REVIEW: Circus Kane
– By Sooz Webb
What is it about circuses and, more predominantly clowns, that makes them so inherently scary? From It’s 2017 makeover, to the killer variety from outer space, they frequent our filmic frighteners, and reinstate coulrophobia for new generations. Adding to the consternation is Christopher Ray’s haunted house thriller Circus Kane, where the only thing guaranteed is a carnival of death.
When legendary ringmaster Balthazar Kane invites a group of social media ‘personalities’ to survive his house of horrors, they willingly go along for the ride, smug in the assumption that it will be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Plus, the prospect of winning $250,000 and being insta-famous doesn’t hurt either. Unbeknownst to our bunch of vapid blowhards however, is the fact that Kane has become a little, um, sadistic in his old age, and he’s set up a number of elaborate and deadly booby-traps, that would make Jigsaw green with envy. And so, as the group descend further and further into the house, they are picked off one by one: either by foolishness, maniacal design or at the hands of a psychopathic clown and his creepy crew, taking bloodsport to a new level. There can only be one winner. But who that is may come as a surprise.
Paying homage to and reminiscent of cinema that has come before it, Circus Kane is an atmospheric meander through the familiar. But don’t be fooled. Nothing is certain, and when we think we’ve found the film’s flow, it kicks things into another gear, spinning it’s wheels into unfamiliar territory. There’s a slow build before we see any action, perhaps intended to introduce the characters, but they’re already archetypes familiar to us. This is not detrimental to the talent that portrays them however. The casting is strong, with everyone playing their part well, safely ensconced in their respective labels, until it’s time to be despatched. Outshining them all is Tim Abell as Kane, reminiscent of an even crustier-looking Rob Zombie, if you can imagine such a thing. His performance is commanding, vehement and tinged with tragedy, and he carries a distinct look, almost iconically. Although he does seem to have had a rather unfortunate accident with a staple gun at some point.
At his behest is a gaggle of bloodthirsty jesters, performing famous tricks, such as sawing a volunteer in half, or repeatedly stabbing folk until they’re dead. Yeah, they’re more homicidal than humorous, and the only thing you’re likely to see them juggle is human body parts. Each performer is played with a palpable menace which, considering their faces are obscured by masks, is highly commendable indeed.
Beautiful and intricate detail has been paid to effects work and set design, from the realism of the viscera that flies across our screens, to the barbaric barriers that stand in the contestants path, providing a tangible authenticity to proceedings. There’s also a call to nostalgia for any 80’s kids, as the execution, for want of a better word, is reminiscent of VR tea time telly filler Knightmare. But there’s no friendly Treguard to help you through the carnage. It’s all stunningly showcased by Alexander Yellen’s gorgeous cinematography, while Adam Oliver’s score lends itself to the eerie, sinister and anxiety inducing tone. If you weren’t scared of clowns before, then buddy, after watching this you will be!
Stylish, sinister and wickedly sadistic, Circus Kane treats us to a day out in conventional fair, but has a cheeky twist sure to dazzle and amaze. A magic thrillride for the spooky season, which illustrates that all the fun, isn’t necessarily fair.