What’s the best day of your life? It could be the day you hit that professional milestone, the one you’ve been striving toward for months or years. It might be the birth of your child, and the knowledge that you’re going to step up and guide them in a positive direction. For many of us, the best day involves your significant other. They’re the one person who has your back, who can brighten your life, and who you can see spending your life with.
What’s the worst day of your life? It might be the day you made one bad decision, the mistake that got you fired from a job and demolished any hopes for a career. It could be the day a certain person close to you died, and you realized that there would be no more phone calls, no more texts, no more lazy Saturdays just hanging out. Not in this life, anyway. For many of us, the worst day involves your significant other. On that day, you might discover a betrayal, witness the last day of their life, or simply know that they’re leaving. Done with you. Never coming back.
What if the best day and the worst day are the same day? That right there is an interesting concept for a movie. Even moreso, it’s an interesting concept for a time loop movie. For a time loop movie to work, the repetition and the focus on certain details need to add up to something special. 6:45, the new independent time loop thriller, has atmosphere and strong performances to spare, but it never quite makes a good argument for the genre it’s working within.
You know those couples, the ones you look at for a few moments and you just know they’re going to make it? Jules (Augie Duke) and Bobby (Michael Reed) are not one of those couples. If you catch them at the right moment, whether it’s the little smiles, the relaxed touches, or the athletic sex, you might think they’re okay. The thing is, they’re pretty far from okay.
Bobby has this wandering eye. Jules thinks he might have cheated on her, and he denies it. Bobby also has this really lousy temper, the kind that’s fueled by booze and that frequently lands him in a barfight. He doesn’t deny that, per se, though he is smart enough to know that it’s the type of thing he needs to get under control before he nukes their entire relationship. It’s that decision that brings the two of them to the island town of Bog Grove and to the bed and breakfast called The Cosy Nook.
They arrive in the midst of the off-season, so much so that the town feels nearly deserted. Making matters weirder is Gene (Armen Garo) the off-putting manager of their B&B. The man has a piercing gaze, knocks on their door to “make sure everything is okay,” and makes vague comments about a tragedy. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, since their first full day is mostly good. It’s good in that Bobby proposes to Jules. It’s not so good in that a hooded maniac (Joshua Matthew Smith) cuts her throat and snaps his neck.
And then? Bobby wakes up, the annoying alarm clock BLATTING at him at 6:45. Was it all a dream? Nope, not even schizophrenics have dreams like that. Bobby soon comes to recognize that he and Jules are reliving the same day, over and over. It begins with the two of them tenderly in bed and ends with their murders. No matter what changes, there’s always a man with a box cutter moving toward them with homicidal resolve.
6:45 was a frustrating viewing experience for me, since it’s an intelligent and skillfully made film that doesn’t work. Consider that director Craig Singer overcame the challenges of the COVID epidemic and, firstly, made a movie. Now, consider that he made a movie with limited resources that looks good and asks a number of penetrating questions. His film drips with a sense of unease and a feeling of impending doom. Hell, a character even says, “What’s passed is the past,” and reinforces the sense that this particular time loop can’t be escaped with a simple change of heart. While 6:45 is technically a horror movie and there is some gore, it isn’t really one. There are no jump scares and no extended chase sequences. Singer focuses more on the characters, their choices, and the resulting consequences. It’s appropriate that Singer’s film takes place in Bog Grove since a bog is a place of entrapment, a place you can’t escape from.
Where I run into issues is with the screenplay, written by Singer and Robert Dean Klein. The first is with the time loop structure or lack thereof. As Bobby and Jules cycle through the same day, we’re told to pay attention to certain details. It’s one thing for a mystery to lead us down the wrong path and present a red herring. Here, it turns out that several details are red herrings, and it feels as if, three quarters through the script, Klein and Singer decided to blow off the original story and try something new. For a time loop story to work, we should a) be familiarized with the recurring details the main character encounters and b) understand how their changing perspective changes the nature of those details. That doesn’t happen, and it makes me wonder why they opted to go with the time loop genre in the first place.
Having complained about that, it’s undeniable that Klein and Singer do excellent work with characterization. As the story progresses, we see different facets to Jules and Bobby and learn different aspects of their shared and individual histories. It deepens them and portrays them as flawed human beings. At times, those flaws make Bobby and Jules look a little…well, dumb. That’s good! Smart people do dumb things literally all the time, and that keeps the scripts unpredictable. Additionally, Klein and Singer’s script asks interesting questions regarding honesty, fidelity, and if some sins can be truly forgiven. While those questions never mesh cleanly with the time loop concept, I appreciated them being brought up in the first place.
For a time loop movie to work, you need actors who are both smart enough to play multiple scenes consistently and creative enough to see where the narrative diverges and run with it. Augie Duke and Michael Reed have an easy and comfortable chemistry as Jules and Bobby. They’re both actors who excel at playing regular people thrown into a very irregular situation. I particularly liked the fact that Reed’s performance as Bobby is without vanity. Bobby can be kind, romantic, and fun. He can also be a bullying dick, and pathetically ineffectual. I admired that Reed is able to take his character to some deeply negative places and do so fearlessly.
Forget the poster for 6:45. Forget the tagline of, “Vacation. Die. Repeat.” The marketing is promising you something that the film isn’t. If you’re looking for a cousin to the very good (and very funny) time loop slasher Happy Death Day, this ain’t it. But if you’re in the mood for something more meditative and a film that will quietly worm its way under your skin, 6:45 delivers. I don’t think it delivers on its premise, and I’m very interested to see what Singer and his crew do next.