Fear Itself is an anthology horror series that aired on NBC in 2008. The show is the unofficial third season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror. Lionsgate stepped in to produce a third season, landing a deal to move the show to network TV. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled halfway through, with the final five episodes debuting on the NBC website.
The Circle is the final episode of Fear Itself. A writer and his wife move to a small town to help his creative process. He’s struggling to write a story about a coven of witches performing a ritual on Halloween night. The more he works on the story, the stranger his life becomes. Elements of the story seem to be coming to life, and the big villain, the encroaching force of darkness, seems to be surrounding their cabin.
Eduardo Rodriguez was one of the emerging directors invited to participate in Masters of Horror/Fear Itself. He got noticed by Hollywood after his thesis, a short film named “Daughter,” played the festival circuit in 2001-2002, including the Cannes Film Festival. This led to a contract with Dimension Films to direct three pictures. He is a Venezuelan film director who often sets his work in Central and South America. Probably his best known work isn’t even credited to him directly. He was brought on to reshoot large sections of Danny and Oxide Pang’s The Messengers after the producers of the film were not happy with the original cut of the film. The connecting thread of his work is the exploration of the family unit disrupted by a supernatural force that threatens to tear them apart.
The Circle is a film about storytelling. George is stuck trying to write a story that feels true to him. He gained international acclaim by assuming a pseudonym and writing a shocking horror novel. Now his agent and publisher are staging an intervention to demand he repeat the success he never asked for. The story he’s working on appears out of thin air as a completed manuscript with his pseudonym’s signature. No one can claim responsibility for the story and no one has control over what happens next.
Richard Chizmar and star Jonathon Schaech cowrote the screenplay to The Circle. Chizmar is the publisher and editor of Cemetery Dance, once of the preeminent literary horror magazines and publishing houses in the United States. Chizmar and Schaech worked together on numerous screenplays for horror and thriller films, including the Masters of Horror episode The Washingtonians, the Fear Itself episode Eater, and The Poker Club.
The Circle is a bit confusing. The visual storytelling is great. That’s Rodriguez’ strength as a director. The actual plot is very dense. There’s not enough time in 42 minutes to tell all of this story in a way that makes sense. It is scary with great acting and style. The Circle would soar as a feature, but has to jump around too much and skip the foreshadowing and build of suspense to fit everything in one episode.
content warning: gore, violence against women
Up Next: The Outer Limits S1E01 “The Galaxy Being.” The Outer Limits is streaming for free on the Roku Channel.