Movie Review: ‘Circus Kane’ Is Equal Parts Greasepaint And Gore

Circuses and carnivals, as well as the folks associated with them, are some of the oldest vessels of fear known to the modern population. Why?  What’s so scary about circuses?  For some it’s the atmosphere, with its hot, unnatural lights and brightly painted colors. It’s like living in a perpetual acid trip. For others, it’s the constant illusion–nothing is as it seems. For most folks that fear circuses, though, the fear stems from something far more specific.

Clowns.

On September 8th Uncork’d Entertainment and DeInstitutionalized, along with director Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, will bring all of these fears together under one big top with Circus Kane. I had the chance to watch this greasepaint-smeared, cotton candy-smelling offering prior to its release next month and I’ll give you the lowdown below….

I generally go into an indie horror-flick with pretty mild expectations. I mean, let’s be honest–it’s a tough genre and for those of us that have been around the thrills, chills, screams and splatter for a while it’s not often that we get something we haven’t seen before. With that in mind, I’m happy to say that the opening credit sequence of Circus Kane had me cheering. Seriously, it’s awesome! After that, we’re given a purposely vague backstory into a bit of the history of Balthazar Kane, the ringmaster and head honcho of his beautifully macabre Circus Kane. Kane shows a youngster a few magic tricks and relays some “life lessons” that are sure to be important later in the flick.

From there we’re thrown into a police interrogation room and it’s clear that the young lady being questioned by detectives has recently been through some serious shit. This is where the film truly takes off. We find out that a group of people had all received a kind of “golden ticket” to visit a new re-imagining of the infamous Circus Kane, a show that has been off the radar for quite some time. If they can “make it through the night” they’ll receive $250K. Now, the concept of a group of strangers being invited by a mysterious host to a remote location with the promise of cash if they survive the night isn’t exactly a new formula (House on Haunted Hill anyone?). What makes this version interesting is that all of the strangers are prominent members of the horror media community. The guests include bloggers, vloggers, collectors, gamers, actors and reviewers–all with a considerable following on social media.

Hey!  I’M a horror blogger and reviewer!

Needless to say, this little element of the film hit home with me. At this point, I thought maybe I was watching some weird Ring-esque haunted screener and crazy clowns were going to kick in my door at any second. I could actually see the headline:  “Devilishly Sexy Horror Blogger Disappears After Viewing Horror Film”.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Anyway, the group of strangers are dropped off at a big mansion in the middle of nowhere and they’re greeted at the door by Richard Moll (who played ‘Bull’ on the 80s sitcom Night Court!), who bids them an ominous “Good luck” and locks them in the mansion. From here the film takes on the familiar tone of a SAW movie, with less familiar undertones of The Wizard of Gore. The group must navigate the funhouse of rooms, solving riddles and exposing themselves to all sorts of nasty, flesh-tearing obstacles along the way.

Oh, one more thing–there’s a herd of creepy clowns stalking them the entire time.

Unsurprisingly we’re left with a lone survivor and showdown at the end. However, we do get a twist that, in retrospect, I probably should have seen coming but didn’t, because the film had me interested enough that the misdirection totally worked. In the end, what more can you ask for in a horror flick?

Here are my closing thoughts on Circus Kane:

First off, I absolutely LOVE soundtracks, and Circus Kane’s is decent.

Now for the acting. Look, when it comes to flicks like this the acting is usually only as good as you’d expect it to be, which is to say not great. However, there are a couple of standout performances (from the older cast members, interestingly enough) that make up for some of the shortcomings of the others. So to actors Mark Christopher Lawrence, Tim Abell and Ted Monte, I say WELL DONE!

Circus Kane is a fun little gore-fest, and in my opinion it’s definitely worth a couple of bucks to rent if you’re looking for something to accompany your weeknight, frozen-pizza-and-wine-filled  evening. You get a decent medley of House on Haunted Hill, SAW and Rob Zombie’s 31.

So go ahead. Step…right…UP!


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