The Devil's Carnival
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Three individuals have, somehow, found their way to a carnival, set in hell, and run by the devil. The trio is made up of a kleptomaniac, an obsessed father, and a gullible teenager, all of whom are doomed to repeat the very sins that delivered them to the carnival's doorsteps.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV) takes the helm for this infernal fantasy centering on an immoral trio who are cast out of heaven to the Devil's Carnival, where Lucifer himself recalls their sins in the form children's fables.
This Horror/Rock Musical hybrid cinema short in the tradition of ''Repo! The Genetic Opera'' features twelve original songs, directed by Bousman, produced by Sean E Demott and Joseph Bishara (Insidious) and stars Victoriandustrial rocker Emilie Autumn, Dayton Callie (Sons Of Anarchy, Deadwood), M. Shawn ''Clown'' Crahan (of the Grammy award winning, cult metal giants Slipknot), Briana Evigan (Step Up 2), Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints), Maggie ''Captain Maggot''; Lally and The Blessed Contessa (of The Bloody Crumpets), J. LaRose (Insidious), Jessica Lowndes (90210), Mighty Mike (of Mini Kiss), internet star Hannah Minx, Ivan Moody (of the chart-topping heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch), Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects), Ogre (of the legendary industrial band Skinny Puppy), Marc Senter (The Lost), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), and Terrance Zdunich.
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It's a crazy, burlesque, dark carnival musical and it's just awesome. It is just the first episode of a longer work--and hopefully more *will* be coming--so it is short (less than an hour) and it ends in a way that is obviously setting up for more. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes things that are a little odd...with singing. ;)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show had a message and drew a lions share of attention for many years. The Devils Carnival has many, if you stay alert! The fact that there are only a handful of reviews is sad. I can only imagine that there are many fans of this movie who just don't write reviews. I bought the movie on a whim. I bought the soundtrack the next day. The Devil's Carnival
What I want to know is... where is that list of rules?
Well worth the time and money. Also highly recommended would be Repo! The Genetic Opera But that would be another conversation on a different review page.
In this film, the minds behind "Repo! The Genetic Opera" give us their vision of the afterlife. God (Paul Sorvino) is a crooning toymaker who throws away pieces (read: people) that are even slightly damaged, and all the damaged souls end up at the Devil's Carnival--a half-Hell, half-Purgatory where demonic carnies torment the sinners with special traps based on their greatest failings. The carnival is presided over by a classic red-skinned, horned Lucifer with a striking baritone and a fondness for Aesop's Fables, played--of course--by Graverobber himself, Terrance Zdunich. Subtlety is not welcome here: the exaggerated makeup and costuming of the carnies turns them into gruesome caricatures of ordinary things, and their carnival of evil is gleefully, ridiculously over the top in its enthusiasm for suffering sinners.
The audience follows the fates of three specific sinners: Tamara, Merrywood, and John. Tamara's gullibility and weakness for bad boys got her killed, Merrywood was a jewel thief killed in a shoot-out with the police, and John committed suicide in grief over the disappearance of his son. Two of their punishments proceed according to plan (and with some excellent musical numbers), but a cog is thrown during the third one, and Lucifer finds himself contemplating some ambitious changes in the balance between Heaven and Hell.
Zdunich's Lucifer is the highlight of the film. He narrates the sinners' fates out of a book of fables and seems to enjoy the creativity of his work, but he also betrays a sense of morality (!) appropriate to a fallen angel. "I am not in the market of killing innocent children," he tells John. "That's God's jurisdiction." His debatable motives and as-yet-unrevealed plan leave the film ending on a cliffhanger, but that's not surprising, given that this is only the first part of a series.
The weakest part of the whole setup is probably the sinners themselves. It makes sense for the carnies to be one-note, caricaturish or incomprehensible, since they're not quite human, and Lucifer's stereotypical look could be part of that. But while the point of the exercise seems to be to paint God as careless and heartless, throwing away pieces that are only slightly imperfect, the sinners we actually meet are much more than a little broken. Merrywood is especially guilty of this: her lust for jewels is her only real trait, and considering how she died, she was obviously a career criminal. John's wallowing in grief ended in suicide, which is considered a very serious sin by many Christian denominations. The one-note nature of their characters would work better, and make more sense, if the focus of the story was different. As it was, I had a hard time sympathizing with Lucifer when the case against God rested on three weak characters who might've come out of a Chick tract.
That being said, I enjoyed "The Devil's Carnival" quite a bit. The music is really the highlight of the whole production: each sinner's fall and punishment are given separate songs, often wildly different in style but laden with off-kilter, complex lyrics. Two stand-outs for me were the slow, almost lullaby-like "Hello, Beautiful Stranger" and the scenery-chewing "A Penny for a Tale."
If you can overlook some writing issues and a generally incomplete feel, I would recommend this film. After weighing several wildly disparate scores, I give it a 3/5.