6:45 is a well-made but not especially satisfying take on the Groundhog Day formula. Bobby (Michael Reed) and Jules (Augie Duke) are a young couple on vacation in a small coastal town. Their itinerary for the trip is drinking coffee, visiting shops, arguing about the demand of the past and having a lot of slow-motion, passionate intercourse. Then a mysterious hooded figure murders the two of them at the end of their first day. Bobby immediately wakes up from death at the start of the day, Jules none the wiser. As the murders and awakenings keep happening, Bobby has to figure out what he can do to solve their endless purgatory.
Writer Robert Klein and director Craig Singer keep the horror-mystery going pretty well up until the final act, when the entire thing unravels into an unpleasant and grueling denouement that offers the audience a choice between looking at the whole story as ambiguous or believing the main character is a heinous piece of shit. Independent horror has a choice in how far it takes graphic depictions of violence; more often than not the use of blood, though, is the payoff. The money shot, for lack of a better term. Incorporating the big gore moment into the story the way they do here — no spoilers, but it has to do with revelations of domestic violence — dramatically throws off the mood of the entire piece. Gone is the intriguing mystery enveloping a young couple trapped in a supernatural quagmire. What we’re left with is a movie that seems to revel in depicting something horrific and narratively disappointing.
There are plenty of positive things to say about the story up until the last 20 minutes or so. The two leads have great chemistry. There’s so much slow-motion, classy sex that it starts to feel like an offbeat erotic horror film. Using sex as an exploitation element goes hand in hand with gore in horror fiction, but rarely do independent films seem to embrace both male and female nudity and lean into it as an element of the two characters rather than as an excuse to show off some skin. It doesn’t feel particularly crass or tawdry. It’s a silly character thing that happens to work here. For all the talk in the broader film discourse about contemporary movies being afraid to incorporate sexuality into their narratives and characters, 6:45 at least initially does a decent job of letting it be part of the mood of the film. The best, most romantic day of their lives ends in tragedy … over and over again.
That said, the aforementioned ending annihilates everything that built up before it. It feels like the script is trying to say something about the main character and the insidious nature of domestic violence, but the tone of the movie shifts so completely from what the rest of it sets up. It’s such a disappointment. Disturbing? Yes, spousal abuse is disturbing, but it feels like a complete derailment from the high-concept horror story laid out by the rest of the film. An erotic-horror version of Groundhog Day sounds pretty fun; for a little while, it actually is. But this isn’t that, and it’s hard to imagine who would find value in the ending of this story, entertainment or otherwise.