Luridly Sadistic Danish Shocker

Soren Juul Petersen’s The Ringmaster from Denmark won rave reviews and widespread acclaim when the vicious horror movie hit European festivals during 2019. Better known as Finale in its native country, the nasty thriller takes the raw appeal of Hostel and updates it for today’s audience with timely nods to streaming video and online voyeurism.

Those looking for slickly crafted torture porn with interesting characters and compelling suspense, The Ringmaster delivers in spades. Based on a novel by Steen Langstrup, two women become the star of a horrific live show streamed on the web in which they are mercilessly tortured by a man dressed as a circus ringmaster.

The Ringmaster is smart international horror with an effective Danish cast and vividly constructed torture scenes

A remote gas station in Denmark serves as the primary setting. Retail clerks Agnes (Anne Bergfeld) and Belinda (Karin Michelsen) are working a night shift by themselves as the entire country is glued to an important soccer match. The two young women aren’t particularly close and have vastly different personalities.

Agnes is working on an advanced degree; the job is a favor for her father. Belinda is largely concerned about meeting up with a sleazy boyfriend who seems more interested in Belinda’s cash than anything else. A couple of strange encounters with customers leave the young women on edge with no one around that can help. They have no idea what they are in for on this lonely night.

Told with parallel timelines from the beginning, a demented man (Damon Younger) sadistically tortures the women on streaming video as flashbacks detail how they landed in their predicament. The great thing is how the smooth storytelling balances the slowly-building suspense from flashbacks with the overpowering threat the ladies are now facing. It’s a neat trick by director Soren Juul Petersen that pays off in character development and emotional weight during the hectic final act. The little twists and turns are enough to keep the audience guessing until an immensely satisfying conclusion.

The Ringmaster is smart international horror with an effective Danish cast and vividly constructed torture scenes that will linger on in your mind. Featuring spine-chilling suspense and intriguing set pieces, the creatively sadistic thriller may be the next cult classic from Europe. This is not your garden-variety torture porn thriller merely designed to sate fan’s thirst for blood and gore. Remove the most graphic scenes and The Ringmaster remains a taut horror masterpiece dripping with real suspense.

Video

Euro horror rarely looks this razor-sharp with such top-notch definition. The Ringmaster’s bold, crisp 2.35:1 presentation fits right at home on Blu-ray. Clarity is nigh immaculate, especially inside the gas station. The main feature runs an uncut 99 minutes on a BD-25, encoded with efficiently clean AVC. A few instances of poor shadow delineation and softer video are the exception, not the rule.

The technically precise digital transfer reflects a largely neutral color palette with slightly pale flesh-tones. There’s no apparent video processing. The Ringmaster has slightly reduced shadow delineation and a grittier approach for the grisly torture scenes. Horror filmmakers often go for a softer aesthetic with a moodier atmosphere but Ringmaster mostly strives for immense clarity and definition.

Audio

The predominantly Danish soundtrack has a smattering of English and German dialogue. The Ringmaster’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is creepy and lively, adding a healthy atmosphere to the menacing thriller. The discrete mix is rock-solid with a dynamic soundstage and crisp dialogue. There’s nice punch to the low end with prominent bass. It is well-designed audio that engages the listeners on multiple levels.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a yellow font. Secondary audio includes a 2.0 PCM soundtrack in pleasing stereo. The default English subtitle track has no issues, but the SDH option has a curious issue in which time-codes pop up in the translated dialogue for longer line readings. They are still readable but occasionally introduce a noticeable delay.

Extras

The Ringmaster hits Blu-ray with no special features beyond a trailer, courtesy of distributor MVD Visual and their horror imprint Danse Macabre. The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

The Ringmaster Trailer (01:28 in HD)

Ten Minutes To Midnight Trailer (01:46 in SD)

Face of the Devil Trailer (01:27 in SD)

Incarnation Trailer (02:02 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Ringmaster
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

A ruthless and memorably effective Danish thriller that explores voyeurism and violence via streaming torture porn. Highly recommended for fans of great international horror.

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4 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray: