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June 4, 2017

Movie Review: "Circus of the Dead" (2014; Bloody Bill Productions)


...at a young age, nearly all of us are bombarded by sugar & spice fables...the things that jostled the imagination, to a world of wonder...a world of magic and fantasy...a world of laughter...the countless candy-coated 'happily ever after' fairy tales...the patron saints of magic, generosity, kindness and giddy mirth...the egg-hiding Easter bunnies, and the North Pole-dwelling Santa Claus...and of course, the clowns...oh yes, the clowns...those giggly, pasty-faced, horn-tooting, floppy shoed, wacky purveyors of mirth and laughter. And as youngsters, we buy into it all...lock, stock and barrel, without a smidgen of disbelief, or consideration that they just might be something diabolical, beneath the fabricated fantasy folds...

...and when we all grow up, that all abruptly changes; Santa becomes a clich├ęd symbol of generosity and yuletide spirit...the Easter Bunny, now representative of purity and fertility...the fairy tales, still fantasy tales to be told and read, but in truth, far, far darker in original inception, than the sugar-coated renditions, read to us as children, or gleefully animated onto the screen by Disney. And the clowns?? Oh yes, leave us not forget the clowns. Those so-called 'giggly, pasty-faced, horn-tooting, floppy shoed, wacky purveyors of mirth and laughter'...alas, a resigned deception,. at times...possibly hiding a sadness, beneath the painted smile and the wacky antics...maybe even something criminal, giving underlining and paranoiac cause for distrust, dislike and a slew of unspoken closet coulrophobics. And sometimes, harboring a much darker purpose...something sinister...diabolical...evil...even downright @#$%ing insane!!...

...ah, yes...the work just never ends...work, work, work, work, work...as Papa Corn, the leader of the traveling circus' motley cadre of clowns, non-chalantly steps into his trailer, and refreshes & paints himself up for the next scheduled big-top performance; but before gracing the arena of rallying patrons, chanting "...bring in the clowns...bring in the clowns...", an integral part of the act must be procured. Reaching into a nearby closet, occupied by a cache of bloodied, bound, gagged and screaming whoevers, Papa grabs one out in particular, drags him out, lays him out onto a table, calls out for assistance by some of his similarly painted & dressed merry mirth makers, and while muttering to his captive some meandering poetic prose of things to come, viciously and violently 'preps' the hapless & helpless victim for the upcoming act...
...and so, as the excitedly demandant audience's chant for the clowns resumes, Papa Corn and his troupe crazily and merrily storm into the circus tent, carrying with them a fifth 'clown', painted up and dressed like a prison inmate. Throwing him down before the audience, the clowns begin to 'comically' beat and kick the nameless victim, who winces and groans in pain, in the midst of the much louder audience's cheers, who see all of this seemingly cartoonish merry mayhem as part of the act. But wait!! What's this?? As Papa looks onward into the crowd...oh, how so very nice!! A devoted family man, his wife and his two daughters...oh, how so very sweet!! Papa's eyes light up with an idea...a sinister and evil grin...even more so than his painted one...stretches across his face. And in innocently and non-chalantly coercing the home address of the family, as well as gathering together his gaggle of giddy and giggling accomplices. Papa kicks into gear, a devilishly diabolical plan...a demented road trip wrought with a relentless whirlwind of ultra-violence, carnage, bloodshed, and death...and a game. Oh yes, there must be a game; otherwise, what fun would the rest of the murderously maniacal mayhem be...
...and so, it begins...and rest assured it is this viewer's purposeful intent to render a description as mildly and as vaguely as possible, in not giving too much away...as what follows...what happens in the course of this film's proceedings is absolutely batshit insane...a sort of 'Welcome to Wackyland', on a gleeful sadomasochistic level!! Once the roadshow insanity of "Circus of the Dead" really kicks into gear, it is unrelenting & jaw-dropping, and yet, as with any good horror film of it's ilk, the sense of repulsiveness is diverted, as the result of the film's out-shining and dynamite villain, and his twisted, underlining intent...in this case, in the form of the over-the-top Papa Corn, as insanely deft and giddily portrayed by Bill Oberst Jr., an eclectically spectrumed character actor, whom most...including this viewer...might well recall a couple years earlier, playing the much more solumn, towering, stern and stately, scythe-swinging 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln, in 2012's outrageous horror/comedy, "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies". Watching his performance here, and having seen some of his earlier subdued roles, one cannot help but recall a similar character transition, with regards to the late Heath Ledger, and a comparison from his roles, from those of the mild mannered, to his epitomically and homicidally loony role as The Joker, in 2008's "The Dark Knight". Only, in the case of "Circus of the Dead", Oberst takes such madness to decidedly greater heights...or greater depths, as one might consider even the latter, an equally embraceable complement...
...despite being an inaugural film for director Billy Pon...produced on an almost unbelievably low budget, no less...he has afforded us viewers an uncomfortable, yet insanely giddy visceral and subjective horror movie experience, which one just can't look away from. Watching these grotesque and violent happenings, it seems that it would have been so easy to fall back upon a lazily inspirational road-trip themed "Hills Have Eyes" or "Last House on the Left" motif, or even a fondue dip into "Saw" territory...all of which "Circus of the Dead" does, at times, diversionarily nudge towards, but never really ventures...perhaps, a testament to the filmmaker's self-discipline, in trying to make the film, it's own brutally unique 'animal'. Nonetheless, the characters are reasonably fleshed out with the storyline, especially the clowns themselves, which some might feel reflects a similar attractive and compellingly dynamic of villainous character, not that far removed from say, Rob Zombie's homicidal motley crew, in 2005's visceral, drive-in/grindhouse flavored shocker, "The Devil's Rejects". All of which amiably balances against the swift, crimson-spattered landscape of unrelenting violence and bloodshed...the special effects of which are respectably unnerving and effective...
...Track this one down, folks...it's deliciously toxic junk food...a mind-scrambling, 120-proof Tequila shooter...a rattlesnake, with an attitude, targeting your butt...

4 comments:

  1. I want a label?!? And thanks for the awesome review!

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    1. ...'label'?? And you're very welcome; it was the highlight screening, at the Texas Frightmare Weekend...and if this one doesn't achieve a well-deserved cult status, then no one's paying attention (...I'm assuming that I'm perhaps responding to Billy Pon, and/or one of the assembled masses, associated with the making of this kick-ass film...LOL)...

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  2. I also saw this at Texas Frightmare and was pretty impressed with the acting for the most part. It was a very un nerving movie.

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  3. John,

    Thank you for this review and for giving credit to Billy Pon for making the film it's own "brutally unique animal." I think that is a perfect description for what he was driving at. I'll say this for Pon; he knows what he wants. Now the public can decide whether they want it too. An enjoyable read.

    Bill Oberst Jr.
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994/

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