Once more we return to another movie from the shared minds of former Saw Franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich with their 2012 musical short, The Devil’s Carnival. I have to say, considering that Saw is in this critics opinion, one of the best horror franchises to come out in recent history and with Repo: The Genetic Opera being one of my favorite movies of all time, Bousman is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. His dark gothic aesthetic and inspirational writing have made him the shining ray of light in the genre plagued with predictable slasher flicks, creature features, and anything that Rob Zombie ever shat out onto a movie screen.
The Devil’s Carnival is the story of three people who have recently died and have been sent to Hell to pay for their sins for the rest of eternity. The three people include John (Sean Patrick Flanery) a man who lost his son and gave into the grief by committing suicide by means of slashing his wrists. The second is a woman named Miss Merrywood (Briana Evigan) who has an obsession with collecting rich and exotic things. The final of the three is a naive and seemingly innocent woman named Tamara (Jessica Lowndes) who is shot to death by an angry boyfriend. The three are sent to the Devil’s Carnival where they must traverse the Carnival and meet its colorful denizens as the Devil himself (Terrance Zdunich) narrates to John’s son Daniel (Tillman Norsworthy) through a collection of Aesop’s Fables.
I love the aesthetic. Sure it is a little high school, gothic, and Hot Topic, but it shows that Bousman as a director has a very clear and unique style. The costume, lighting, and make up all blend together to create this terrifying depiction of a hellish carnival. Not to mention with a story that features the Devil and a Carnival, it would lend itself to the more gothic overtones that come along with Bousman and Zdunich’s work.
Bousman and Zdunich’s Loyal Cast
Something can be said about a group of people who work well together and work together on various projects. Several actors from Repo! The Genetic Opera join the cast of The Devil’s Carnival including Bill Mosely, Nivek Ogre, Paul Sorvino, and Alexa Vega not to mention Zdunich also takes on a role as the Devil/narrarator. Each of the actors work well with each other and you can tell that the cast is not only familiar with their fellow actors but know how to work off of each other’s body language and emotions.
Not only does the loyal cast work well together but they also have assistance from musicians from well-known bands such as the vocalist from Five Finger Death Punch Ivan L. Moody aka Ghost appears to play as the homeless clown and “Fantasy Rock” artist Emilie Autumn who both perform phenomenal in their roles. The cast works perfectly together and it truly shows on the screen.
A Terrifying Representation of Hell
I have to say, of all the different depictions of hell… This certainly is one of the most horrific. Lake of fire, all of that never really phased me like this hellish carnival of constant torment. The fact that this Carnival has workers and denizens who tailor each of their ‘performances’ to the particular person they are tormenting feels much more methodical and cerebral then just torturing people for the rest of eternity. Just to imagine being tortured like that for the rest of eternity sent more than a few cold chills down my spine. Hat is off to Zdunich and Bousman for bringing a different level of terror to the screen.
After doing my research, I saw that this is intended to be at the very least a trilogy. That I can understand, but still… If this film had had a concise ending instead of the ambiguous bullshit that was given to us, I would find very little fault if any fault in this film. The ending goes as thus (spoilers because I know people will bitch otherwise)… After the Devil and John are finished with their meeting and the Devil sends John to heaven. The nefarious Lucifer decides that it is time to do some ‘renovations’ and that it is time for the Devil’s Carnival to wage their war on heaven, thus essentially starting the biblical apocalypse. The denizens of the Devil’s Carnival get all pumped and ready for war… And that is how it ends.
This ending is just terrible. If it were to end on a foreshadow of things that might be to come then I would not be so harsh on it. But there really is no sign that this film were to go on pass this one short film. We see this big grandiose song where they are going to go to war on heaven and then the film just ends. It feels like we are missing a third of the movie AND completely changes the tone from three people reliving their sins to the apocalypse. If the ending were just more ambiguous than it would have been a near perfect movie.
If it was not for the terrible ending, I would struggle to find any fault in this movie. It is well-directed, well shot, and has a unique aesthetic to it that has become synonymous with Bousman, Zdunich, and their directing/writing. The cast works very well together and you can tell that they had a lot of fun making the movie. Although the ending was not phenomenal, I am looking forward to more episodes of the trilogy. It is certainly worth the watch.
Final Score 4/5
Thank you for reading. Luckily, now that I have a little more money in my account I will be able to see some new films to review which you can look forward to on Tuesday. Also, seeing as how I am moving in with Brandon and Shaila and their wedding is coming up in June, I decided to call the month of May as ‘May Marriage Month’. Look forward to some of your favorite and ‘not so favorite’ movies based around that very special day.