When animal instincts crawl to the surface
Circulation is certainly a strange film, so much so that I had to watch it twice to fully appreciate what was going on. However, since this is also a very well made film, the second viewing was very far from being a chore.
Set in Californian desert, the film centres on two main characters; Gene (Sherman Koltz) and Ana (Yvonne Delarosa). Ana is a Mexican woman on her way to visit her new boyfriend when her car breaks down. Unfortunately for Ana the first person to find her stranded is her ex-husband.
One attempted kidnapping later, Ana pulls herself from the wreckage of a car crash and meets Gene, a retired trucker who is heading south for a vacation. He agrees to give her a lift and they encounter the first of their problems – Ana speaks no English and Gene speaks no Spanish.
However, she manages to make herself understood and Gene agrees to take her to the hotel where she has arranged to meet her boyfriend. But when she arrives it is very far from what she expected. The hotel is not only deserted but derelict as well. When she encounters a man hiding in the abandoned building, and when the man growls at her, she flees the building with Gene.
What emerges as the film progresses, and as Ana and Gene try to understand what is happening to them, is that none of these characters is alive. They are trapped in Purgatory, but this is a strange, animal purgatory in which the dead are learning the instincts that they will need when they are reborn. Genes behaviour is becoming increasingly spider-like while Ana finds herself taking on the behaviour of caterpillar
Although Circulation is listed as a horror/fantasy film it really is a unique piece of cinema that defies any sort of easy genre classification.
The film progresses at a very steady pace and, instead of falling back on familiar genre tropes, relies on the performances from both the lead characters to draw you into their world and to keep you hooked. And they are very strong performances indeed.
Both Koltz and Delarosa do a great job of really bringing their characters to life as they navigate their way through the genuinely dreamlike world that writer/director Ryan Harper has created. And its these performances that really hold the film together.
Harper trusts the audience to not need spoon-feeding and this is an approach that I thoroughly appreciate. However, the surrealism of the film does mean that you are sometimes unsure of what is going on. When this happens, it is the depth of the characters that keeps you engaged, wanting to know how things will develop and willing to stay with the film as its events unfold.
This is probably the most idiosyncratic vision of an afterlife I have seen filmed, which is very much to the films credit. Circulation is a genuinely original film and one that really does reward repeated viewings.