Director: Michael Gornick
Writer: George A. Romero
Cast: William Hickey, Kevin O’Connor, Ed French, Jacques Sandulescu, David Thorton, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Paul Mesches
Air Date: 9/28/1986
Known for debunking charlatans, Bragg (Kevin O’Connor)—a pretentious newspaper critic—decides to expose Dr. Nis (William Hickey) and his so-called Exhibition of Wonder. Before long, however, Bragg struggles to rationalize his encounters with a werewolf, a living mummy, a reanimated corpse, and a vampire who feeds on the blood of animals—the main attractions of Dr. Nis’ circus.
Featuring updated versions of Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein creature, “The Circus” is a chilling, nightmarish tribute to the Universal Monsters. Classic horror fans will therefore enjoy this episode, which benefits from haunting images, engrossing atmosphere, and quality performances from William Hickey and Kevin O’Connor.
“The Circus” should be commended for its horrifying makeup effects, which result in a unique and gruesome interpretation of the aforementioned Universal Monsters. Particularly ghoulish is the appearance of Dr. Nis’ pet vampire, whose demonic visage serves to complement his bestial personality—a stark contrast to the elegant and cultured manner exemplified by Bela Lugosi’s Dracula.
Also effective are the dank and squalid conditions of the titular circus, providing the perfect setting for iconic movie monsters to lurk in the shadows. Spooky highlights include cobwebs, coffins, and rusty prison cells for containing the vampire and the werewolf.
A cautionary tale on the dangers of unwavering skepticism, “The Circus” offers a subtle condemnation of those who refuse to accept the truth—even when presented with indisputable evidence of extraordinary facts.
“The Circus” is a gory, atmospheric installment of Tales from the Darkside. Creature feature buffs in particular should appreciate this offering, which combines a freak-show premise with gothic horror tropes.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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