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Salem Horror Fest 2021: 6:45 Is a Time-Loop Tale of Toxicity

6:45 introduces itself by embroiling you in its steamy love scenes immediately. The opening crafts a love story for characters Bobby (Michael Reed) and Jules (Augie Duke) as they transition from a passionate bedroom sequence to huddling together for warmth on a ferry in winter, making their way to the fictional island of Bar Grove for a weekend getaway, attempting to patch up the latest tension in their relationship. Right away, we see Bobby notice another woman walking to the far end of the ferry, the camera lingering just long enough for the audience to notice. Throughout the film, director Craig Singer reveals these small snapshots, like postcards from the lovers’ vacation, letting the viewer know these moments will be just as telling as any horror the film presents. 

When Singer’s name appeared as director, I have to admit I was happy. If you don’t recognize his name, Craig Singer is responsible for directing two films from my early horror festival initiation days: Dark Ride and Perkins 14. These films were shown as part of the short-lived After Dark Horrorfest that consumed full weekends of my life between 2006 to 2010. Those older Singer-directed films were the kind of schlocky, B-movie, fun audiences love, but 6:45 deviates from that as the director and his frequent writing collaborator, Robert Dean Klein, dive into more adult-thriller fare. 

Bobby and Jules arrive in Bar Grove in 6:45

As Bobby and Jules settle into their room at the Cozy Nook for the weekend, their conversation weighs in on the fragile nature of their relationship status. A particular bit of Norman Bates-inspired dialogue rears its head, and the scene transitions to evening. While the scenes shift back to intimacy among a vacationing couple, the viewer becomes fixated on Caretaker Gene (Armen Garo). Gene appears at the couple’s door, asking if everything is OK, though nothing has happened in the room. As Bobby and Jules go at it, Gene returns as if trying to sneak a peek. This becomes hard to ignore because after meeting Gene, you sense that his character isn’t this type of person. Odd, yes, but never anywhere close to this level of creepy.  

In fact, when we’re introduced to Gene, clipping his fingernails to greet the guests like the product of Tor Johnson and Boris Karloff, we grow more of a dislike toward the arrogance and impetus of Bobby. Gene, who is very inviting, albeit a little off-kilter, makes himself the butt of Bobby’s jokes without a second thought and provides insight to Bobby and Jules on why the island is vacant for the weekend. At first, Gene attempts to hide the reason the ferry won’t return and why the island seems hauntingly devoid of human life. But, as events unfold, it becomes known that the island is still in mourning over the horrific tragedy of a slain young couple that happened years ago on the same day. 

The following morning, the couple is roused by an alarm clock in the room ringing at 6:45 am, and suddenly, the audience has graduated from the tutorial concepts of movie clue detecting to full level-based gameplay mode. Everything the couple encounters radiates with plot development, which helps keep the film’s pace tight and entertaining. At the end of a perfect day together, Jules and Bobby end up dead in the street at the hands of a pale-faced killer. Jules’ throat is slashed and Bobby’s neck is broken, the same way the couple was murdered on the island years before. Whether the aesthetic for the killer is one of digital effect, mask, or makeup, I was unable to tell. Still, the blank, expressionless face of the out-of-focus killer is extremely effective, especially where the film ends up going.  

Gene

Without the cue of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” playing, Bobby finds himself waking up beside Jules again the next morning at 6:45. The whole circus of events unfolds the same as the day prior, beginning the instant Bobby gets out of bed. If you’ve seen a time-loop movie like Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day before, then you know what to expect here. Our characters are stalked as they try a barrage of slightly different attempts to place themselves back into their timeline and avoid a murderous fate. Each daily iteration comes with a different, sometimes volatile version of Bobby.

There’s a lot about 6:45 to like. It’s entertaining, well-paced, the music by Kostas Christides (at times) sounds inspired by Angelo Badalamenti, and it’s very well-acted. The embedded themes of male toxicity permeate through Michael Reed’s complex and charismatic approach to Bobby, providing a solid performance by making his character charming enough to watch while simultaneously making us dangerously aware of Bobby’s flaws as he shifts between extremes. In one shining example, there’s a moment where Bobby half-heartedly tries to explain his time-loop predicament. Instead of bearing vulnerability and at the risk of sounding insane, he tells Jules he’s trying to protect her. It’s these small nuances in character building that make the film better. 

On the other side of that, 6:45 still has its flaws. At one point, the movie sets up dialogue where Bobby reveals to Jules that he spent time on the island as a boy. And, while in the arcade with the pinball machine, we witness Bobby’s dark side through the shadow of his father’s memory, yet nothing ever comes into the story about Bobby and his upbringing. Maybe this was all to show us more of Bobby’s temperament, not that it’s necessary. The film does an apt job of showing us who Bobby truly is. Still, I have to imagine a scene involving Bobby’s father may not have made it into the end result. 

Jules has her throat slashed by the pale faced killer in 6:45

I found myself asking questions about the reason behind the film’s ending. While it provides a good imitation of a specific (and potentially film-ruining if mentioned) classic horror film ending, it will not satisfy everyone. However, the more I think about how Singer presents his time-looping tale through themes of inescapable cycles of violence, the more I enjoy its nuanced psychology—particularly, the idea that fragile male egos can convince themselves of anything, especially if they’re allowed to spiral through life repeating themselves over and over again.

6:45 is a perfect title for Salem Horror Fest. The calm setting of a vacation haven seaside town mixed with supernatural history is the ideal setting for Craig Singer to show off his latest that involves the same. You can catch 6:45 at Salem Horror Fest on Sunday, October 3. Individual tickets are not for sale. Passes for the whole festival or just a weekend can be purchased through the Salem Horror Fest Website.

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Written by Sean Parker

Sean lives just outside of Boston and loves all things horror.

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