STRANGE CIRCUS (2005) – The Dungeon Review!

Strange Circus marks the fourth film I’ve seen from Japanese director Shion Sono. My Sono exposure thus far has led me to come to two conclusions; the man creates visually impressive films and he is obsessed with dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional sure seems like an understatement in Strange Circus. The films non-linear story revolves around the rape and abuse of a twelve-year-old girl. Mitsuko’s father hides her in a cello case forcing her to watch him fuck her mother. This eventually leads to dad repeatedly raping his daughter. If that isn’t traumatizing enough, her mother becomes intensely jealous and starts beating her regularly. School is simply a horrifying extension of Mitsuko’s shitty existence where her despicable pedophile father is also the institutions principle. And that is just the launching pad for this twisted tale.

Strange Circus is a highly visual film. The sets and props are fantastic. The imagery is endlessly impressive from a flower filled coffin ablaze to the burlesque style circus sideshow. The red painted walls of Mitsuko’s school hallways look freshly bloody and are particularly horrifying. Miksuko’s stark and sterile home is appropriately uninviting. There isn’t much in the way of graphic violence but what is included certainly is memorable. Strange Circus has its share of ugliness, distress, violence, and weirdness that messed with my eyes and my head!

Newer films rarely surprise me, so it seems worth mentioning when one does. The climax blind-sided me. I did not see it coming. I thought I more or less had things figured out and it turns out I didn’t know shit. Looking back I don’t know why I didn’t consider it. There is some clarity provided in the climax, but is also raises more questions. The film does have its lesser qualities. Strange Circus constantly jumps timelines and is often disorienting. The film drags a little through the middle and would have benefitted from tighter editing. Strange Circus is the type of film that will either frustrate or thrill.

Actress Matsumi Miyazaki plays two roles in Strange Circus and is outstanding. Miyazaki bares her soul and her clothing and gives a natural and believable performance. I had no beefs at all with any of the performances in Strange Circus. Strange Circus will probably appeal more to those who enjoy eclectic foreign fare. The mix of convoluted plot, artistic visuals, and a slower pace will not make this popular with the average horror viewer. Strange Circus is a visually arresting film that is a disturbing, violent and surreal experience. Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Shion Sono

Starring: Masumi Miyazaki, Issei Ishida, Rie Kuwana, Mai Takahashi, Fujiko, Madamu Rejînu, Mame Yamada, Pyûpiru, Erika Mine, Keiko Yokomachi, Tsutomu Ihara, Emiko Yamada, Rinco, Sachiko Yamagishi, Ken Sasaki

4 Responses to “STRANGE CIRCUS (2005) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Wow, I really want to pull the trigger on this but I’m still on the fence. I once read a review at “Horror’s Not Dead” for “Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead” in which the writer- Peter Hall, I think- unleashed the phrase “That’s sooooo Asian” to describe the incredibly wacky things that you find in a lot of Asian horror. It sounds like this one would be a prime candidate.

    • goregirl Says:

      Strange Circus is a considerably more serious affair than Attack Girls Swim Team, Tokyo Gore Police, Machine Girl and the like. There are so many of those over-the-top arterial blood spray Asian flicks out there! I’ve just been nibbling which is probably why the concept is still sorta novel to me. Strange Circus; if I was forced to compare with another director’s work I would say it has much more in common with Lynch than Tomomatsu or Nishimura. I caught Shion Sono’s Cold Fish at the Vancouver Film Festival last year which I enjoyed even more than Strange Circus. I think Sono is an interesting director, you should give Cold Fish or Strange Circus a whirl.

  2. [...] the darker side of modern Japan with a series of extreme titles including the ero-guro title Strange Circus (2005) which features sexual and mental abuse and incest, the aformentioned Noriko’s Dinner Table [...]

  3. [...] is the first time that I have watched Strange Circus, having only read a great review for it on Goregirl’s blog but I can safely say that this is one of Sono’s [...]

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