Devil’s Carnival, The (2012)
Darren Lynn Bousman directs The Devil’s Carnival, which appears to follow the format for a dark, industrial horror musical that he set up with Repo! The Genetic Opera in 2008. As reflected through a majority of the advertising, Bousman wanted a direct connection made obvious between the two (supplemented by a good number of returning cast members). Therein lies the problem, which I’ll address later in this review.
The Devil’s Carnival tells the story of three people who, upon death, wander into a hellish carnival (alright, not so much ‘ish’ as it is in fact hell). Told as a take on Aesop’s Fables, the three meet their fate in the devil’s carnival. A simple enough story, and an intriguing plot line. Returning cast members Alexa Vega, Terrance Zdunich, Paul Sorvino, and Bill Moseley are joined by musicians Emilie Autumn, Ivan Moody (of Five Finger Death Punch), and Shawn Crahan (of Slipknot). All in all it is a promising lineup and storyline.
As I addressed earlier, the problem begins in the fact that it is so directly tied in with Repo! The Genetic Opera. Now don’t mistake that statement as a misunderstanding that this was intended as a sequel or as any form of follow-up (it isn’t). But, understandably so, the ad campaign was very directly focused on fans of Repo! Here’s the problem: I am a fan of Repo!, and The Devil’s Carnival was immensely disappointing.
My initial complaint is with the length of the film. The runtime is 65 minutes, which is not inherently bad, but the film plays like an episode of a television series. Now with that I’ll point out that the film was introduced as ‘The Devil’s Carnival, episode 1′. But I am not certain if the intentions are to continue this as a series or not (if anyone has insight I’d love to hear it, just leave a comment below). Within that 65 minutes are three short tales, all directly intertwined, involving the three new souls. Even with such a short runtime, I found myself bored. The stories meander at a snail’s pace and rely almost entirely on the makeup and sets (which are certainly the film’s strong point) to keep viewers entertained.
The music is not as catchy or memorable as that of Repo!, with two exceptions: the opening devil’s carnival theme, and the devil’s final song. Ironically enough, this directly points to my overall complaint about the film: it was a strong opening and a strong finish with a lot of fluff stuffed in the middle. Overall, it’s a dark spectacle of makeup, costume, sets and lighting with very little film to show for it…all dressed up and nowhere to go.
Although the cast overflows with potential, they were used poorly. Terrance Zdunich was good as Lucifer, and Marc Senter delivered a fun performance as The Scorpion, but the rest of the talent was squandered on small parts that faded into the backdrop. Instead, the spotlight focuses on Emilie Autumn, who was mediocre at best (but mostly just plain bad) and the three ‘lost souls’ who were simply terrible.
In summation, the film itself was not terrible, but it had so much wasted potential that it clouds the critical mind to the good aspects of the movie. The so-called ‘film-fusion’ event, however, was terrible. Sorry to those that put it together, but a film-fusion event should contain so much more than a couple opening time-wasters and a film screening. Bring back the days of William Castle’s theatrical experience with a couple of goofy stage props, or bring on some of the cast to join in with the film at certain points (as do many enjoyable screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Just please don’t put time wasters before a screening and treat it as more than just a screening.
My recommendation is to rent this film when it hits DVD, and until then check out the soundtrack if you’re into the music side. Attending this at a mislabeled ‘film-fusion’ event is almost insulting. (However keep in mind that this is one man’s experience at one stop on the tour, so if we missed out on something then I’d love to hear experiences from other cities.) Now please excuse me while I prepare myself for the impending fanboy lash back.