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This Danish-made shocker would not be my choice of viewing – films that revel in cruelty and the infliction of pain are really not my thing. That said, The Ringmaster is perhaps a little better, or at least a bit more artful, than the usual slash-and-suffer flick.
It opens with a “friendly warning” that there is rough viewing ahead and an admission that even though it is set in Denmark – “land of fairytales, hygge and home to some of the happiest people in the world – it will do its utmost to change that cosy image.
The subversion begins by setting the scene not in some smart Copenhagen flat stuffed with elegant, modern design, but a grotty petrol station in the middle of nowhere. The owner’s daughter, Agnes (Anne Bergfeld, a terrific screamer) arrives for her last shift before she goes off with her doctor boyfriend (Kristoffer Fabricius) to start a new life in Germany. That’s something out of reach for her working-class co-worker Belinda (Karin Michelsen), who will be stuck at the garage for the foreseeable future, contending with a deadbeat boyfriend of her own (Mads Koudal) and few prospects.
That class tension adds something when the action eventually kicks in and a night of spooky shenanigans at the garage turns into a literal horror show, live streamed on the dark net, as the two women are tortured by the titular Ringmaster (Damon Younger, unspeakably creepy in smeary clown makeup).
Director Søren Juul Petersen goes against the grain for this kind of fare by toggling between time frames instead of following chronologically through after a flash forward, which adds a certain irony. The climactic nastiness is hideously unpleasant, but there’s some satisfaction in seeing the baddies bested – to a degree.
• The Ringmaster is available on digital platforms from 30 November and in cinemas from 2 December.
Source: The Guardian
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