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Circus Kane (2017) Review

Clown horror in a haunted house slasher setting.

Circus Kane is a 2017 horror film about a reclusive circus master who invites a group of social media stars to his house of haunts.

If you were to get a random text message offering you a quarter of a million dollars to survive the night, no doubt it’d get deleted in less time than you even considered it, just one more piece of spam to take up space in your phone. Not so for the gang of misfits in Christopher Ray‘s Circus Kane, a low budget haunted house fright-fest that plays out just about as expected, as a simple slasher with a few good jump-scares and lots of blood.

Balthazar Kane (Tim Abellwas once a notoriously infamous TV circus ring leader who had a great fall years before but now is back, looking to make a substantial return by inviting a group of social media celebrity types to try and last the night in a haunted house with the winner getting $250,000. They range from a movie scream queen to a critic to a memorabilia collector to a blogger to a gamer to a teen and more, all of them connected by their love (or dismissal) of horror. Now Kane wants them to really suffer and have their fans watch them die.

There’s not much new in Circus Kane, the film populated by plenty of fodder for the line-up of familiar grisly effects, albeit layered in lots of menacing-looking clowns. Admittedly, there’s some creepy fun to the premise, even as it treads upon a whole host of others that came before it. Think of 13 Ghosts or The Cube mixed with a bit of the Saw franchise, though for fans of certain old school video games with arbitrary deadly puzzles to pass through (a la Lara Croft), there’s some callback here as well.

Circus Kane
Circus Kane, 2017 © DeInstitutionalized

A film like this, bound by its budget, depends on its cast to see it through, and with so many on the docket, it’s a little hard to get invested as they are merely meat for the grinder. There’s Big Ed (Ted Monte), the obnoxious, movie quoting curator of a the memorabilia shop who is the oldest of the bunch who squabbles with the likes of Scott (Jonathan Lipnicki), himself an obnoxious former thief. Like them, others are merely character tropes meant to end up strung up, sliced and diced among the various booby traps in the array of rooms. Fortunately, the acting holds up in Circus Kane with most embracing their traits with some believability, or at least the appropriate zeal the genre requires.  

Circus Kane is marketed for a very specific horror fan, and while it’s production is surprisingly high considering the limitations of the budget, there is a kind of admiration earned for its commitment to the horror. It’s not as clever as it should be and lacks the darker edge the premise has opportunity for, taking aim at the critics and community of horror, poking some fun at the clichés of it all. It all works towards a curious ending that’s going to either topple it completely or elevate it to the next level. I wasn’t entirely sold despite the clean setup. However, it’s a good looking B-movie horror, and if you’re looking for straight-up slasher fun, there’s enough here to get a spot on your list.

Circus Kane (2017) Review

Movie description: Circus Kane is a 2017 horror film about a reclusive circus master who invites a group of social media stars to his house of haunts.

Director(s): Christopher Ray

Actor(s): Jonathan Lipnicki, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Tim Abell

Genre: Horror

  • Our Score
User Rating 3.67 (3 votes)