Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rape is a Circle (2005)

Pack: Tomb of Terrors
Disc: 4

Subgenre(s): Torture, Drama

Year: 2005

Rated: R
Length: 72 minutes

Director: Bill Zebub
Writer: Bill Zebub
Starring: Natalie Laspina, Niki Notarile, Yelena Sobolevska

Synopsis: Two girls hitch a ride from someone they think they can trust. After all, the driver is a woman. They endure humiliating perversions and excruciating pain. Their friendship warps as they are forced to perform sexual acts on each other for the twisted amusement of their captor. Escape is no easy thing to accomplish - they know they only have one chance because if they fail they will be killed. This movie explores the cycle of cruelty - how pain does not end with the victim. The ripples touch many, setting off new waves of torment.


"You can touch, you can play, if you say: I'm always yours."

"Exude... exude... yes!"

Obviously the maid's day off.

"Look into my eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, the eyes..."

Review: From reading around, I've noticed that Bill Zebub gets a lot of mostly undeserved negative criticism for his low-budget movies. I'm not familiar with his entire body of work, but Rape is a Circle is a surprisingly effective psychological study which goes far beyond its value as titillation.

I'm not saying that Rape is a Circle should be considered a classic of the horror genre since it's more of a crime drama anyway, but it's quite cleverly written and very well acted in places too. Obviously, the low-budget doesn't do the movie any technical favours, yet the use of close-ups makes it a rather intimate and harrowing experience.

In particular, Natalie Laspina excels as the foul-mouthed lesbian psychopath "Queen Katherine" (or Kat as she's referred to in the cast list). She's instantly dislikeable, mental as a bag full of rabid ferrets, and one of the most perverted females ever to be created by a misogynistic male imagination. Kat makes Annie Wilkes from Misery (1990) look like a very nice lady indeed.

I doubt that such a thing could have been made prior to Grotesque (2009) or Srpski Film (2010), but if the implied tortures had been realised on screen, Rape is a Circle might have become the "must see" and most controversial movie of 2005. As it is, it's almost up there with Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door which also shocks those people who prefer to have things left to their imagination.

Of course, for the sicker puppies among us, the lack of visual "torture porn" is disappointing and can't even be made up for by the nudity and abilities of the three beautiful actresses. Undoubtedly, everyone will have a different favourite depending on if you prefer brunettes or a fake blonde, but you may find yourself changing your mind as the story progresses.

Objectively, Yelena Sobolevska, who plays Kerri, is the best looking of the bunch with her great body, lovely face and sexy foreign accent. Subjectively, however, the beauty contest is between Natalie Laspina and Niki Notarile which mirrors the physical and psychological battles of their characters. At first, it's all about Niki Notarile as Isabelle because she's nude, but Kat grows more attractive once she reveals with her dolls the true extent of how much she is very "damaged goods". It's almost possible to sympathise with her and want to give her a hug.

All of the characters are victims several times over, but it's the world that made them the way they are which is the most mean-spirited and bleak aspect of the story. The bad things which happen to "good" people have turned them into very bad people themselves. It's a vicious circle as in the title.

I'm sure psychologists would argue the toss about victims of sexual abuse becoming the abusers themselves unless they had a certain predisposition already. The actions of the protagonists in Rape is a Circle are as contrived as those in Baise-moi (2000) yet there's an element of scientific truth about the subject matter which is borne out by statistics. Sexual abuse and repressed homosexuality have certainly been traits of many real life serial murderers.

The rape-revenge aspects are a trope which has been a staple of exploitation movies since the days of I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and before. It's a storyline which enables both female wish fulfilment and male titillation at the same time. Basically, it's an instantly effective, lazy, and recognisable plot. By creating a twist whereby the victim isn't quite so innocent seems to be an original touch, but that is also a well known formula.

If Rape is a Circle has a serious flaw, it's that there's no real character development. Revelations don't make Kat any less of a nutcase or Isabelle less of a vengeful Canadian stripper. The exposition is nice, but it's far from subtle or natural. Everything works within the logic and duration of the movie so it's best not to over analyse it after the fact.

Most Memorable Moment(s): Katherine's revelation at the bathtub.

Originality: Very original yet paradoxically formulaic. A miniscule bit like Baise-moi (2000) but not really the same thing at all.

Best Line(s): "Now I'm going to give you another choice: pain or more pain."
Worst Line(s): "If you ain't a whore, you dress like one."

Best Effect(s): The blood.
Worst Effect(s): The gunshot (or what gunshot?)

Goriness (out of 10): 1
Sexiness (out of 10): 4
Profanities (out of 10): 7

Hottest Actor/Actress: Natalie Laspina as Katherine. (Yes, she does look a bit like X-Factor presenter Kate Thornton in this picture.)

Not Kate Thornton.

Picture Quality: Average (4:3 ratio)
Audio Quality: Average

Rating (out of 10): 5


IMDb or Wiki:

Final Thoughts: I wish more torture had been shown rather than implied.

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