NOTE: This is a review of a film on Netflix. The Blu-Ray is a limited edition available only from The Devil’s Carnival website.
When three people die, their souls are sent to Hell, which takes on the perverse guise of a dark carnival.
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Repo! The Genetic Opera), this film certainly has more in common with Repo! The Genetic Opera than it does Saw II. First off, it is a musical, albeit a twisted one. Secondly, it is not a particularly violent film despite dealing with Hell and the consequences of peoples actions. As a matter of fact, this is just part one of a proposed trilogy, the second part set for release later this year. As such, it runs at a scant 55 minutes. It also ties in three of Aesop’s Fables.
The film deals with three different people who end up in Hell. The first is John (Sean Patrick Flannery) who commits suicide by slashing his wrists after his son goes missing or is killed. The film never explicitly says which until the end. He represents Aesop’s Grief and his Due. His character spends the film searching for his son, who he believes is at this demented carnival.
The second is Merrywood (Briana Evigan) who represents Aesop’s The Dog and it’s Reflection. She is killed by police after committing a robbery of some sort. For her, the lure of jewelry and finery is her downfall.
The third is Tamara (Jessica Lowndes) who represents Aesop’s The Scorpion and the Frog. She is killed by her boyfriend while trying to escape from him. She is a tragic character who is attracted to the violent type and trusts too easily, even when she clearly shouldn’t.
The three characters all awaken at different points in the carnival, and John and Merrywood meet very early. They cross the threshold together, but then go their separate ways. Tamara awakens and releases a ’60’s looking greaser character named, what else, Scorpion. Merrywood is lured away by the promise of a huge diamond, which ends up being her downfall. Tamara’s downfall is trusting a greaser looking dude with plastic hair named Scorpion. John, well, let’s just say that he get’s his due.
As a father, I found John’s story particularly trying. I couldn’t necessarily relate to his plight, but I could feel his grief. Sean Patrick Flannery is a very decent actor (you might know him from The Boondock Saints or Powder), and he conveyed that grief convincingly. Even during the short run time and the focus on other characters, Flannery sold it for me. I found his tale tragic and heartrending. I actually felt sorry for the man and was rooting for him to . .. I don’t know, win, or something. I mean, he’s already dead so he can’t survive, but I really wanted him to have a decent outcome.
One of the wonderful things about this film is that it is not mean. It is a well thought out tale that is not overly cruel to it’s characters. In fact, the three of them get what they have earned in life. The film doesn’t go the torture route, and is actually fairly tame by comparison to films like Saw II and Saw III, which Bousman directed as well. There is no gore, no foul language, and nothing that would make you cringe.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is a musical. The songs are all very well done, and at the end of this review will be the video for the best song in the film, which is not actually in the film. It is over the credits.
The costume and character design is also very well done. There is a dark, gothic creepiness to the designs that I found intriguing. The design of the characters hints at a much deeper back story to every one of them in the film. I find myself wondering where The Magician (Bill Moseley) came from. What is Scorpion’s (Marc Senter) story? Who exactly is The Painted Doll (musician Emilie Autumn)? I want to know more about these characters. . . I can only hope the next film or two examines the stories of these characters and more.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of the other actors in the film. As a metal fan, I found it surprising that Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch played The Hobo Clown. M. Shawn Crahan of Slipknot fame played The Tamer, and Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy played The Twin. As a metal fan, this made me happy. What made me happier is that I didn’t recognize any of them while watching the film. They all did a wonderful job in their respective parts, and while they weren’t the main characters, they did not grand stand. Bravo to all three. I cannot wait to see them all in the second part.
When all is said and done, I absolutely loved this film. While I liked Repo! The Genetic Opera quite a bit, I love this film. From the dark setting to the Aesop’s Fable metaphor’s, this is a film not to be missed. Of course, if you don’t like musicals this won’t change your mind. If you take it for what it is, though, you will find yourself entertained and enraptured by it.
***1/2 out of ****
NOTE: Thanks to Misty Layne over at Cinema Schminema for the heads up that this was released. I would have never known without you, Misty, THANK YOU!! So, with that said, click this link here to read her review of the film. http://cinemaschminema.com/2013/03/06/the-devils-carnival/
And as promised, here is the best song in the film. It is an enchanting number that I think you will enjoy: