Saturday, September 10, 2011

Circle Jerks: "Black Circle Boys" (1999)

A young hunky cast transcends a couple of cliches and marketing mistakes to make a watchable suspenser, based on a true story.

Kyle (Scott Bairstow) is an All-American swimming high school student who loses his best friend on a night the swim club was celebrating. Months later, Kyle's distant dad and mother (Dee Wallace Stone) move to the Pacific Northwest to start fresh. Kyle is troubled, sulking into a new school. He meets modern day flower child Chloe (Tara Subkoff), and runs into creepy Shane (Eric Mabius), his giggling sidekick Munn (Heath Lourwood), and nerdy peon Rory (Chad Lindberg). Shane has pie in the sky dreams of getting a band together, and grudgingly hires Kyle on as a drummer.

Shane's life revolves around drug use and causing trouble. He bites the head off a dissection frog in biology class, and holds wild parties in the woods. Kyle falls in with this group immediately, especially after meeting Shane's mentor Greggo (Donnie Wahlberg). The film hits a slow patch as the Black Circle Boys wreak havoc around the town. Shane has the Boys believing he is receiving power from Satan himself, and the hallucinogens just feed the lie.

Kyle comes to his senses after almost beating a security guard to death. Kyle rejects Shane, who has dead brother issues of his own, and Shane takes Kyle, Munn, and Rory out for one final blowout. Shane murders one of the other boys, Kyle calls the police, and the final half hour of the film consists of Kyle and Shane playing mind games with each other while Chloe waits for her man to return to normalcy.

The troubled youth angle has been done to death, and writer/director Carnahan steps into some of this cliche once in a while. His direction is fascinating, however. This is not a typical slasher film. Carnahan does some very imaginative tracking and hand held shots, lending it a documentary feel. The picture seems washed out, all the colors match the gloomy, cloudy weather. You can see the actors' breath in many of the cold nighttime scenes.

Bairstow looks genuinely pained as the troubled Kyle. Wallace Stone is great as his mother, her timid stance in his room is a highlight. Mabius as Shane is equally good in a creepy role. He is just a punk, but a scary punk. Wahlberg is unrecognizable as Greggo, but his part is terribly underwritten. Lisa Loeb-ers, don't call an emergency fan club meeting to view this film quite yet. Loeb has just a couple of lines, without her trademark glasses, and her name was tacked on to cash in on her new found popularity. The video company is marketing this as a horror film, and I found it in the horror section at the video store, but that angle is all wrong. The film has crime, suspense, but no supernatural angle other than Shane's lies.

"Black Circle Boys" compares favorably to other hunks-in-trouble films like "The Skulls." It is not perfect, the same story has been done a hundred times before, but the acting and directing set it above the others. (* * * *) out of five stars.