Strange Circus review by The Grim Ringler


There is an aspect of Asian cinema that I have never quite figured out and its more a matter of cultural story telling than poor filmmaking. I just dont get the use of fantasy and dream in Asian horror films. The Italians played with similar themes and storytelling elements but in ways I was better equipped to pick up on. Most times these were symbolic of something else where, in Asian horror films it seems that many times these serve but to keep both viewer and character off balance and uneasy. While I can appreciate this storytelling technique, I have to admit that it gets in the way of a film sometimes and STRANGE CIRCUS is a fine example of this.

A mysterious writer is on the verge of finishing what is to be her grand epic and her publishers are desperate to receive the manuscript but she is elusive about when it will be finished and whether the story an account of abuse in a young girl which leaves her scarred in more ways than one is true or not. To get to the bottom of the story of this woman and the book, the publishers set an equally enigmatic young man as her assistant in the hopes that hell gain her trust and find the truth about her. The woman, who appears in a wheelchair and insists she cannot use her legs, is actually quite able to walk and uses the wheelchair as a way to mask who she is and what her past is. A past even she is beginning to question. Through a series of strange, awful dreams she sees similarities to herself and the young girl in her story and begins to wonder if there is a link. What she doesnt realize though is that the young man shes chosen to seduce, and who has been given the task of assisting her, holds the largest and most valuable key to the puzzle of who this woman is. A key that is about to be turned, revealing horrors the woman had long forgotten, and a past she had thought was long dead.

A very strange, very surreal film, I actually quite enjoyed the mystery of it up until the end. A lot of puzzle pieces are revealed only to be pushed aside as parts of the womans book and the storyline becomes so twisted that what is reality and what is fantasy becomes muddled. The visuals are very stylized, as are the sets of the dream and fantasy worlds. As to the horror, there are a lot of nasty ideas on hand and many themes that will turn some viewers off but which, if you have seen much Asian horror, will be nothing new. The story is a very interesting one but seems to fall apart at the climax when too many of the loose strands are tied together and dont make for a pretty knot. The end is gruesome, to be sure, and will leave some viewers captivated but it turned me off. It was over the top and strange. I mean, if you want a film that throws in perversion, horror, taboo, and surrealism then by god, you have found your film. It was all just a bit much for me.

While I dont hate STRANGE CIRCUS its a wholly middle of the road film for me. Its very pretty, has a lot to offer the viewer but tries too hard to gross the audience out and gets caught up in its own surrealism. Fans of Asian horror will probably love the film but for me, I like my horror a bit more subdued and subtle. And yes, this is the guy that liked the new HALLOWEEN, what can I say my taste doesnt make a lot of sense sometimes.

5 out of 10 Jackasses
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