Circus Kane (2017)

Starring Jonathan Lipnicki, Tim Abell, Victoria Konefal

Directed by Christoper Douglas-Olen Ray

Something about circuses and sideshows, I’ll tell ya. While firmly entrenched in the mode of thinking that the audience will be astounded by the acts, sometimes a little bit of fear and uneasiness sets in when watching these traveling performers ply their craft. Clowns, freaks, carnies and all the like…going full out to dazzle and mystify – but what if the prize for enduring said show wasn’t just a smile on your face?

Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray’s direction, complemented by the writing of James Cullen Bressack, Zack Ward, and Sean Sellars all set the big top ablaze with Circus Kane, a pseudo Saw-type film that doesn’t skimp on the gore, or those friggin creepy clowns. Balthazar Kane (Abell) is a former ringleader, if you will, and his exploits as the go-to guy under the painted tent are legendary, if not tragic as a whole. After years of keeping himself out of the spotlight, he opts to search for performers in his next “act,” and a random scatter of messages are sent to social media heavies who are involved in the horror genre to some extent. His proposal is to whomever can last a mini-grand opening of his haunted house into the morning hours will escape with a cool $250 grand – sounds inviting, no? Assembled in the collection of prospective contestants are gamers, geeks, a thief, and a memorabilia store owner that delivers some of the best dialogue in the film.

So they’re rounded up and trucked off to who knows where (seriously, Kane’s abode is off the map), and the game begins – we’ve got rooms with clues and puzzles to figure out, barbed-wire to navigate through…oh, and a couple of insanely murderous clowns to contend with. Anyone remember the cut little tyke from Jerry McGuire? Yep, his name is Jonathan Lipnicki and he plays the aforementioned thief, and he’s genuinely entertaining in this movie as well (keep your ears peeled for a hysterical McGuire reference). One thing that has remained true in horror films throughout the decades that people in groups have the tendency to share only one brain, making their deaths easy to spot from a mile out, but Ray’s direction keeps this contingent using their gray matter all the while, even in the depths of some serious shit – refreshing, for sure. Kane’s babbling grew a bit tiring towards the latter stages of the film, and the decision to blow the crowd away with a plot swerve fell flat, but these weren’t damning points that should keep audiences away from this movie. Instead, Circus Kane is definitely one of those midnight films that will bring you back to the days of your youth and trips to the circus, minus all the bloodshed and killer mimes, but hey who am I to judge how you spent your time?

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Matt Boiselle

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