For years I’ve heard this movie was one of the scariest films ever made. I’d only seen one picture (which turned out to be the final shot of the movie). The film as ultimate controversial and reported ruined Tod Browning’s (Dracula) short career. So I had to track this film down.
I was in high school when I found a VHS copy of this film. The first hour is slow. It’s more of a love triangle/crime story but with Sideshow freaks. The film is infamous for casting real life side-show freaks as opposed to actors. This lead to many people considering it an exploitative film and it becoming one of the original Grindhouse/Midnight/Cult films.
The story follows a midget in the sideshow named Hanz and his engagement to the beautiful Trapeze artist Cleopatra. She only agrees to marry him when her and her boyfriend (Strong man Hercules) discover hans has a large inheritance. They plan to kill Hanz shortly after the wedding.
When the freaks find out about Cleopatra and Hercules plan they decide to attack them and get their vengence. They turn Cleopatra into a weird ‘human duck’ creature, meanwhile Hercules is castrated (a scene was cut from the original ending in which the audience see him singing falsetto in the sideshow).
The film contains many memorable moments such as The Human Torso takes out a cigarette and lights it using his tongue. One of the most famous moments is a dinner sequence where the freaks have a chant to announce their acceptance of her with the “Gooble Gabba! Gooble Gabba! We Accept You! We Accept You! One of Us!” The chant has become a come catchphrase for multiple people specifically adapted by The Ramones.
The horror of this movie comes from the attack sequence which is one of the top 3 freakest moments in horror history. The carnival is traveling to it’s next town. It’s raining and underneath all the carriages swarms of sideshow freaks are crawling in the mud with dead-eyes and knives in their mouths.
That particular sequence is nightmare fuel that will stick with you forever. It is called one of the greatest horror films of all times and that is 100% true.
Matt Kelly can also be found hosting The Saint Mort Show, Co-hosting the Reddit Horror Club Podcast, Writing for Geekscape,Tweeting and running Dollar Monday Promotions.