Film Review: ‘The Ringmaster’ (2018)

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Stars: Anne Bergfeld, Karin Michelsen, Damon Younger
Director: Søren Juul Petersen
Distributor: Jinga Films

“…it might even horrify you.”

The Ringmaster is horror, pure horror. All the way from beautiful Denmark, a film which predominantly features in a gas station, the most grotesque and despicable elements of human life are presented explicitly, unbearably so. Again, The Ringmaster is pure horror.

Dropped off at the gas station to go to work, Agnes (Anne Bergfeld) has one last shift before her dream move to Germany with her boyfriend, Benjamin (Kristoffer Fabricius). Due to Denmark’s unlikely participation in a major sports final, Agnes’ shift with Belinda (Karin Michelsen) is much quieter than usual, as their common custom is glued to the TV watching their beloved country. A lack of custom, but not completely quiet, Agnes and Belinda are faced with a trio of weirdos and creeps – one with a caravan, and the other two wielding a video camera for a “YouTube video” of sorts. The discomfort and unease brought forward establishes an ambiance of dread for Agnes and Belinda, something which gradually transcends into the ultimate bizarre and amoral, only to worsen beyond levels of expectation and acceptability once they are in the presence of the sinister titular character played hauntingly by Damon Younger. What ultimately becomes of The Ringmaster is an entity which is extraordinarily dark, brutal and painful.

In an almost reverse fashion of the road movie, similar-ish to that of Clerks, The Ringmaster relies on the custom/visitors of its central establishment – the gas station – to accelerate the narrative. In doing so, a very interesting film is established for its viewer, even if a tad slow. But slow burners are good. This notion, however, evolves into a different beast with an increased audience involvement once flashforwards become strikingly apparent. In fusing both genre expectation and the extreme content within each flashforward, the importance of the story when reverted back to the gas station is subsequently elevated to a greater level with much greater risk, even developing The Ringmaster into somewhat of a mystery movie as a result. The flashforwards, however, entail content which is of an almost unspeakable nature: inhumane violence and gore galore.

What is essentially torture porn, Søren Juul Petersen’s The Ringmaster is a tremendous throwback to the Hostel-era of horror, but in its own right, is a terrifying piece of filmmaking, which begs the question: “How in the f*ck is this film not banned?”. The raw vulgarity present is shockingly gruesome, but for what it’s worth, there is a theatrical warning prior to the main body of film… Surviving the grotesqueness within The Ringmaster can at times feel like an impossible task thanks to the legitimacy in the powerhouse performances of its two female leads: Anne Bergfeld and Karin Michelsen. Both magnificent in their respective roles, they embody pain and dread to levels which feel all too real, and ultimately, leave the viewer sharing their emotions too. Ultimately, The Ringmaster is more graphic than anything else in modern cinema.

The Ringmaster is out now in the UK on DVD, many thanks to Jinga Films for the pleasure of this film.

4 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Jinga Films, Fair Use

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