The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/DVD/Digital] - THE RINGMASTER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/DVD/Digital] - THE RINGMASTER

the ringmaster review
Two gas station workers are targeted for participation in a violent internet livestream.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Søren Juul Petersen

Starring: Anne Bergfeld, Karin Michelsen, Damon Younger

the ringmaster poster

Director Soren Juul Petersen's gruelling Danish thriller The Ringmaster opens in similar fashion to James Whale's 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein, with an announcer warning the audience of the horrors we're about to witness. It takes a certain level of confidence to promise your audience such grisly delights. Whale's film delivered. Petersen's doesn't.

the ringmaster review

A mix of a mildly effective slowburn thriller and an immature piece of torture porn, The Ringmaster plays out over the course of an evening during which the Danish national team is competing in the final of some unnamed sporting event. With the nation pre-occupied, it promises to be a slow night for gas station workers Agnes (Anne Bergfeld), a bookish psychology student whose father runs the joint, and the older, directionless Belinda (Karin Michelsen).

Belinda bets that they get no more than three customers during their shift, and she's right. First up is a weird but seemingly harmless oddball who insists on speaking German. Later a pair of creepy young men arrive, with one of them refusing Agnes's request to stop filming her with his camcorder. When they leave, Belinda claims to have seen a woman with duct tape over her mouth on the backseat of their car. Soon after, the two men return, parking their car ominously across the street.

the ringmaster review

This slowburn stalking aspect of The Ringmaster might be somewhat effective were it not inter-cut with flash-forwards that show us how the night ultimately progressed. Agnes is tied to a chair on some sort of stage, the subject of a live show being beamed to an audience of sickos on the internet. An English speaking and accented man in clown make-up (Damon Younger, the Ringmaster of the title) proceeds to torture both Agnes and her prone, unconscious boyfriend.

An unwelcome throwback to the exploitative shockers that clogged video store shelves in the wake of Eli Roth's Hostel, The Ringmaster doesn't have an original idea in its head. There's barely a plot here, and what little story there is doesn't tie together in any coherent fashion. We know from the off that Agnes ends up being menaced by the eponymous villain, but the movie never shows us just how she ended up in his clutches. It almost feels like two different movies have been crudely edited together, one of which is unfinished.

the ringmaster review

Is there really still a market for this sort of dross? I'm no prude, but I just don't see the entertainment value in watching women being tortured in gruesome fashion with no sufficient story to anchor such portrayals of depravity. And boy, is The Ringmaster depraved, with the lowlight seeing the pin of a name tag rammed through a nipple. Far from the terrors promised by the onscreen announcer in the movie's prologue, all we get are the juvenile antics of a filmmaker who really needs to grow up.

The Ringmaster
 is on UK Digital November 30th and in cinemas December 2nd.

2020 movie reviews