New time loop tale explores romantic relationships beautifully and unnervingly… until it fumbles the landing
It isn’t hard to see why over the past five years or so, the concept of time loops have become seemingly increasingly popular storytelling devices. Cemented in popular culture by the 1993 Harold Ramis classic Groundhog Day, this storytelling device finds someone stuck in the same day or period over and over and over again until they finally come to some revelation or are released from their captivity. The idea of life into both infinity and the most definable point has a deep well of consideration to play within. The time loop even has crossed genres, from the time loop slasher movie (the Happy Death Day series) to time loop rom-coms (Palm Springs) to existential millennial anxiety within the time loop (my personal favorite, Russian Doll). And all of these different takes are remarkably trying to grasp as different aspects; the time loop functions as a mirror into different portions of the human psyche, different ways we feel trapped and the various methods we can in turn escape.
6:45 takes another stab at the horror-genre time loop. But unlike Happy Death Day, which uses the device as an avenue to explore the contours of the slasher genre with clever deconstruction, director Craig Singer and screenwriter Robert Dean Klein’s take leans into the actual dread of living the same day over and over, living in the frightening disorientation. The two films actually make for interesting counter points and show just how flexible the device can truly be. But in the case of 6:45, Singer and Klein allow the usage of the time loop to extend into emotional metaphor, elevating it. Unfortunately, it also undermines its own best intentions with a disastrous final reveal.
As with most time loop films, the set-up is very straightforward: a romantic couple, Bobby (Michael Reed) and Jules (Augie Duke), are attempting to overcome a recent rift in their relationship by spending a romantic weekend on the remote island of Bog’s Grove, where Bobby grew up. On arrival they find the area practically deserted, other than locals, and discover that something menacing occurred on the island years ago. Undaunted, they attempt to have a romantic day, exploring the charming island town, only for violent forces to disrupt their enjoyment: a figure whose face can’t be seen clearly slits Jules’ throat and breaks Bobby’s neck. But when Bobby awakens, he discovers he is forced to relive the same day over and over.
But unlike most other time loop films, Bobby never experiences that cathartic moment of relishing the opportunity to perfect his day, to live without consequences. This is partially because every day ends the same: Jules is killed, and then him, no matter what he does to attempt to prevent it. So unlike most entries into this milieu, Bobby finds himself trapped to relive trauma over and over again, the contours of the day becoming a hellish prison, a confinement that Reed plays perfectly. He unravels, attempts to collect himself, believing he has found victory, only for fate to once again deliver the same ends, and then unravel again.
Equally captivating is Duke as Jules, whose expression through the various days flies between peacefully at ease to full of fury. Their chemistry in general is the best feature of the film, at portraying a couple that has moments of being obsessed with each other, and then furious, and then reconciling, and back again. This central cycle, and seeing their relationship follow the tides of Bobby’s emotional journey, is where the film’s utilization of the time loop is most effective, the way that romantic relationships can feel like playing scenarios and experiences over and over, and that those moments of euphoria as punctuated by equally emotional moments of conflict, and how relationships that don’t grow can feel like a prison.
The rest of the support cast fills out with a colorful group of townies who Bobby and Jules interact with (over and over.) Chief and strongest of these is Thomas G. Waites as Larry, the overly eager and unnerving owner of the bed and breakfast that the couple are staying in. Waites leans into an ominous tone but plays along the edge well enough to never tip over into full on menace.
The tone that Singer draws aesthetically is a unique blend, combining pieces that remind of Stephen King menace, but also draw from the most disorienting work of the likes of Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze; indeed, traces of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film equally obsessed with the ebbs and flows of relationships and how difficult they are to navigate with care, run throughout the film. In later acts, the film splits into multiple windows within the frame, and it’s unclear if we are seeing moments from the same day fractured, concurrent events or multiple days lapsed together. It is a fitting visual metaphor for how losing the passage of time allows for our very lives to seem out of sync. But it also is a earnestly erotic film in certain portions that is outside of both of those tones as well; in totality, it is a mix of pieces together to make a piece that feels fairly organically new.
The other great asset of the film is the use of Asbury Park, NJ, especially in its isolated and deserted state, as it immediately solidifies that unnerving Kingian quality the opening moments of the film is trying to establish and then tear apart, spiraling you deeper within. Quaint seaside boardwalks and curiosities suggests equally a sense of welcoming and dread as you await what is just beneath the surface, it’s menace all that more disruptive.
For all of these strengths however, the final moments of the film spoil much of the goodwill that the creative film has gained up to that point. A final reveal of what has caused the time loop, and what lies beyond it, serve as a coda that is a twist that the film is not asking for; in reality there is enough devastation and beauty in what the story has unspooled thus far, that offering answers to the mystery of what was “actually” happening hinders rather than elevates.
It is especially disappointing because the film truly does not need a twist; as it is rounding it’s final ten minutes, it has already reached a satisfying climax before veering violently into its actual resolution. It doesn’t help that those final revelations are not only unnecessary, but also needlessly grotesque and deeply out of step with the rest of the film’s dreamlike tone. For a film that exhibits such a sense of confidence as it climbs to that moment, the disappointment of it needing to add one more wrinkle, and just how unsatisfying the wrinkle ends up being, feels somewhat like a betrayal to the audience’s sympathies to that point.
Up until then, 6:45 is grim but also meditative, reflecting a reality about the human experience that is both devastating and refreshing to see in a horror film of this ilk. It’s an inspiring piece of genre filmmaking that pushes the boundaries and breathes something fresh. The finale, in contrast, is frustrating and alienating, and grievously undoes a good portion of what came before. By finding a more elegant dismount, anything that was true to the 85 minutes that preceded it, it would be elevated to something special that would be a hallmark for smaller budget genre filmmaking, a true calling card for all involved. Perhaps it’s best to linger on that portion, and just walk away before those final 10 minutes undo all that good will.
6:45 will be available on Blu-Ray and digital release March 22nd from Well Go USA Entertainment.
Get it at Amazon:
If you enjoy reading Cinapse, purchasing items through our affiliate links can tip us with a small commission at no additional cost to you.