Circus Of The Dead (2014) Review


Directed by Billy ‘Bloody Bill’ Pon
Written by Lee Ankum & Billy ‘Bloody Bill’ Pon

Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Parrish Randall, Chanel Ryan and Ryan Clapp

Run time 116 mins

This terror season, clowns are hot. From the recently announced crowd-funded double of Rob Zombie’s 31 and Full Moon’s latest Killjoy instalment; to the Eli Roth-produced Clown’s tentative Halloween release Stateside, if horror were the world of fashion, greasepaint, oversized shoes and a big red nose would be the latest must-have look on the scare catwalk. Big top bogeymen are ‘in’; and Circus of the Dead’s Papa Corn – the homicidal harlequin at the centre of this distinctly Texan frightmare – is the first fearsomely essential jester of this Bozo shockwave.

COTD 2It’s one hell of a turn from Bill Oberst Jr., the Boris Karloff of indie grue. Making John Wayne Gacy (whose fitting “Clowns could get away with murder” quote opens the film) look like Ronald McDonald, Papa Corn is quite possibly the Emmy Award-winning thesp’s finest performance to date; a frightening, ferocious and deeply charismatic turn of unpredictable energy that – if there’s any justice in the world – should see the man finally mentioned alongside such modern horror heroes as Englund, Combs and Moseley.

Through a mysterious Tarot card game – “Like bingo, but from Mexico” – Corn has deemed Don (Parrish Randall, decent) ,  and his family ideal victims for their Saw-type morality game. Incapacitating – to the say the least – Don’s adulterous wife (Chanel Ryan, perfunctory), Corn snatches Don’s daughters and coerces him into joining his merry band of murderous clowns on an odyssey of bloody slaughter if he ever wants to see them alive again.

COTD 3Building upon a mock trailer that opened his acclaimed short Doll Boy (the titular antagonist of which makes a fun cameo here), debutent feature director Pon has crafted an authentically scuzzy blend of Tobe Hooper-esque white trash schtick and Herschell Gordon Lewis-style exploitation. Mean spirited and grotty, Circus of the Dead is one sick little puppy of a picture; a charmingly ramshackle and gleefully repellent wallow through the lowest ends of the schlock spectrum. Its lack of slickness and, indeed, decency may prove too much for some, and its crossover appeal will almost certainly be minimal; but for those willing to embrace its boisterous nastiness it’s one of the years stand-out genre releases.

Shepherding an infectiously seedy carnival of perversity, Pon, along with co-scripter Lee Ankrum, happily piles on the transgressions; from the in-your-face DIY effects, to cannibalism, rape and necrophilia. Though the grotesque one-upmanship is undercut somewhat by Pon’s bursts of clumsy staging and his, at times, far too relaxed sense of pacing (Circus of the Dead clocks in at just under two hours, with a handful of scenes running much longer than they should), for the most part he proves himself a deft directorial hand; especially when it comes to the film’s numerous scenes of knockabout savagery. His flair for outrageous hyper violence is to be applauded, in fact, with one set piece in particular – a late night siege of a mini-mart – rivalling the infamous bar sequence in Kathryn Bigelow’s cult vampire hit Near Dark in terms of knuckle-whitening intensity.

COTD 4Despite being somewhat tamer than recent taboo busters like Human Centipede 2 or the I Spit On Your Grave revamp and its sequel, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how Pon’s unflinching approach affects the film’s certification when – or if – it’s submitted to the BBFC. Fingers crossed it hits these shores, unscathed, soon; the adventurous would do well to seek this one out.

8 out of 10

Currently on the festival circuit, you can keep up to date with all the latest Circus of the Dead developments via their Facebook or twitter feeds HERE and HERE.
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An Interview with Chanel Ryan by Dean Sills

CR1An Interview with Chanel Ryan by Dean Sills

Hello Chanel, thank you for your time and welcome to UKHS.


UKHS – Your first movie appearance was in the independent film ‘Waiting For The Rocket’ in which you played a character called Chris. How did you get into acting and what has been your biggest achievement in the field of acting?

CR – I’ve always loved acting and have wanted to be an actress since childhood. Thankfully, my modelling career made it an easier transition. Shortly after working on “Waiting for Rocket”, I went to audition for the film “George Wallace”, directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer. On the spot, he personally offered me the role, working alongside Gary Sinise and Mare Winningham! At the time, I was so new to the industry that I didn’t realize how lucky I was or what a big deal it was, to book a leading role in such a film and to work with such amazing talent. As far as my greatest achievement in the field of acting, I believe it has yet to come.I just hope to continuously do better and better work, alongside the most talented people.


CR2UKHS – You have been named one of the “Sexiest Women on the Planet” by magazines from four continents and your beautiful face and body have graced magazines across the globe, congratulations Chanel. How glamorous is it being a model and has modelling changed other aspects of your life?

CR – Although my focus is now acting, I can definitely tell you that, from the years of experience, that modeling is not all that glamorous. Sure there’s the traveling to exotic locations, staying in beautiful places, meeting interesting people, and wearing beautiful clothing, but then there’s the waking up at 4AM, working long days shooting until the sun goes down and often times, it’s either cold and windy or scorching and humid. By the end of the day, every bit of you just hurts and can’t even enjoy the scenery. No regrets though!

UKHS – I recently interviewed the beautiful, Scream Queen, Devanny Pinn and she talked about ‘Dead Sea’. I’m looking forward to seeing this movie and delighted you are also in the cast. What can you tell us about your role and are you excited about starring in a big creature feature?

CR – I LOVE LOVE Miss Devanny Pinn and was psyched to work along side her in “Dead Sea”. We had a fun scene together on the pontoon boat. My character and a group of friends are spending our summer vacation having fun in the sun, travelling from location to location, partying it up, when we end up on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake, wondering why we’re the only people around!

This past January, the 2014 ShockFest Film Festival was held at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to have two films: “Dead Sea” and “Circus Of The Dead”, competing against each other for the “Best World Premiere Trailer Award.” The award went to “Dead Sea”!


UKHS – ‘DeadSea’ looks a fantastic movie.Congratulations on winning the “Best World Premiere Trailer Award” for ‘Dead Sea’. Let’s talk about ‘Circus of the Dead’. You play Tiffany Johnson in this one. What can horror fans expect from this movie and can you tell us a little about Tiffany?

CR – “Circus Of The Dead” is an artistic slasher film about a Circus that comes to town, bringing with it a group of twisted, demented clowns lead by Papa Corn, played wickedly good, by Bill Oberst Jr. They seek out people who take precious things in their lives for granted and force them to examine them in the most horrific of ways. Without spoiling the plot – or the clowns will come after me! Tiffany is a mother and wife who loves her family very much. She’s disillusioned with her marriage and longs for her husband, played by Parrish Randall, to pay more attention to her, the family and start appreciating what he has.


UKHS – You are also reprising your role as Ms. Gleason in ‘Bad Kids Go To Hell 2’, opposite Judd Nelson and Ben Browder. How much fun is it playing the over zealous cheer-leading coach/history teacher?

CR – Even-though we’re set to shoot this summer in Texas’ scorching sun, I can’t wait!! It’s still in the preproduction stage, but it’s extremely flattering to be asked to come back for the sequel. I had so much fun on the first one and to be opposite Judd and Ben again is awesome. Both are such pros and I learned a lot from the experience. ??


PrintUKHS – What other projects will you be working on this year and do you have any upcoming DVD movie releases?

CR – I have a few films coming out this year. CIRCUS OF THE DEAD will be out in the fall. The film is having it’s World Premiere at Texas Frightmare Weekend in May and an east coast premiere at Bizarre Atlantic City in June. So anyone wanting to see a sneak-peak of the film, can come out to one of these events and meet me, director Billy Pon, Bill Oberst Jr. and Parrish Randall. DEAD SEA if coming out on VOD/DVD in late spring and ALICE D. will be out later this year too. Still waiting for info on the release of SKUM ROCKS! Next month, I head to Louisiana to film the sci-fi/horror pic THE HALO THEORY and just signed onto THE HATCHED LADY, shooting this fall!! Can’t divulge any details just yet, but stay tuned.

CR4UKHS – You have had extensive dialect coaching from the “Master of Voices”, Bob Corff, helping you perfect numerous accents, from British to Southern. I am from Yorkshire in England, can you do a good Yorkshire accent?


CR – Ha! Better than your pudding.


UKHS – You’re that good? Our Yorkshire Puddings are made from plain flour, eggs and milk but what would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror flick?

CR – I’d say the three main ingredients for any film regardless of genre are: 1) a great script 2) an extremely talented Director of Photography and 3) an amazing editor and of course talented actors to carry it. Guess there are four main ingredients.
CR5UKHS – If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you want to have with you? 

CR – Being the always over-prepared person I am, with full survival kits in both my house and car, I’d natural choose a knife, a lighter……of course!! survival expert, Bear Grylls! Wait. Since I have Bear, I’ll nix the lighter and knife, for waterproof mascara and lip gloss!


CR6UKHS – Finally, what is the hardest role that you have had to play and do you go to extreme lengths to prep for your parts and stay in character?

CR – I’m prepping for a couple of projects now, that are going to be quite a challenge. I’m to play a woman with an inoperable, debilitating disease, which is definitely a big foray from my horror characters. With any project, there’s always a certain amount of prep involved. Some just more than others. I’ve spent hours upon hours researching, studying, perfecting accents and even going as far as getting professional tactical weapons training and staying in a real haunted house to prepare.

CR7UKHS – Thank you for your time Chanel. Good luck with all your amazing projects and keep up the great work.

CR – I must insist on thanking you! I would like to say hello to all the UK readers! I try to end every interview with a plea to spay and neuter your pets. Together we can end homeless animals. If you are thinking about getting a pet please adopt!! There are so many wonderful animals at your local shelters and animal rescues just waiting for good homes. You can keep up with me online at:


Chanel Ryan’s Website


You Tube