Circus Kane – USA, 2017 – reviews

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‘Let the games begin’

Circus Kane is a 2017 American horror feature film co-produced and directed by Christopher Douglas Olen-Ray (Shark WeekMega Shark vs. Kolossus2-Headed Shark Attack) from a screenplay by James Cullen Bressack (To Jennifer; Pernicious; Blood Lake) and Zack Ward (The Terror; Bethany; Restoration), based on a story by Sean Sellars.


A reclusive circus master invites a group of social media stars to his house of haunts. Anyone who can make it out before being scared into submission will earn $250,000 – but the stars soon learn they are not only competing for money, they are also fighting for their lives…


In the same style as Rob Zombie’s 31 we are invited on a ride into the most extreme haunted house since McKamey Manor. Make it through, and win $250k. Simple enough, huh?

Circus Kane is the brainchild of Magician/Zombie-Doppelganger/Clown-Maven, Balthazar Kane. With his long dreadlocks and piercing white eyes, he has been apparently scaring and exciting his audiences for decades, and now… just like Willie Wonka… he has sent out golden tickets to bring a random group of horror fans into the ultimate freakshow: Kane’s home.

The motley assembly of horror buffs include a thief (Jonathan Lipnicki), a club-kid, a gamer (Mark Christopher Lawrence), a collection hoarder (the hilarious Ted Monte) and a yuppie to mention a few. All together, they venture onto a journey into nowhere. Seriously… they are nowhere… Kane’s blood-bath residence is miles away from any form of human interaction. And help. But so what? It’s a quarter of a million dollars!

The gang of willing participants are greeted by a “Lurch” butler (Bull, doing his thing) and locked into their first room, with video to greet them (aka: Jigsaw-style). Through multiple clues, keys and puzzles involving swinging axes, acid-heated walls and lots of barbed wire, the crew ventures into each new chamber, slowly realizing the murders are real and the blood is well, abundant! And all the while, the creepiest, and most menacing clowns are stalking throughout their adventure.

Remember child star, Jonathan Lipnicki? If unclear, then wait for the funny and fitting homage to his one-liner from Jerry Maguire… hysterical! And do not miss the early customer cameo by director James Cullen Bressack – always fun to watch him appear in his films. 

Host and Ringmaster, Balthazar Kane (Abell) is fabulous! He demands the spotlight, enriching the descent into darkness to guide this group, while never wavering from the impending doom that awaits them through the gates of hell he has built. Motive stands to reason, but the snappy twist at the end (again – Saw?) is refreshing and doesn’t deter away from the pure fun of Circus Kane.


It is bloody. Massively bloody. There are buckets of blood thrown around. And a few queasy scenes that impact the sheer dread of their decision. But alas, don’t look away! You’ll most likely miss a chainsaw-wielding clown or his sharp pointy teeth that appear to easily crunch through, umm….flesh? Naturally, it’s more fun than the chocolate room in Wonka’s factory.

Meredith Brown, MOV!ES and MAN!A

Other reviews:

“The references to classic movies run riot throughout the movie and it’s almost a game in itself to spot each and every reference throughout. I think that may be the only thing that would encourage me to watch this film for a second time. Beautiful visual style and cinematography save the piece, in addition to cool and inventive kills.” Sean Evans, Back to the Movies

” …the sets for Kane’s house, which should have been a freakish highlight, look like a high-school attempt to produce a haunted house ride and are utterly unconvincing at suggesting any atmosphere. For all its promising that we are going through the ultimate carnival ride, the film is without atmosphere or anything in the way of horrific impact.” Richard Scheib, Moria 

“Ray crafts a gripping and haunting exercise. It is one that is augmented by its welcome attempt to understand the inner-mechanisms of the nefarious Kane […] This leads to both a tense climax and a smirk-inducing finale. The result is a B-movie gem.” Andrew Buckner, A Word of Dreams

“Some of the highlight kills involved a room full of barbwire, and another with a room full of jack-in-the-boxes. Once the movie gets to the final bloody showdown, I was loving the cheesy horror goodness that was Balthazar Kane, he was quite the entertainer with his diabolical plan!” Tn Horror News

Main cast and characters:

  • Jonathan Lipnicki … Scott – Damn Sea VampiresThe Little Vampire
  • Tim Abell … Balthazar Kane
  • Richard Moll … Pale Man
  • Mark Christopher Lawrence … Billy – Blood Lake; Cooties; Halloween II
  • Victoria Konefal … Tracy
  • Nicole Arianna Fox … Carrie
  • Ted Monte … Big Ed
  • Cameron Jebo … Greg
  • Sinjin Rosa … Jake
  • Erin Micklow … Roxy
  • Bill Voorhees … The Clown
  • Paul Logan … Valentine
  • Weston Cage Coppola … Doorman (as Weston Cage)
  • Scott Thomas Reynolds … Clown Henchman
  • James Cullen Bressack … Customer
  • Kevin Yarbrough … Detective Lemar
  • Angelina Capozzoli … Travis
  • Jonathan Nation … Sammy
  • Howie Walfish … Homeless man
  • Mike Capes … Detective Sanders
  • Rigo Obezo … Policeman #2
  • Mike J. Putnam … Policeman
  • Lucas Swallow … Fascist Geek
  • Ellen Michelle Monohan … Girlfriend
  • Mike Jerome Putnam … Officer Hamilton

Technical credits:

  • 88 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78: 1


In the USA, Uncork’d Entertainment released Circus Kane on DVD on October 10, 2017.

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