With certainly the strangest introduction to a horror film I’ve personally ever seen, The Ringmaster is a bizarre, bewitching horror that defies expectations.
The Ringmaster was directed by Søren Juul Petersen and stars the talents of Anne Bergfeld as Agnes Berger, Karin Michelsen as Belina, and Damon Younger as The Ringmaster. The Ringmaster is the fourth ‘torture porn’ feature film from Denmark, following Sunken Danish (2012), Madness of Many (2013) and Monstrosity (2014), all directed by Kasper Juhl, or the sixth if you include Antichrist (2009) and The House That Jack Built (2018), both directed by Lars von Trier.
There is fantastic tension which builds due to the back-and-forth storytelling methodology. The film—in its first and middle acts—switches between what is either present and past or past and future depending on your perspective. We know what’s going to happen but we aren’t sure how we get there. It’s a smart build, promising hardcore action (and glimpses thereof) while things increasingly intensify in the main plot. It promises gore while constantly dangling a deranged carrot, setting up for a grand finale.
Initially a foreign language film of Danish and German, the film’s mid-point shifts to English once the games begin. Without spoiling things, there are elements of a multitude of successful films that The Ringmaster draws from, though naming them all would be tedious. Suffice it to say that Rob Zombie’s 31 and Eli Roth’s Hostel are the biggest influences that I found most noticeable…with one scene a definite homage to the Scream franchise.
The pacing is fantastic and the film is full of gore, violence, nudity, torture…everything that you want from what is pretty much an exploitation horror. The previously mentioned build-up does indeed all come crashing down in the finale. It checks all the boxes and left me rather satisfied as the ending comes full circle. It holds back very little in terms of violence and the last act is pure adrenaline for a solid thirty minutes.
So why then did the film leave me with mixed emotions? Probably because I felt like I’d seen it all before. The clown, the rich paying for snuff, the overly dramatical fights…I’ve seen this same film many times over wearing slightly different masks disguised in slightly different ways. I was well-made and cleanly cut but still an imitation of films that have come before. I know some will argue that nothing is new anymore but I see wonderful, fresh ideas in indie films every week; ideas that deserve a feature-length film.
This is not to say that The Ringmaster is not a good film. It’s great. It is a well-constructed, well-acted splatter-esque horror romp but it is just not my niche. I eat up and pay for any Alien, The Thing, Underwater type film whenever they release so I’m sure there’s an audience that gets unreasonably excited whenever one of these torture-porn films is released and all the power to them–we like what we like. If that’s your cuppa, then The Ringmaster is your next watch.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below. The Ringmaster will be available on DVD & Digital Download from 30th November & In UK Cinemas from 2nd December
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.