The Horror Honeys: Indie Review ~ 'Circus of the Dead'

Indie Review ~ 'Circus of the Dead'

A Guest Honey Indie Review by Tonjia Atomic

If you don’t already know the name Billy Pon, you will. He’s just completed his first feature, Circus of the Dead, and it is monumental. Circus of the Dead is a compelling, visually stunning, disturbing thrill ride that harkens back to the brutal yet solid horror slashers of the 1970s. It’s basically about a group of rapist murdering clowns. If that sounds horrifying to you, you are not alone. 

Personally, I had a bad experience once where a clown chased me and a friend. He was also yelling “get ‘em, get ‘em.” It’s not so fun to be threatened by a man whose face you can’t clearly make out. I believe that the fear of clowns comes from the very fact that you can’t see the person’s face. The person becomes that of a masked anonymous stranger. Someone of whom we are not sure what they are capable of. 

In this movie the clowns are actual working clowns. They have an act in a travelling circus. No more than that is ever revealed which adds to the creepiness and gross out factor of the movie. What are their motivations? We don’t know. However, what is clear is that they do. The audience may only be able to see one aspect of these characters for most of the movie, but it is obvious that the actors know who their characters are. The clowns, who could easily fall into caricatures with names like Noodledome, Jumbo, and my favorite- Mister Blister, always seem genuine. Circus of the Dead, like any good movie should, gives the audience the feeling that there is more to the story, more to the characters, and more to the world of the movie than we are actually being shown on screen. It’s all in the details, subtlety, and commitment of performances, settings, costumes, and all of the other little parts that make up the whole. Circus of the Dead does all of this very well. In fact the only criticism that I have of the film is of the very beginning fifteen minutes or so of set up. It is necessary to the film. However, I felt that the pacing was a little awkward. It is noticeable compared with the rest of the film which is so solid. 

One of the most stand out performances of the movie is Papa Corn played by Bill Oberst Jr. Because of my friendship with Bill, I think of him as a nice guy. I sometimes forget what an amazing powerhouse he can be on screen. In fact, I stopped thinking of him as Bill and started to think of him only as the character, Papa Corn. And Papa Corn is freaky-gross-scary-disgusting. He is also strangely charismatic and I found myself wondering if he had ever induced Stockholm Syndrome. 

Can I recommend this film for everyone? No. The plot mainly revolves around torture, rape, and murder. There really isn’t much of anything redeeming about the story whatsoever. If you are easily offended, don’t see this movie. If you are squeamish, don’t see this movie. If you like scary slashers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Circus of the Dead is more slasher than torture-porn) or disturbing tension filled psychologically twisted films like Funny Games then you will probably like Circus of the Dead

In fact, Circus of the Dead starts just hours after the story of Billy Pon's short film, Doll Boy ends. Dolly Boy so impressed me and so freaked me out that I had my very first film-induced nightmare after watching it. But don’t take my word for it. Go watch it! 

Billy Pon's short film: Doll Boy