Being a guy around here who doesn’t just hate the “found footage” genre, I often find myself defending it to some o’ the other folks that I’m proud to work with. That’s not to say everyone around here despises the format, but it’s safe to say that it’s not a favorite (just check out our t-shirt selections 😛 ). Each time I’ve stepped up on my soapbox to profess the merits that some of the films in the subgenre offer, in the back of my mind I’ve always known that the day would come where I’d draw the lot to review one that was all but indefensible.
Circuito Chiuso (in English, Closed Circuit Extreme) almost seems to leap happily into the biggest traps that can plague a first-person film. Going into it, I thought the concept to be kinda out there, but at least fairly original; little did I know that, barring that concept and one or two other elements I’ll get into in a bit, it was going to be one long and uncomfortable experience; something akin to waiting in a crappy airport for seat assignment without benefit of a reservation.
The film begins with the overused trope of being an “evidence video”, only to be seen by law enforcement. A young woman has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and a couple of her friends, Claudia and Daniele, suspect that a local gardener is somehow involved. This video is the accumulated footage that this young couple (Daniele is apparently some kind of audio/visual engineering student) has illegally obtained by breaking into the gardener’s small home and rigging it with several remote cameras. We get to see a lot of the set up and fine-tuning of the devices, interspersed with said gardener coming home, stripping to his tightie-whities to parade around the house, having a beer and scratching his ass.
The next day, more of the same: the couple come in to adjust the cameras (which some are fine, some flicker, some are fuzzy, etc.), Mr. Gardener comes home for more beer-drinking and ass-scratching…oh, he does interview a couple of women for a babysitter position, although we see no signs of the wife or child that he mentions. His mannerisms during these interviews go from the disinterested (to the older lady that applies) to the downright creepy (to the younger, attractive applicant); either way, though, he doesn’t hire anyone but a hooker, which was kind of not fun to see, despite what you may think. Finally (about forty minutes or so into the flick), he has another babysitting applicant in his living room, and he drops the bomb on her that he has no wife. Seeing the writing on the wall, the girl tries to bolt, but he’s ready for her…from there, the film turns an unflinching (and off-center) eye to the horrible brutalization of the girl, continuing into the next day. We get to witness some disturbing scenes of how he deals with his loose ends, and we see the annoying-as-all-hell Claudia come back to the house (Daniele broke his ankle climbing out the window…yeah, that’s right) and overstay her welcome…
Early on, I was kind of impressed by some of the techniques that were used (after-the fact pausing of the video to focus on key “investigative elements” was a neat distraction once or twice); however, the general grind of watching this slightly overweight guy go about his usual nightly routine (clothes occasionally optional; while the argument could be made that it’s realistic, full-frontal flabby guy isn’t my idea of fun to watch) became horribly monotonous. Also off-putting was the thickly-accented English everyone spoke; it’s an Italian film, for chrissake; why did they speak poor English that was harder to understand sometimes than Italian would have been?
When things finally start happening (again, halfway into the movie), the acts depicted are admittedly brutal and hard to watch; the actors involved were chilling in their portrayals of the heinous acts committed, and I tip my hat to the realism of those scenes…however, the really gory bits all happen off-screen. This is something of a sad cheat, but I have to honestly say that after seeing the brutality inflicted upon and hearing the desperate screams of the poor girl in question (by the way, this is one of only two murders in the whole flick), I wasn’t exactly anxious to see any further degradation piled on the character. After all this fairly disconcerting action rolls out, however, the film falls right back into its earlier groove, drawing out the flick to the point of painful boredom.
So, although I found the acting pretty harrowing in certain scenes, and believe that the realism of the movie (the captured acts, not the premise itself) may be spot on, I didn’t find it remotely entertaining. I suppose the argument could be made that it’s not meant to be entertaining, that it’s instead intended to disgust you by holding up a mirror to acts that happen every day; I’ve enjoyed other films that fit that description, but in this case, the delivery was just too poorly-executed for me to find any value in that possibility.
The film could have been trimmed by a good hour and still had everything pertinent to the story included. For that primary reason, I can’t in good conscience recommend it to you Fellow Fans. It’s not just slow, it’s a creeping monotone…it’s listening to Ben Stein on ten milligrams of Valium read War And Peace with someone dropping a drop of icewater down your back at about the midpoint.
All right, I’m gonna go steel myself for the “I told ya so” barrage that’s coming; I won’t hear the end of this for a while.
Two cents lighter.
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