I don’t know when clowns became a horror staple, but it’s safe to say that Stephen King cornered the market with “IT”, and the subsequent film adaptation. And with the remake set for release next month, Christopher Ray looks to capitalize on IT with his film, Cirus Kane, set for a VOD release on September 8th. It’d be easy to dismiss the obvious attention-grabbing by Cirus Kane with the use of a red-haired clown holding a balloon on its poster, but a rip-off isn’t in store with this film.
Down-on-his-luck circus master Balthazar Kane (Tim Abell) has been out of business for years. Luckily, he has an idea for the revival of his show, “Circus Kane”: Invite eight personalities from within the horror community to be a part of his house of horrors. If these participants can make it through Balthazar Kane’s house of horrors, they each win $250,000. However, the contestants soon realize that the horror in Kane’s house is far too real and that more than money is on the line.
Production-wise, the makeup and effects are the strengths of the film. Yes, Balthazar Kane looks like a poor man’s version of Rob Zombie. And yes, the film draws upon past films like Saw and House of 1000 Corpses to help create its atmosphere (albeit a lower-budgeted version). But, I still enjoyed the charm of the various masks and costumes used by Kane’s entourage. One demonic clown mask reminded me of a more sinister variant of the masks from Killer Klowns From Outer Space. And the skinned and severed head gag was pretty impressive.
Keeping with the theme of referencing past horror movies, writers James Cullen Bressack, Sean Sellars and Zack Ward peppered the film with these references, making it a game of how many you can spot. Aside from the above-mentioned films, you have characters quoting horror movies, one guy wearing a Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers shirt, and even the ending itself is a reference to a horror trope (with a nice twist). Heck, the whole “contest” motif is straight from House On Haunted Hill!
This constant winking to the audience, however, doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s a little too much derivativeness with Circus Kane. You’ve literally seen this film before in different films. Making things worse is the real lack of character development. They were all clich&eactue;s. Sure, during the ride to Kane’s house, they did their expositions, but that wasn’t enough to make you care about them. None of the actors’ performances made them likable, and it just made them into fodder for the house itself. The only bright spot was Abell’s performance as Kane, but that wasn’t much of a stretch, given what the other characters were like in the film.
Circus Kane isn’t an offensive low-budget affair, but it’s not particularly memorable. With much of the focus being on the callbacks to past films in the genre and the gore, it was worth it to see just what happens. However, the constant references leave little in the way of something to make this film stand out on its own. This virtually eliminates repeat viewings, unless you really want to go back and see what references you missed. Other than that, it’s another one-watch affair you forget about a week later.