Review: The Last Circus (2010)

By Craig Stewart

As the film frantically tumbles towards its operatic ending, you may start to ask yourself… What have I been watching? Which seems to be exactly the response director Alex de la Iglesia was looking for. This film is absolutely out of its mind in the most wonderful way possible.

It’s a filmic recipe unlike anything you’ve seen. The ingredients include: A dash of wartime mayhem involving a clown with a machete, a cup of abusive circus love triangle, a tablespoon of outdoor survivalist nightmare and a pinch of self mutilating mass murderer rampage. The result is a delicious pie that teases you with its sugary goodness, but winds up planting itself square in your face. But don’t worry, you’ll enjoy licking your lips clean, after all, this pie has no place on the end of a polite little fork.

To be fair, the film isn’t just a horror movie, but it’s not really just a comedy, drama or action film either. It’s all of the above, held together by a story of deterioration, a decent into madness. Make no mistake, there’s lots of blood, brutality and balloons and a kind of anger being expressed. Usually when these elements are combined the result is something truly horrific, which the film is, but is also so much more. Mixed into the bloody circus antics are some political statements and an interesting commentary on the loss of innocents… or maybe the slow, agonizing death of childhood fantasy, yeah, that seems a more appropriate way to phrase it.

At the film’s heart there’s a love story involving three member of the dying circus, two of which are clowns. One is the sad clown, condemned to be the punch line of every joke, while the other delivers the punches. They fight over the same acrobat, who dazzles them with her red ribbon routine. It’s important to keep in mind the scope of the film, cause it provides the framing in which we take in the relationship between the three characters. The film opens with a war landscape, complete with a battle that more than sufficiently splashes red across the screen. We’re dealing with a damaged world and a damaged psyche of a boy whose father, despite being a professional clown, fell victim to the terrors of war. This boy grows up to be the sad clown in the circus because he’s never able to shake the horrors he’s seen.

With this combat setup in mind, and knowing the heights of brutality the film eventually reaches, it’s clear what the film is trying to say: love is war and war is insanity, therefore love is insanity. And the best thing about it is all these wild ideas are treated with total seriousness. Not once does the film stop and say, “wait a minute audience, did you see that thing I just did? Aren’t I just the wackiest?” It’s almost as if the film isn’t aware of the joke it’s playing, like it itself is performing as the sad clown, who, no matter how outrageous things get, will always hold that solemn expression with a little painted tear drop on its cheek.

I hope this review seems a bit scattered, a bit disoriented, cause that’s exactly how the film leaves you feeling. So, before the comments about my lack of writing ability start flooding in, watch the film and you’ll understand just how appropriate my frenetic ramblings really are.

85/100 - This film is absolutely out of its mind in the most wonderful way possible.

Horror Film Critic. Am I obsessed? Maybe. I prefer the term “passionate”; it has a less creepy stalker kind of vibe. Not that I have anything against creepy stalkers being that my genre of choice is and forever will be the depraved, demented and deranged dwelling of horror. If you're looking for films that don’t sugarcoat things, that reveal people at their ugliest, that aren’t afraid to spill a little blood and have fun doing it, then look no further!