Screams like old times…
The horror film 6:45 uses what had been a fresh story-telling gimmick when Groundhog Day did it, but lately has begun to go a little stale: The time loop. Think Source Code, The Final Girls, Edge of Tomorrow, or Happy Death Day. The template is easy:
Oh no, someone’s trying to kill me!
Oh no, they did!
Oh well, time to wake up and go through this all over again.
It can be a great device – the classic Dead of Night used it brilliantly, with an ending that closed the circle and started the film all over again – but it’s tricky. Repeating the same scenes, over and over, is a huge risk.
After all, if the events weren’t that interesting to begin with, they’re going to be awfully tedious the second – or tenth – time around. The challenge is to find a way to keep telling the same story, but in consistently new and slightly different ways.
And that’s the problem 6:45 struggles with.
The film follows a young couple on a romantic weekend getaway. The town is a little empty. The innkeeper is a bit off. The lovers do some shopping, grab a beer, try to repair what’s clearly a troubled relationship. Then a mad killer appears, and the real trouble begins.
Then they wake up, and go through it all over again.
Director Craig Singer makes the most of his Jersey shore locations – all grey sky and lonely beach and gingerbread Victorians – and the small cast is fine. Michael Reed’s Bobby has a sort of scruffy, intense Jeremy Renner vibe. Augie Duke, who also produced, is sweetly sensual as his girlfriend, Jules (this is one of those rare new American movies that isn’t afraid of nudity or sexuality).
But even with its rinse/repeat structure, Robert Dean Klein’s script still loses its way. The more unbelievable a premise, the more believable characters need to be, yet Bobby and Jules often act in ways that don’t make sense. Characters, and celebrity cameos, suddenly appear for no reason (Why is Remy Ma even here? Or Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini?)
Perhaps sensing things slipping away, Singer’s direction gets more melodramatic, falling back on hallucinations and buckets of blood. At one point, for no good reason, things even turn split-screen, with multiple images competing for our attention.
It’s a valiant, if somewhat desperate effort on Singer’s part, and Reed and Duke still deliver. But eventually what had started as a fine, if familiar, story goes flat, and the final, painfully disappointing “twist” ending would embarrass even M. Night Shyamalan.
And leaves us, like Bobby and Jules, with the feeling that we’ve seen this all before.