with atmospheric direction and minimal special effects. There are also flashbacks interspersed throughout the story (the previous failed experiment from the ‘70s involving Lina’s sister), depicted through scratchy, 8mm-style imagery that renders them pretty chilling. While the narrative briefly throws-in the presence of Lovecraftian entities, that aspect of the plot isn’t really expanded on too deeply, nor is it ultimately all that necessary. 

For the most part, Black Circle is an atmospheric, surreal and creepy horror film that not only messes with viewers’ heads (literally and figuratively), it’s very well made on a limited budget. But who needs money when armed with wild ideas, a solid cast and creative ambition? So I guess I'll refrain from suing Mr. Bogliano, since he did a lot more with the spinning pattern than yours truly (and it probably wasn't my original idea, anyway).


SOUNDTRACK CD - 18 tracks of the original score. Comes with an insert with the track listing & credits. 

“DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES” - The original short film.

INTERVIEW - Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano interviews actor Christina Lindberg, who’s sort of a legend in Sweden.


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Adrian Garcia Bogliano



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