Dir: Fred Olen Ray
Star: James Martz, Michael Amos, Phil Fondacaro, Scott Clark

Teenagers and freak shows - a combination just filled with malevolent possibilities. And so it is here, with the five patrons getting their just desserts at the hands of Dr Graves (the excellent Fondacaro, looking like a midget version of Coffin Joe) and his band of merry mutants. It plays like an EC Comic, and Ray's interest and sympathy clearly lies more with the exhibits than the patrons - both he and his wife used to be carnies themselves. So it's a shame that the film concentrates on the bland and lifeless teens, and reduces to a...well, sideshow, the intriguing concept of a travelling freak court, meting out poetic justice to disrespectful youths. You feel The Twilight Zone would have been a much better destination for this, rather than Full Moon Pictures.

The inevitable result is cheapness that's never pushed totally out of sight - how could it be otherwise, when most of the film takes place inside a tent? But the effects (by Leprechaun regular Gabe Bartalos) are striking and imaginative, with the likes of the Inside-Out Girl (Curran Sympson) making a bigger impression than any of the 'properly' human cast. Despite cameos from Ray regulars Ross Hagen and Brinke Stevens, and a running time of only 74 minutes, this is still likely to irritate your patience mildly, as much for the unexploited potential as for its own inherent deficiencies.

Jan 2004

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