Among just a few new horror releases this week, 6:45 gives us another horror take on Groundhog Day. Unlike Happy Death Day, this one promises fewer laughs and a more grim tone. Science fiction has successfully played with time loops in Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Looper, and Deja Vu. And last year, Shudder’s feminist horror Lucky flipped horror tropes with its own repeating story. It’s a concept with a lot of room with which to work. And critics seem relatively impressed with the results.
With their relationship strained, Bobby takes his girlfriend, Jules, on a weekend vacation to the place where he grew up – Bog Grove Island. An unexpected 6:45am alarm starts a beautiful day for the couple on the picturesque island. But it ends tragically when a hooded man brutally murders the couple. And then the days starts again at 6:45am. Over and over, the same events replay themselves. Only Bobby knows that they are caught in a vicious loop.
6:45 Stretches Its Premise Before a Haunting Finale
Given that it’s a premise that’s been done previously – and done well – 6:45 needed to bring something new to the table. Straight out of the gate, director Craig Singer (Dark Ride) establishes a quiet, uneasy tone. If nothing else, this thriller feels different from the Happy Death Day movies. On one hand, Robert Dean Klein’s screenplay spills over with horror tropes. The strangely empty town is almost too obviously eccentric, reminiscent of another recent release, Offseason. Its hotel proprietor, Gene, feels like heavy-handed red herring skulking outside Bobby and Jules’ room. When Gene hints at the island community’s ominous past, 6:45 feels like it’s recycling better horror movies.
As 6:45 unveils its finale, Singer abruptly shifts from the earlier understated suspense to dizzying visuals.
To some extent, 6:45 does feel likes it’s own re-do of Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day. If the tragedy that sets the loop in motion initially shocks, the middle act stretches that moment very thing. One gets the impression that Klein may not have enough tricks up his sleeve to deliver a worthwhile payoff. Klein’s screenplay drops breadcrumbs here and there to keep audiences on board. As 6:45 unveils its finale, Singer abruptly shifts from the earlier understated suspense to dizzying visuals. There’s impressive style on display alongside a grim conclusion that may be polarizing.
6:45 Includes a Bit of Subtext Alongside Its Big Concept
What may divide audiences is the feeling that 6:45’s reveal may not feel ‘big enough’ when compared to a Happy Death Day or other high-concept horror movies. In this regard, 6:45 shares more in common with last year’s Shudder original, Lucky. Among the hints offered throughout the movie, Singer and Klein remind us repeatedly that their couple isn’t in a good place. And Bobby may have some anger management issues. Somewhere in this mix of horror and psychological thriller is a bit of commentary on the lies that abusers tell themselves. How far will someone go to convince themselves that they’re the hero of their own story?
Somewhere in this mix of horror and psychological thriller is a bit of commentary on the lies that abusers tell themselves.
As a psychological thriller, 6:45 delivers a convincingly haunting finale. From the horror end of things, there’s a bit of bloodletting that becomes repetitive. Don’t expect many scares either. Singer seems more focused on atmosphere and story. Though he hasn’t shown up in anything you’re likely to recognize, Michael Reed (Bobby) shoulders much of the movie with a strong performance. He’s convincing as an increasingly desperate man with some pent-up anger. And Augie Duke (Jules) is equally good, showing a similar emotional range that ground the movie in spite of its twisty concept.
6:45 Finds New Ground With a Familiar Premise
If its middle act stretches itself a little too thin, 6:45 throws a nightmarish curve in its climax. There’s a surreal style and deeper subtext defining its climax. And it’s the finale that will likely divide audiences. While some may find deeper meaning thereby elevating everything that proceeded it, others may be underwhelmed. Don’t go into 6:45 expecting a big, rousing high-concept movie like Happy Death Day or its sequel. Nevertheless, good performances and a consistently uneasy atmosphere ensure this one is worth investing in until the end.