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Two Horror Films from Anchor Bay

Circus of Horrors (July 1/11)

Circus of Horrors follows psychotic plastic surgeon Dr. Schuler (Anton Diffring) as he and his two cronies (Jane Hylton's Angela and Kenneth Griffith's Martin) inexplicably take control of a remote circus, with the film subsequently detailing Schuler's ongoing efforts at transforming the circus into a top attraction - which he accomplishes by murdering any and all performers that attempt to leave his employ. Circus of Horrors gets off to an impossibly underwhelming start and only grows more and more tedious as it progresses, as filmmaker Sidney Hayers, working from George Baxt's screenplay, offers up a slow-moving atmosphere that's compounded by the inclusion of decidedly baffling elements (eg Schuler is on the run for deforming a woman yet he goes out of his way to help a little girl; why?) This is hardly as problematic as the mind-numbingly repetitive nature of the film's midsection, however, with the narrative primarily detailing the behind-the-scenes exploits of the circus' various workers (as well as the many, many performances that logically ensue). The movie's increasingly dull atmosphere is perpetuated by its continued emphasis on melodrama, and although Hayers has peppered the proceedings with a few grisly, suspenseful sequences (eg a knife thrower accidentally kills his assistant), Circus of Horrors ultimately comes off as a tedious and downright worthless endeavor that also, on top of everything else, features a bland, frequently unintelligible villain.

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Cyrus: Mind of A Serial Killer (July 2/11)

Written and directed by Mark Vadik, Cyrus: Mind of A Serial Killer follows an ambitious reporter (Danielle Harris' Maria) as she and her cameraman (Tony Yalda's Tom) arrive in a small town to explore the legacy of a serial killer called the County Line Cannibal. Maria's investigation eventually brings her face-to-face with a man (Lance Henriksen's Emmet) who claims to know the true identity of said psychopath, and the film subsequently explores the origins and modus operandi of the murderous title character (Brian Krause) through a series of flashbacks. It's a fairly strong premise that is, for the most part, employed to pervasively underwhelming effect by Vadik, as there's just never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly drawn into the proceedings - with the hands-off vibe exacerbated by Vadik's decision to employ as needlessly deliberate a pace as one can easily recall. And while the movie is, by the standards of the direct-to-video horror scene, relatively well made, Vadik's ongoing difficulties at cultivating an atmosphere of dread ensures that the narrative's more overtly gruesome moments are drained of their impact. (This is to say nothing of the almost uniformly amateurish roster of supporting performances, with Krause's strong work unfortunately an exception rather than the rule.) The end result is a disappointing low-budget endeavor that seems unlikely to appease even the most ardent of horror fans, which is a shame, certainly, given that Vadik has populated the cast with a number of genre-friendly faces (including Doug Jones and Tiffany Shepis).

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About the DVD: Cyrus: Mind of A Serial Killer arrives on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, with bonus features limited to a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
© David Nusair