Review: ‘Cycle of Fear’

While the title seems to make very little sense, this little film struggles with half the production values of a Sci-Fi Saturday afternoon movie yet still manages to make twice as much sense.

A year after over a dozen teens go missing in a small Northern town, the only survivor found, Tabatha (Valerie Morrissey), still can’t remember exactly what happened. Stuck in an asylum with an orderly named Jay (Sean Kaufmann) as her only friend, Tabatha passes the time making sketches of the bizarre images she dreams. When a demonic stranger (Andrew Preistman) arrives and starts killing at the asylum, one of the other missing teens named Samantha (Rachael Ancheril) suddenly arrives to help Tabatha escape, but not from the demonic stranger. An ancient witch named Selena Sutton (Diane Da Silva-Bowles) is also after Tabatha, and Tabatha still can’t remember why!

Young or old, people get the itch to tell a story, and these days it isn’t hard or terribly expensive to find the basics to do it with. On a low budget production, half the trick is to put your money where it will do the most good. Between finding convincing, permissible filming locations and enough actors to fill all the parts, you can’t tell a supernatural tale without a few special effects and some decent makeup. Cycle of Fear (sometimes subtitled “There is no End”) manages to invoke actual mystery and danger in spite of looking more like a stage play than a film. Still, couldn’t someone have come up with a cooler or more specific title?

With only a couple of cheesy missteps, the movie practically begs for more opportunities to show Selena the Witch. From the first moment we see Diane Da Silva-Bowles getting her creepiness on, not only does the actress play to her appearance, but she’s easily the most interesting character in the story. Sadly, there just isn’t enough of her and way too much of Jay, your friendly-neighborhood horny orderly. Towards the end, strong efforts were made to deliver what was promised, but it looks like it was either too poorly edited to understand what was happening or was deliberately muddled to cover up the lack of budget while still keeping things mysterious.

Just to harp on the title once more, it really needed something more specific like “Secrets of the Codex” or “Witches vs. Demons” or even “The Codex War: Selena vs. Azazel.” A title like Cycle of Fear is simply too generic for a high concept idea like this; instead of being lumped in with other nonspecific crap titles like “Echoes of Evil” and “Corridors of Complaining,” it should have worn what it’s really about on its shoulder like a chip challenging you to rent it. Of course, it should also stop short of filming a commercial with Stephen King standing in front of a truck proclaiming “I’m gonna scare the hell out of you!” but you get the idea. But if she hasn’t got one already, can we get Selena a sequel along with her name in the title?

Speak up, Mortal -- and beware of Spoilers!

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