6:45 (Photo: 645 Films)
★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Craig Singer
STARS Michael Reed, Augie Duke
We need another movie inspired by Groundhog Day about as much as we need an additional six weeks of winter each year. Yet those who elect to check out 6:45 don’t have to worry about experiencing déjà vu, as this is a film that takes the time-loop theme and sprints in its own unique direction.
The premise has been popular as of late, what with the likes of Palm Springs and the Happy Death Day twofer. Yet for at least the opening act, 6:45 stirs memories of a dissimilar horror hit: Like Midsommar, this one establishes an eerie mood as a troubled woman and her problematic boyfriend journey to a desolate area where nothing is quite as it seems.
In this case, that would be Jules (Augie Duke) and Bobby (Michael Reed), who are in love even though they’ve recently been engaging in some blowout fights. Bobby would seem to be the culprit behind these spats: There are suggestions that he cheated on Jules, that he has anger management issues, and that he has alcoholic tendencies. But hoping to spend some quality alone time with Jules — and to get down on his knee and pop the question — he takes her to the island resort of Bog Grove, a tourist spot that is curiously devoid of tourists. Jules and Bobby begin their day at 6:45 — thanks to an alarm clock in their boarding-house room that neither of them had set — and spend a lovely morning and afternoon together. That is, until a masked and hooded figure appears out of nowhere and proceeds to cut Jules’ throat and break Bobby’s neck.
Bobby then wakes up, only to realize that the alarm has sounded at 6:45 and that he will basically relive the same day again. And again. And again. And every time during this 24-hour stretch, Bobby and Jules will both be murdered by the shrouded stranger. Naturally, Bobby tries to avoid such a gruesome fate — he keeps them away from the scene of the crime, he talks Jules into spending the entire day in their room, etc. — but the song remains the same.
6:45 is an accomplished terror tale that’s both exciting and unsettling — for that, thank the combined efforts of director Craig Singer and scripter Robert Dean Klein. Klein keeps the specifics vague and only slowly dishes out crucial info — because of this approach, the final reveal will doubtless catch most viewers off guard. And Singer provides the proper atmosphere of angst and edginess — the lengthy sequence in which the pair remain in the room as Bobby counts down the hours and then minutes to midnight is particularly potent.
Reed and Duke are excellent in the lead roles, with Duke particularly adept at flashing the raw nerves that have been exposed due to a less than reliable boyfriend. Bobby and Jules are surrounded by characters who might be involved in the spooky shenanigans or who might merely be examples of the quirky local color. Most intriguing of all is Gene (Armen Garo), the friendly yet overbearing boarding-house owner, but there are also the watchful bartender Larry (Thomas G. Waites, best known as Windows in John Carpenter’s The Thing) and the punkish lesbian Brooklyn (Sasha K. Gordon), who propositions Jules by asking, “Why dontcha ditch the stick and go with a chick?” It’s a marginally better come-on line than Cool as Ice’s Vanilla Ice suggesting that a woman “drop that zero and get with the hero.”
Special mention needs to be given to the lovely end-credits song “Energy,” written by Shannon Swartz and Michael “Fish” Herring and sung by Munny. Provided it’s a new song and not a pick-up, how about next year the Academy bump the automatic treacly tune out of its usual spot and insert this one instead?
(6:45 opens nationally on August 6. Its VOD and DVD schedules have yet to be determined.)