An American family is driving across the Nevada desert, along an endless empty highway. Suddenly a tiger crosses the road ahead of them, causing an accident. What the hell was a tiger doing in the middle of the highway?
In the distance they see a station wagon, which draws level and pulls to a halt. Its three odd-looking occupants offer them a tow: they live nearby.
At the end of a twisting, turning dirt track, they reach their destination… a circus!
The rest of the troupe is waiting for them – a bizarre welcoming committee of clowns, animal trainers, trapeze artists, strongmen, little people and acrobats. These fantastical characters greet their visitors, surrounded by the dust and dirt of their run-down camp and their half-starved animals.
Without much choice in the matter, the family accepts an invitation to stay the night. While his family sleeps, Frankie, the eldest of the children, goes exploring among the circus people’s caravans, hoping for glimpse of a beautiful circus girl. But to his horror he finds the whole troupe gleefully destroying the car.
Frankie runs to warn his family: they have to escape. But where can they run to, in the middle of the desert?
It’s too late – the show has begun. The family tries to get away as best they can, but run up against one bizarre and sinister character after another, each set on using their circus skills to deadly effect.