[Review] Circle of Stone (Another Hole in the Head Online Film Festival): Fae Folk Prove Deadly in Riveting Action-Horror Short

Legendary creatures of the distant past clash with modern-day cops in writer/director Mark Andrews’ Circle of Stone, a superb action-horror short. From its eerie premise to its gorgeous look and the terrific job from its cast, the short delivers plenty of thrills and gory goods.

Deputy Dan (Vic Mignogna) is on his rural rounds when he encounters a disheveled young woman (Danielle Lavin as Maddy) along the side of the road. Following her into the woods, he encounters a chilling scene: a group of sword-wielding, weirdly costumed and masked warriors who are about to show how savage they can be. When backup arrives, including rookie deputy Mike (Will Lurie), all hell — or at least some ancient form of it — breaks loose.

Andrews draws upon ancient Irish and Scottish myths for inspiration, and his version of Dark Fae characters are intimidating ones, indeed. They live to fight humans, and the crew of rural deputies provides them with a formidable challenge. Add to this further supernatural dealings involving a child who has been missing for more than 50 years, and the groundwork for Circle of Stone is set. The screenplay is fast-paced and exciting.

Andrews, a veteran animator whose work includes many Pixar films, cowrote Disney’s John Carter, and fans of such fantasy and action fare will find plenty to love in Circle of Stone. The fight choreography and stunt work is top-notch, and the gruesome practical effects definitely place this short in the realm of horror. The cinematography by Stuart T. Maschwitz, whose extensive resume for visual effects includes Episodes IV, V, and VI of the Star Wars franchise and Sin City, is eye-popping, and the cast members — many of whom are well versed in stunt work — all turn in terrific work.

Circle of Stone is an excellent self-contained short, but it offers plenty of appetite-whetting material that begs for a feature film expansion. Hopefully, Andrews will have the opportunity to expand and further explore the cinematic world he has created here.

Circle of Stone will screen as part of the Another Hole in the Head Online Film Festival, which runs from December 11–27, 2020. For more information about the festival, visit https://www.ahith.com/.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.