Rape is a Circle DVD Review
Written by Eric "The Hitman" Strauss
DVD released by Bill Zebub Productions
Written and directed by Bill Zebub
2005, Region 0 (NTSC), 74 minutes, Not rated
Natalie LaSpina as Kat
Niki Notarile as Isabelle
Yelena Sobolevski as Keri
The writer/director known as Bill Zebub is probably best known on the convention circuit for his DVDs with outrageous titles such as Jesus Christ, Serial Rapist and bizarre box covers such as the one for Dolla Morte, which features crucified Barbie-type dolls.
Needless to say, subtlety certainly doesn't appear to be ol' Bill's strong suit.
You'd be surprised.
Somewhere underneath the gratuitous female flesh and disconcerting violence, there's an interesting psychological study at the heart of Rape is a Circle.
Certainly, the production values are of the lowest sort and the acting is shaky at best, but the box cover's "It will MAKE you think!" should be taken at face value. There's something genuinely thoughtful about the film.
Of course, there's plenty of soft-core violence and wanton cruelty on the parts of the characters, too. In fact, the film's relentlessly depressing tone makes for a long, long 74 minutes. Hey, rape isn't a pleasant subject, and a circle of rape that feels like it's never going to end is even less pleasant.
That means there's very little titillating about the nudity; most of the scenes involving the three passably attractive leads will have viewers cringing, either from the physical setup, the sadistic tone of the film or the uncomfortable line delivery.
There are, however, a couple of scenes at the heart of Rape is a Circle that feature no nudity, no on-screen violence, but make the entire film worth seeing. The actresses involved — Natalie LaSpina as a lesbian rapist and Niki Notarile as her less-than-innocent victim — also rise to the occasion, giving their best performances in these key scenes.
Notarile has some real potential; she's the best actress in the movie by far, and turns in what might be called a decent performance more than half the time. LaSpina is very, very stilted in her delivery, but carries off several moments of madness with skill that surprises when measured against the rest of her performance.
Zebub's directing is pedestrian, but gets the job done. His pacing is better than his shot setup, and is an asset to the atmosphere he wants to build.
Still, the best thing about Rape is a Circle is Zebub's writing. Like his actresses, he rises to the occasion, and the most important moments are the best-written.
There's nothing subtle about the way Bill Zebub markets his films. But there's a subtlety to this one that's very intriguing.
Video and Audio:
The full-frame image is what you'd expect from a low-budget film, with plenty of grain and softness. However, the image is certainly clear enough to see what needs to be seen; in fact, it's quite sharp in places, for better or for worse.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack likewise suffers from the limitations of the source material, which can be problematic for a dialogue-driven film, but it also gets the job done.
(It should be mentioned that two of the three DVD players used in this review had serious problems playing the disc smoothly; whether this is an issue with the particular copy used or a larger issue is unknown.)
The only extra is a trailer for Into Thy Hands, the former Jesus Christ, Serial Rapist.
A lot of people will probably approach Rape is a Circle with low expectations. The DVD packaging has "exploitation film" written all over it, and that's probably how Bill Zebub has to attract attention. But there's more to the movie than that, and somewhere on the back of the box, amid the pictures of half-naked women, are the words that suggest he knows it.
The impressive thing is, he achieves his goal: A movie that will make you think, even as it makes you wince.
(Weapons of Choice: Mitsubishi 1080 series 42" TV, Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player, Bose Lifestyle 25 Series II speakers and, in certain situations, Panasonic 27" TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player and Bose TriPort headphones.)
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