Let’s get one thing straight before we start. This review is not for the behind-the-scenes Jerry Springer documentary (Ringmaster 1998), nor is it a Kuwaiti movie about a man and his dog (Ring Master 2014) and it definitely isn’t the film about a man trying to become the greatest onion ring chef on the planet (The Ringmaster 2019). There are more. This particular Ringmaster is Soren Juul Petersen’s latest Danish horror outing based on prolific Danish writer Steen Langdtrup’s novella All The Things She Wished She Didn’t Understand.
Scandinavia has a good background in horror, maybe it’s the endless misty vistas, the rich history of folklore or the never-ending dark winter nights. Whatever the reason this is the area which has given us the downright spooky (Let the Right One In), the quirky (Troll Hunter) and the meta (Koko-Di, Koko-Da) to name but three and that’s without categorising Rams, Under the Tree, The County, et al as horrors, which we probably should.
We begin with university student Agnes being dropped off for her last shift in her dad’s petrol station, where she joins up with colleague Belinda. Expecting a quiet shift due to Denmark playing in the final of some unspecified sport, they get only two customers all night; an odd English caravanner and a suspect pair of lads in a Land Rover. Soon, a series of odd happenings start to occur, each one getting progressively more tormenting. Meanwhile we are given snippets of a girl locked in a derelict building, the two stories starting to coalesce as time passes.
The Ringmaster moves between genres nicely, from the doom-laden isolated petrol station creep-fest, through to Rob Zombie’s horror, Gilliam antics with some Hostel level torture porn thrown in. It does at times feel like two totally separate films, but it’s done with enough dread and narrative flow to just about pull it off. Both Bergfield and Michelsen succeed in bringing believable performance as the two leads, without ever falling into tropes normally reserved for doomed girls in a secluded horror scenario. DoP Tobias Scavenius pulls the scenes together with some excellent camerawork, without ever stealing the show.
The Ringmaster is a solid little horror movie without ever taking too many risks, and the characters are woven nicely into the film’s compact plot. This is Petersen’s first directorial role after a number of years in as producer. We’ll be looking forward to more from him.
Dir: Søren Juul Petersen
Scr: Søren Juul Petersen, Steen Langstrup, Carsten Juul Bladt
Cast: Anne Bergfeld, Karin Michelsen, Damon Younger, Kristoffer Fabricius, Mads Koudal
Prd: Jacob Kondrup, Søren Juul Petersen
DOP: Tobias Scavenius
Music: Peter K. Nørgaard
Run Time: 100 Minutes
The Ringmaster will be available on DVD & Digital Download from 30th November & In UK Cinemas from 2nd December