Sex, drugs, rock and roll… and murder in an enjoyable but bad low-budget 90’s horror flick.
Everyone has their guilty pleasures. Luckily, if your vice of choice is obscure enough, you needn’t face public ridicule for the admission. I’ve loved this “super-duper fucking hardcore” movie since I saw it in ‘99 and that’s fine because no one’s ever heard of it.
Black Circle Boys stars Scott Bairstow who enjoyed fame’s fickle 15 minutes before facing child molestation charges in 2003. His character, Kyle, is the new kid at school, his family having moved to the Seattle outskirts following a tragedy – the accidental death of Kyle’s best friend. Now he’s changed from the up-and-coming swimming star to troubled teen. He listens to metal music and smokes and wears the quintessential teen attitude of “So, what?” This rebellious streak does not go unnoticed by bad boy Shane Carver played by Eric Mabius who takes him under his wing. Shane introduces Kyle to the world of Satanism and seeks to pull him as far down the rabbit hole of drugs and occultism as he can.
Black Circle Boys is based on the true story of Ricky Kasso, a teen who murdered a friend while they were blitzed out on LSD. The film itself is barely horror since the supernatural doesn’t actually come into play (it’s pretty obvious that these are just kids acting out and not really communing with demons) and the bloodshed is pretty minimal.
The only reason I ever saw the movie is because I had free rentals as a Blockbuster employee and the guys on the cover looked kind of hot. This ignited in me a long-time obsession with all things Eric Mabius, who shines in his portrayal of a charismatic reckless psychopath despite being much too old for the part. I’ve always been disappointed that he never became a bigger name; he seemingly has reached his peak popularity with Ugly Betty.
More than just totally digging on the lead, I also am charmed by echoes of a deeper narrative. It had the potential to be, if not a great movie, something that had a story to tell. Or maybe that’s just the fangirl trying to justify the silliness that is in this flick. The relationship between Kyle whose best friend died and Shane whose best friend moved away is pushed as fraternal. “You don’t fuck with brotherhood,” says Shane, spitting out the words like a Satanic proclamation. I would have liked to have seen a romantic angle pop up between the two main characters, something that would have strengthened their bond, made it harder for Kyle to walk away from Shane’s downward spiral.
Oh, there’s a blonde two-dimensional love interest but she just serves as a cipher. She’s a hippy who loves the sun, a beacon of light that represents the good shoulder angel, the way that Kyle could go if he chooses not to follow the darker path that Shane offers. This relationship is less consequential and less interesting than the one Kyle has with his parents. They were proud of their athlete son, but this new complicated one scares them. They can’t seem to reach him, perhaps because they never really tried to communicate with him after his loss.
Overall, this movie plays out like a Lifetime movie with more swearing. It’s a cautionary tale for parents about letting teenagers listen to rock and roll and wear spiked collars. This is what those women who distribute Chick Tracts worry that America’s youth is coming to. Everything feels life or death to these kids, and sometimes it is.