It seems like I’ve been hearing about Billy Pon’s Circus of the Dead forever, or at least for long enough that I wondered if “Bloody” Bill Pons’ followup to Doll Boy would ever see a release so I could see if it lived up to it’s reputation. Well after three years of waiting, it’s out and it lives up to it’s reputation both good and bad.
The clowns in a traveling circus, lead by Papa Corn (Bill Oberst Jr.) and his right hand man Mr Blister (Rusty Edwards) have their own ideas of amusement, ideas that largely revolve around rape and murder. This time around they pick the Johnson family after Donald and Tiffany (Parrish Randall and Chanel Ryan) make the mistake of bringing their daughters to the show. One brutal home invasion later Donald is forced to participate in a series of increasingly brutal acts if he wants to see his daughters again.
On the one hand the film is a nasty, unflinchingly brutal gorefest. The violence is in your face nasty and often sexual in nature, no one can accuse the film of being watered down. Especially with Marcus Koch’s effects illustrating the carnage, if you thought his work on that other killer clown film 100 Tears was strong, this will blow you away.
The acting is also strong across the board, especially Oberst who gives an incredible depiction ODF pure manipulative evil, he’s absolutely chilling. Randall also rises to the occasion as a normal family man thrust into an unending nightmare.
On the other hand however, the script falls short in a couple of key areas. The characters are never given much definition which made it hard for me to fully invest in the story. It would be nice to at least have some back story as to why the clowns do what they do. And it would also be interesting to see how they manage to avoid having every cop in Texas on their trail. A bunch of clowns leaving death and destruction in their wake would seem to be rather noticeable. To some these will be minor details though I found them fairly annoying but not reason enough to avoid it. As previously mentioned the film does deal in a lot of sexual violence, those who have issues with that may want to avoid it however.
Circus of the Dead is when all is said and done an incredibly well made film for having such a low budget and such a high body count. It’s also very unpleasant and not quite what I’d call enjoyable, it is however shocking and horrifying, two things genre films should be. It doesn’t live up to some of the rave reviews I’ve seen over the years, but it is worth seeing for those who can take what it serves up.