Sideshow

  • 1999
  • 1 HR 30 MIN
  • R
  • Horror

A far cry from the classic FREAKS, this imbecilic chiller takes the adage "Be Careful What You Wish For" to a Stephen King-ish conclusion. Easily bored, four teens on a double date (and the inevitable fifth-wheel friend) drive to a traveling carnival, little realizing that they'll soon have something in common with the Bug Boy and the Inside-Out Girl. Although...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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A far cry from the classic FREAKS, this imbecilic chiller takes the adage "Be Careful What You Wish For" to a Stephen King-ish conclusion. Easily bored, four teens on a double date (and the inevitable fifth-wheel friend) drive to a traveling carnival, little realizing that they'll soon have something in common with the Bug Boy and the Inside-Out Girl. Although bright futures lie ahead for them, Bobby (Jamie Martz), his best friend Tommy (Michael Amos), prom queen Melanie (Jessica Keenan), wallflower Jeanie (Jeana Blackman) and wheelchair-bound Grant (Scott Clark) are dissatisfied with their lives. Jeanie, for example, blames her unpopularity on the fact that she's not as pretty as Melanie. Such adolescent grievances evaporate after pint-sized sideshow owner Abbot Graves (Phil Fondacaro) takes a dislike to the healthy, All-American teens: He promises Jeanie a "perfect torso," and she vanishes inside the Hall of Mirrors. The others convince the local sheriff to investigate, but Graves anticipates their every move. After closing, they sneak back into the carnival, a move they regret when the freaks begin stalking them at Graves' behest. How will Graves grant the teens their fondest wishes in surprising, horrifying ways?

Hampered by the hack direction of schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray (who's a collector of sideshow memorabilia), this horror flick tries to exploit the sort of ironies one finds in Ambrose Bierce stories. If Benjamin Carr's screenplay were crafted with any cleverness or subtlety, the film's sadistic mission to reduce the protagonists to freak-status might not be so distasteful. Sure, the teens are disrespectful and annoying, but do they really deserve Graves' awful retribution? The generally sub-par acting further undermines the film's ability to scare, leaving the special effects-derived oddities to carry the show.

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